Sunday, September 18, 2011

Here, Girl!

OK, this was the post that I originally had up a few weeks ago, then took down when my medical drama, and then my father's death, intervened.  Things have finally returned to normal (or at least, normal enough), so we can now return to our regularly-scheduled programming (and Bijoux can have her comment back). . .

I was having a conversation with another blogger recently, and this story, which I originally posted almost five years ago, came to mind.  So I decided to re-post it for your edification and enjoyment. . .


All new parents go through a kind of 'break-in' period, during which they slowly figure out the real ways in which being parents is different from how they were before. For Jen and me, this lasted quite a while - even past 1F's first birthday, we were still discovering unanticipated ways in which our lives would never be the same.

Once, the three of us went out to dinner at a restaurant which the childless Jen and me would have counted very 'family friendly', and in fairness, it probably was, as long as none of the children were younger than five or so. 1F was about a year old on the evening in question, though, and by the time we finished our dinner, there was a circle about five feet in diameter, centered on 1F's high chair, littered with an assortment of food fragments, torn napkins, pieces of silverware, and other miscellaneous items. I left a very large tip, and we realized that taking 1F to a 'nice' restaurant with us was not going to be a live option for a while.

I've always been a bit of a gadget buff, but I really like gadgets that have a certain simplicity about them, and Kid-world is rife with elegantly simple, practical gadgets. When 1F was a baby, the little seats that you can sort of hang off the edge of the table were new, and we got one of those right away. Suddenly, we could eat at friends' houses, or church potlucks, or at a picnic table in a park, without having to pack a full-blown high chair with us. A very cool, simple contraption.

Around the same time, we met a couple who were visiting from Germany, whose daughter was just a bit older than 1F. They had a little leather harness that they put on their daughter when they took her to a crowded public place; they would clip a short tether to the harness, and they could keep the child close to them, without all the bad posture that goes along with holding her hand, to say nothing of the struggles that invariably occur when the child in question decides that she doesn't want to have her hand held anymore.

I loved it - so elegant, so simple, so practical. And all the moreso, because the child actually had a lot more freedom of movement - a lot more freedom to go where she wanted to, within a much larger radius, than she would if her hand were being held. We were so taken by this little item that we asked our German friends to send us one, since they hadn't appeared in the US market yet.

A few weeks later, we received a package in the mail from a German address. We opened it eagerly, and put it to use at our first opportunity. It worked really well, and we were pleased - 1F could roam about more freely, engage her curiosity more freely, and we hardly had to exert any effort to keep track of her. In fact, we were so taken with it that we decided to make a modest improvement - in place of the short tether, we used a 25-foot retractable leash, so 1F could have even more freedom of movement.

The Fourth of July was coming up soon, and the harness setup seemed perfect for such an occasion - a large crowd in an open public place. 1F could wander to her heart's content within a 25-foot radius, and, as long as we kept hold of the leash, Jen and I didn't need to worry about where she was.

Our first inkling that this would work out just a bit less than perfectly came as we walked into the park. We were walking alongside another young family like us, with the toddler being carried on his father's shoulders. They were looking intently at the harness/leash setup we had 1F in. I smiled, knowing that they were appreciating the ingenuity, the elegance, the simplicity, the practicality of it, and preparing to tell them how we had friends in Germany, and this was all the rage among European parents, and how they could get one for themselves. Instead, the dad sort of sneered and said, "Kind of a sick joke, man."

What?!? Sick joke? What the heck does he mean by that? Ah, well; obviously a philistine who doesn't appreciate ingenious gadgets when he sees them. We found a spot suitable to our liking at which to settle, and we spread our blanket. Jen and I sat down on the blanket, while 1F wandered around on the end of the leash. When she reached the limit, she would just turn around, and poke around in a different direction, checking for bugs in the grass, or whatever else captured her eye. We were enjoying ourselves immensely, just watching her exploring her expansive little piece of turf.

While we were sitting there, a woman approached us to talk. I smiled in friendly greeting, but 'friendly' wasn't her own personal orientation at that particular moment.  Rather, she immediately ripped into us. "How could you?!" she shrieked.

What the hell?  I looked at her in utter bewilderment.

"Treating your child like an animal!"

No, wait, you don't understand - see, she's so much more free to roam about. . .

But the woman would have none of it. See, this was a leash, and leashes are for dogs, and that was that. At the very best, in her mind, this was an inappropriate transfer of technology; at worst, it was slam-dunk evidence of depraved child abuse. And nothing I could say would dissuade her.

Before the night was over, and all the fireworks had flashed, two or three other folks wandered by to very helpfully yell at us and call us colorful names.

We were more circumspect about taking the harness out in public after that, and we eventually decided that the elegance, simplicity, and practicality didn't quite outweigh the grief we had to endure from well-meaning idiots fellow-citizens.

So you see, a thing can be wonderfully practical, elegantly designed, and a vast improvement on the existing technology. But, if you don't take account of public reaction, you can still wind up with a marketplace failure. . .


Back here in the present (OK, the near-past), I rode my bike 35 miles yesterday, in glorious fall weather - around 60 degress, with brilliant blue skies and a few puffy white clouds; it's just a bit too early for the fall colors, or it would've been perfect.  Yesterday's miles make a total of 1053 for the year, my 5th consecutive year over 1000 miles.  I've got two months or so left in the season, so I'm on pace for around 1300-1400.  Life is good. . .

And, hey, while I'm thinking of it, my Tigers are American League Central Division champions!  Playoff bound!  (Maybe even against Suldog's Red Sawx!)  I'm sure I'll have some manner of elegiac post at the end of the season, but for now, you'll all share my joy, won't you?


I just put up a sidebar link to 2F's blog; if you want to get an independent, inside perspective on what life in our family is REALLY like. . . (not like anyone's inheritance is riding on the outcome, or anything. . .)


  1. Hmmm....well, I've seen them used very rarely and I have to say, it is a bit weird to me. I get your situation, I really do, but it still seems weird because of the whole dog on a leash thing.

    My situation may be different from yours, as my kids were always more worried about keeping us in sight than the other way around.

  2. I had a little harness when I was little. Everyone had them back in UK. I used one on my 18 months son when we went to disney 25 yrs ago.... it worked well, but I got all sorts of strange looks and rude comments from your fellow Amurricans. I brought one from UK for my grandson, but my DIL has never used it. I now have new twin grandies.... I have suggested that they get a couple of harnesses for when the little ones get mobile but I've just been given condescending looks... poor Nana, she doesn't know what she's talking about! C'mon, never mind the dog on a leash comparison, it makes perfect sense, especially with two to keep an eye on!

  3. When people stop the automatic reactions of a parent abusing a child in the US, then they will start to appreciate the efforts we go through to keep our children safe. I wouldn't hesitate to use one in a second. I've seen too many news reports of children walking along busy highways.

    I just don't get the reaction. At the local park, I see little ones running around, and parents exhausting themselves chasing after them so they child doesn't walk out into the street.

    Even baby carriers (the ones you strap to yourself and carry the baby against your chest, are still not used frequently. I have one, and I am grateful everyday where I have both hands free to do things without wheeling a baby stroller along the bumpy sidewalks.

  4. Personally I have never cared for such contraptions but have never begrudged anyone else their use. I've always been an 'engaged' parent and prefer to take direct responsibility for my children and what they're up to. Add to that the fact that our children are robots (i.e. I could set boundaries for them and they stayed within arms-reach of those boundaries) so I never had need of such a thing.

    Queenie hates 'em.

    I did lose a 'friend' or two over it, though, 'cause there are those who believe children should be seen and not heard and often these folks would object to my putting my children's teachable moments at higher priority than their idle chit-chat ..... but that's another story.

  5. Bijoux - "my kids were always more worried about keeping us in sight than the other way around."

    Yeah, not ours. . . ;)

    Shammick - Thanks for stopping by!

    And see, that's what I'm sayin'! I just don't understand the fixation on the 'dog leash' thing, when the benefits and advantages are so obvious. . .

    Michelle - Well it was the combination of safety and freedom that really sold us on it. . .

    Jen used to love those Snuglis (must've been a common brand-name for the belly-style baby carriers, back in the day); she said it was like getting to be pregnant for a few months more, without the morning sickness, or swollen ankles. . .

    Xavier - So, you think I'm 'disengaged'? But then, my children are most definitely NOT 'robots'. Or if they are, they are most definitely programmed differently than yours. . . ;)

    And, "children should be seen and not heard" . . . (*sigh*) Lovely thought. . .


  6. Hee hee, I put it that way on purpose ... hope you got a chuckle out of it!! They called me over-engaged .... which i probably am.

    We like to say we're not real parents 'cause our brats never allowed us to be. Parental grief (over behavior) is hardly known here!

    When children are NOT heard is when you need to worry .... so says I!

  7. If you're really hankering to get in on some parental grief, you could borrow a couple of our kids for a few months. . .


    And, as re kids' silence, you're probably right. . .