Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Toddler Leashes

I always thought toddler leashes were so awful looking. I thought it was lazy parenting. I knew I would NEVER stoop so low as to buy one of these.

Then, as a foster parent, I got MiMi…

MiMi came to my home at the age of six months. Her parents were in trouble for drug abuse, and her mother had put her in a dangerous situation.
We had a terrible time with her in the beginning. She screamed literally all the time unless she was asleep or someone was holding her. With all my parenting experience: I am the mother of ten children, seven biological, three adopted, the grandmother of nine, and a foster mother of more than 50, I could not figure out to help this little girl. Her doctor was no help to me either, so her social worker suggested I have Early Childhood Intervention come out to see her.
I did. They didn’t do therapy with her, but after I filled out questionnaires and they spent some time observing her, they diagnosed her with a sensory disorder. They spent several hours with me, giving me advice on how to work with her and things to buy her to help her learn to cope with life around her. I followed their instructions, and things got some better, although it was still hard.

But time went on, and she grew. For the first many months, I was basically a recluse, because it was so hard to take her out in public. But after a while, and mainly because of the other children in our home, I began to venture out. I loved MiMi desperately, she and I developed a very strong bond, and I wanted her to grow up, not just coping, but enjoying life and being productive.
But I also had two other very young children, Luke, who we had adopted from foster care, who was one year and two days older than MiMi, and Angel-Leah, who we eventually adopted too, who was two years and three weeks older than MiMi. I had to consider their safety, as well as MiMi’s.

Antique Alley was coming up, a two city wide garage sale our small Texas town participates in. I really wanted to go, but I didn’t know how I would be able to handle three children, ages almost four, almost three and almost two years old. For the first time, I began to think about toddler leashes. I checked on Amazon, to see if they had something cute, so the leashes wouldn’t look so bad.
I found some, and decided to swallow my pride and buy two for the youngest children. They were little backpacks, a horse one for Luke, and a puppy one for MiMi. The leashes could be taken off if you wanted too. I ordered them.

Antique Alley day came along, and we used the leashes. I was surprised to find that MiMi actually loved hers! It allowed her some freedom that the stroller didn’t, while at the same time keeping her attached to me, so she felt safe. Luke liked his, too, but then, Luke is a docile little boy who rarely fusses about anything. Antique Alley that year was fun for all of us. I felt comfortable knowing the children could not wander off if I got distracted, and the freedom from the large double stroller was great.
The backpack leashes became a permanent part of our going out that next few months.

Not long afterwards, MiMi went to live with her biological extended family. I didn’t think I would survive her leaving, but foster parents always do somehow. I grieved greatly, and her little backpack puppy leash went into the closet where I couldn’t see it.

Time went on, and soon after MiMi left, Angel-Leah’s baby brother, Tommy, came to live with us (and a year later was adopted by us, too). He was only six months old, while Angel-Leah and Luke were four and three. The single stroller came back out for Tommy, and soon I hit on attaching the leashes, without the backpacks, to the handle bars. These just hang, but if we are in a busy or crowded place or crossing a street, I have Angel-Leah and Luke grab the leashes and hang on to them until we are in a place where I feel safer for them to walk freely beside me.

So I am now a believer in toddler leashes. I no longer think they are awful things. If you have a toddler, one at a time, and they are of sound mind, with no abuse or problem lives before they come to live with you, you may decide you don’t need such a thing, and you probably don’t. But if you see a mommy, either with one or more little children attached to her side with a leash, please don’t be quick to judge. Be glad she is concerned enough about the safety of the children – for whatever reason – and she is trying to do something about it. Smile at her and her children. We are all in this together!

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