I’ll never forget the day we took our son to the zoo on a leash. Not just the kid leash with the backpack, but the kid leash with the backpack and a retractable DOG LEASH attached to the backpack. It was my husband’s idea—the dog leash part anyway—but I bought the backpack leash combo, though I said I would NEVER do it. I said that about a lot of things before I had kids:
I would never let my kids sleep in bed with me.
I would never eat their leftovers off the plate.
I would never yell.
I would never do that attachment parenting thing.
I would never put my kid on a leash.
But that day at the zoo, I was pregnant with our second. I had swollen feet. I had chafed thighs. And my son, who started walking at nine and a half months, was FAST at almost two years old. He would not sit in a stroller any more and went full speed all the time. Even with my husband there, the leash seemed like a good idea as we left the house. My husband grabbed the retractable dog leash because it would give him “extra room to roam” and clipped it right onto the little backpack. I was mortified.
My son loved the extra room to roam, but I sort of walked behind them, embarrassed by the looks of other parents. Real or imagined, I felt like everyone was judging us, judging ME, just like I had judged moms who used leashes before I had children.
As we left the zoo after a long day, a woman ran up to us, crying. “Have you seen my son? I can’t find my son! He’s six.”
I remember the desperation in her voice and the frantic look in her eyes and she pleaded with us for help. I sat down on a bench, for the first time that day holding the leash in my hand. Sawyer ran back and forth through one of the misting fans, safe on his extension of leash, while my husband jogged from exhibit to exhibit, looking for a lost little boy.
In that moment I realized how silly it was for me to be embarrassed by putting our son on a leash. More than that, I was GRATEFUL for it. Because Sawyer could very easily have been that boy, lost in the zoo. Losing your child can happen so quickly and so easily and is utterly terrifying. It happened once to us in a Bass Pro Shop and I hope I never experience it again. (Ps- Realize that I did not and AM not passing judgement on that mom for losing her kid. It can happen SO FAST.)
When we left twenty minutes later, the mother still had not found her son and a number of zoo employees had joined the search. I assume she eventually did because I didn’t hear about a missing boy on the news, but I can imagine how agonizing every moment felt for that mother.
So, yeah. We used a dog leash with our child. Some people judged us. (Some other dads probably thought my husband’s dog leash idea was a great one.) You might be judging right now as you read this post.
But I was grateful for the leash that we didn’t lose our son at the zoo.
And I was grateful for it later when I took my super-fast son places alone with our second son, while I recovered from an emergency c-section.
Did you ever SWEAR you’d never do something when you had kids only to do it anyway? Has one of those things been the use of a leash? Share in the comments!
Note: I did not take ANY pictures of my kids with leashes, so I staged these photos recently with my son, now seven and much too big for a leash. (He’s still fast, though!)
This post contains affiliate links! That means if you make any purchases after clicking links, I may receive an affiliate commission on the sale at no extra charge to you. Thanks for supporting the blog!