Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Babies Unleashed

There was a bit of a furore in one of the gay parents blog I'm following. You think it was about gays' rights to adopt or conceive children? About who are better parents, gays or lesbians? About who's the best American Idol finalist? Wrong, wrong, wrong.

It was about child leashes. You know, just like dog leashes only for children. It took place over at twomomswithaplan, the blog of a lesbian couple trying to conceive. It started with this post and was followed up with this one. In short, the writer didn't like the child leash and told off those who used it. This has attracted many replies from people who mostly disagreed with the statement and pointed out that they also didn't like the idea of a child leash at first, but changed their mind once their child reached a certain age. Some were offended by the fact that someone without kids was telling them how to raise theirs and were slightly rude. And... That's it. This is gay parent blog version of a flame war. Nice, isn't it? Nobody actually got to Godwin the discussion by comparing child leash users to Hitler.

Blake, growing up with two dog-brothers, is already part-dog.

My view? I still haven't used one of those things, but I don't rule it out. I'm sure my parents would've been grateful if this handy little thing had existed when I was a little one. I would always find any opportunity to slip away and escape. If my father let go of my hand for a second to scratch his nose, I was already miles away and hours would be spent finding me in the mall or theme park where I'd successfully ruin everyone's day, including my own. It's a miracle I didn't end up as roadkill or in some paedophile's basement collection.

You see, the complaint that toddlers shouldn't be treated like dogs has no merit. For one thing, toddlers are a lot more similar to dogs than they are similar to adults. They are utterly adorable, but most of them are easily distracted and don't know what's best for them. More importantly, both dogs and toddlers usually don't mind being leashed or at least don't view that as a humiliation (if they do, it's a different matter altogether). Leash a twelve year old and you're abusing him. Leash an eighteen year old and you're, well, kinky. But anyone below four is fair game, especially if they grow up being used to it and know other kids who use it.
 No, wait. He's not a dog. He's a tiger. Rawr.
When you think about it from a child's perspective it's the next best thing to actually running around free. The anti-leash camp offered other ways to handle a toddler: stroller, carrying, holding hands. All of these are very limiting to the child's movement, while with a leash he can stretch all his limbs and get far more freedom and a taste of independence.

That's not to say that they should be on a leash all day long and be tied to the doghouse outside when you get home. If you go to the park there's probably no need for a leash, but a busy shopping mall? A main street with lots of traffic? What happens if you have more kids than you have free hands? What if your kids have behavioural problems (which don't necessarily imply bad parenting)?

What bothered me with that post was the fact that the writer was criticizing other parents. To be honest, before I became a parent I also criticized other parents very readily. Now I know better not because I think all other parents are flawless (I'm certainly not, as you can see in the Parent of the Year posts), but because as a parent I was several times on the receiving end of criticism from people telling me how to raise my child and there are very few things in the world that are more annoying than that (Kara Dioguardi springs to mind). I guess a parent-to-be still hasn't had a taste of that and is therefore quicker to judge. Obviously if you see someone seriously harming their child, you should not only criticise them, you may also need to call the cops. There's a line somewhere and one should tread carefully. My as yet childless brother would every now and then criticize something I do and I would just brush him off with slight annoyance.

 Anyway, that was exciting. I can't wait for the next controversy. Maybe the pros and cons of putting your baby on a vegan diet? Arguing about how much TV toddlers could watch and from what age? The possibilities are endless!



Jon said...

I adore Siobhan Magnus, whom Simon looks at like she's got two heads! Hehehe... Karen DiGuardia (sic) seems to have had a make-over since Paula "Quaaludes" Abdul got the heave-ho and she looks much sexier. Not sure what it was but last year she looked downright frumpy next to Paula. Ellen, oh my, now that is going to be an interesting situation as the season evolves. Clearly, she is in the wrong seat, not sure WHAT they were thinking when they brought her on. Enough said out of respect to our lesbian cousins.
Oh, the topic of your posting, leashes. Yeah, right. Why not? If something is legal and it helps a parent, more power to them. I really get annoyed when some people claim moral and intellectual superiority over others when it comes to child-rearing issues whether they are parents themselves or not. It's a personal choice. Every child is different. I have seen some "helicopter parents" who have kids from hell and a leash is definately warranted in their situations. I personally don't force my views on other people; I offer suggestions from what I know but never state them emphatically because I have learned that everyone has a valid opinion on any given issue. In fact, some of the best child-rearing advice we have gotten is from octogenarians!

2momswithaplan said...

Oh boy....

I sound like a witch in your post. lol

In my defense - even though my post may have sounded like I was judging the other parents for using the leashes I was only noting that I didn't understand the need for them. The things I said on my post were just my feelings on using the leash but I also wanted to hear from other parents as to why a leash was necessary.

I received many responses why these parents used them and I valued their insight. I understand that everyone parents differently.

I can definitely appreciate a good debate as long as it's done in an respectful manner. And, as you said, for the most part the debate on my blog was respectful (except for that one comment). :)

Mickey said...

Oh boy, didn't meant to make you sound like a witch. I think you're adorable and I enjoy reading your blog. :D

2momswithaplan said...

Whew! Well that's good to know. :)

It's so easy to confuse the meaning behind text.

Mickey said...

Also, I smell an American Idol post coming up! :D

Mark said...

I love reading all of your Blogs and am so glad that I've found you. I'm now also thrilled to see that you respectfully debate each other. I'm glad that your points and opionions were understood and appreciated. You're a great bunch of people. Keep it up! m.

Marco said...

I don't really know anyone who has ever used a harness on their child, but I saw once a toddler strapped in one of those and it looked so sad..... But this is purely subjective.
I don't believe in the psychological implications of using a harness on a toddler, at best its going to be a fun thing to do, at worst is going to be uncomfortable and he/she will let you know...
As for the individuals who think they can bully other parents from the "height of their experience" with children, as much as I can appreciate their interest and concern, I only have 2 words to say, and you've guessed them already. :0)

lovesmukiwa said...

We actually used one when we were on vacation in San Francisco and quadruple loved it. When the little guy was tired of being in the stroller he could "wander" and didn't have to hold our hand (which is a hassle). We have only used it that one time but I highly recommend it. Speaking of things which spark debate - on facebook one of my unmarried, non-parent cousins made a comment about the "bloody lazy" parents who feed their children hot dogs. WOOOOO EEEEEEEE! That was interesting!