There comes a point when the stroller becomes something that makes your toddlers contort their little bodies into something to rival any Cirque du Soleil routine. Then come the screams and the tantrums. It takes everything you have to get them in the stroller, and before you know it you’re unbuckling them and letting them walk alongside you on that evening walk with the family. You’re pushing the stroller with one hand while your little one is holding the other. It’s not ideal, but it works. I mean, kids get to a point once they can walk when all they want to do is walk and explore, and who are we to deny them that simple pleasure. You’ve got this; one hand on the stroller, and one hand on your kids.
Then comes the woman with her kids attached firmly to leashes, leading them along the sidewalk like a couple of dogs. You sneer. You inwardly roll your eyes and glare at her with an expression that says, “You are a subpar mother who should have kept your legs together and gotten a puppy instead if you’re just going to lead them around on leashes.”
Shame on you. And shame on me, because I used to think the very same thing about those hideous little backpack leashes that look like animals. Let’s get something straight right now; we are all entitled to our own opinions, but there are some things you just don’t understand until you have kids – or more than one kid, I should say.
When my husband and I were blessed with one baby, we knew we’d never use a leash. When our darling second daughter came along, we knew we’d never use a leash. When we decided to complete our family with a third baby, we knew we’d never use a leash. When we were 18 weeks pregnant and found out that our third pregnancy consisted of two babies, we thought maybe the concept of a leash might not be such a bad idea.
We don’t have them, yet. But we aren’t going to close the door on the discussion. At 15 months old, our babies are walking. We have a 7-year-old, a 4-year-old and the twins. And as they grow more and more impatient with their double stroller, we have to figure out a way to be able to take all four kids to Disney and on walks and to the beach and shopping. It’s not so bad when we are together, but my husband works 5 days a week and I’m alone with the kids.
Should I stay home and keep them cooped up for five days at a time, or should I take them out? Now that they’re all old enough to walk and no longer willing to sit in the stroller, I have options; force them into the stroller and listen to them scream? Let them walk and hope they all listen since I have only two hands and very little control of the disaster that could happen in a split second?
I’m not sold on leashes yet, but I’m no longer opposed to them. I will tell you this, however; the safety of my kids is first and foremost on my mind at all times. If keeping my kids safe when we go to the supermarket and I have to get four kids from the car to the store for a cart by myself means putting the twins on leashes and holding onto them and my two older girls at the same time, I’ll do it. The good news for me is that I don’t care what you say, or what other people say or think. The opinions of others is no longer relevant because the safety of the little people I love the most is what matters.
Becoming a parent to multiples changes the way you look at life. I’ve got to singletons, and I could handle this issue with one toddler and the girls without issue. But when you have multiple small children the same age at the same stage in life, things change dramatically. All my twin mom friends get it; we were the same. We were opposed to leashes 100% and now we debate buying our own. Safety first, after all.
I’ll pose this scenario to you with an example; last week I took my four kids into our yard. We have over an acre of land and it’s completely fenced in, but when one of the twins decided she was going to wander over to the gate and start climbing it while her twin brother ran directly into the path of his big sister’s Escalade as she was careening down the drive. It all happened in a split second; they ran in opposite directions and I had to decide who to run after since I couldn’t run after both. My daughter ended up falling off the gate and slamming her head into our concrete drive so that I could grab my son before the girls hit him with the Escalade – my screaming at them to stop scared and confused them and they never noticed their brother was in their path. It could have ended very badly.
What would have happened if that had been on a family walk? Or in the parking lot of the grocery store? It’s situations like this that always make me wonder if we should go buy leashes – and that have led me to look twice at them. I cannot be in two places at once, and with four kids I have to be in at least two at once. Leashes aren’t looking so bad at the moment.
There are a lot of opinions about leashes, and no two opinions are the same, nor are they right or wrong.
The general perception is that a mother with a child on a leash cannot control her kids. Parents without leashes assume she cannot handle her kids, control them or get them to follow rules. They view her as someone who is not in control of her children. Perhaps this is true in some cases. If I choose to use a leash with the twins, however, it’ll be precisely so that I can put myself in control of the situation. Kids are impulsive, adventurous, curious and reckless. Our job is to teach them to be responsible and careful, but we cannot do that if they run off in the parking lot while mom has an armful of groceries and other children and they are hit by a car.
There’s a time and a place for the leash; the yard probably isn’t one of those places, but there is nothing wrong with control in a parking lot.
“You only use a restraint like that when it’s a safety issue. You don’t use it at the park. You don’t use it when they’re playing in the backyard. It’s a time when you’re getting from A to B and making sure everybody is safe,” says Kristen Howerton, a family psychologist and the mother of four whose husband was hit by a car.
At the end of the day, I’m not sure I’ll ever buy leashes and use them on my twins. But I’m not opposed to it the way I was when I had only one or two kids to corral. I’m all about teaching them to follow rules and be safe when they are in public, but with the twins I certainly do understand that sometimes you have to do things you might not ordinarily do in order to keep your kids safe. Sure, it’s easier when I have my husband with me, but sometimes he’s not home and we have places to go. At the end of the day, I’ll do whatever it takes to keep my kids safe in a parking lot or on a walk.
And I’ve also learned, since having the twins, that I can’t judge other people for using leashes. I don’t care if your kids listen like angels and you’re just safety-conscious or if you have control of your kids; if a leash is the way you can keep them from being run over by a car in the parking lot, use it. Sure, kids should be allowed to make mistakes and learn from them, but it’s kind of hard to learn that you absolutely should listen to mom when she tells you to stand right next to her in the parking lot if you’ve been killed by the car you ran out in front of when you mom decided to let you learn a lesson.
And for those who will comment to say that I’m a horrible, lazy, no good, rotten mom for even considering potentially using a leash at some point on the twins, I invite you to come to the supermarket with me and my kids. I’d like to see you figure out how to get four kids unbuckled, out of the car and into the store alone (because at my supermarket, there are never carts in the cart return for me to park by and use…they like a clean parking lot).
To each his own; but I know that I’m not discounting leashes with four kids the way that I once did. And to you moms and dads that use leashes, don’t worry about me giving you a dirty look. I know we’re all doing what we have to do to keep our kids alive – unless, of course, you are using said leash to yank your kids around like an animal. I don’t love that.
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