Last weekend I inadvertently traumatized my younger son, Kyle, who has just celebrated his 30th birthday. Here's how it came about . . .
A bunch of my family members had gathered to watch my great-nephew's soccer game. I was holding my grandson, Jude, who is 13 months old. He was very eager to get down and toddle around, which was not possible because of the soccer game in progress directly in front of us. I remarked that we needed a leash for him like the one I had used for Kyle when he was a toddler. When he overheard that, Kyle was incensed. "Mother!" he shouted. "How could you do that to me?"
I tried to calm him down. "Son. I was trying to keep you safe." Kyle was an energetic child, to say the least. He did not appreciate lounging in the comfort of a stroller. He wanted down. He was also an escape artist. He could wriggle out of the stroller straps in the blink of an eye. He was curious and fearless as well. He took off in a shot whenever he saw the least opportunity . . . down the street, across the store, anywhere. (Actually, all of this is still true about him, even as an adult, although I haven't actually tried to keep him strapped in a stroller in many, many years.)
So, with the trouble I had keeping him contained (and with another son just 23 months older to also keep under control), in desperation I bought a leash especially created for children. I tried explaining that to Kyle last Saturday. "Son. It wasn't a dog leash. It was made to keep children safe." In spite of my explanation, he still seemed shocked and resentful. Discussing it at the soccer game reminded me of the affronted looks and snide remarks I used to get from other people when they saw me with my toddler son on a leash. Even with logical and valid reasons, there seems to be something innately shocking about the idea of having a child on a leash. I'm not sure why. We think it is perfectly fine to keep our dogs safe by using leashes. Shouldn't we be as careful with our children? Maybe we think it looks like we haven't successfully taught them to sit still and behave themselves if we resort to such measures. I freely admit I was not totally successful in that area when my children were toddlers. Toddlers are hard-wired to want to move around and explore.
Every few minutes for the duration of the soccer game, Kyle exclaimed, "Mother! Really! A leash?" or something similar. At one point, he launched into a discussion of how he was going to do it differently when (if) he has children. He told us he was going to discuss the need for safety with his toddler and use reasoning to keep his child safe instead of (gasp!) a leash. We all laughed heartily at those unenlightened remarks. We'll see.
After we all went our separate ways on Saturday, I was rather worried that Kyle was still upset over the whole incident. From listening to him that day, you would have thought that I had just informed him that we had found him living in a den with a pack of wolves when he was an infant and hadn't ever told him until just then. Fortunately, he called a couple of days later to chat. Before we got off the phone, he assured me that, while he had been surprised to be told of his time on a leash, he had mostly been exaggerating his horror to entertain the group. I breathed a sigh of relief. As a parent, you hate to think you have caused your child (even a grown child) horrible trauma. Just before we ended our phone conversation, I told him, "Well, if you decide you need therapy to get over this, I will pay for it." :)