Whatever happened to leashes?

When I was a kid, we lived in London for about four years…recall….I bragged a few weeks ago about how I am the master of all international television….I love being a braggart.

OK – so back in the day, we roamed the streets of London with nary a worry. I was in the 6th grade, I was 12, and I would take public transportation by myself all around London. Hopping the double decker buses, minding the gap on the tube, it didn’t matter, I got where I needed to go. I had free reign and well, I always came home, so I’m pretty sure my parents weren’t too worried.  That and I had three other sisters to keep them busy.

During those carefree days roaming the streets of London, I recall noticing that there was a certain trend among the British parents that disturbed me a bit. I might have been only 12, but I wasn’t too young to judge. Mais non! I could still size up parenting skills and choices and cast my eyes down, mocking them in disdain. This particular British trend that didn’t sit well with me at the time was leashes. Not for puppies, silly, but for kids.

You got it. Ahh….the mean streets of London in the 80s. Punkers were everywhere, the Sex Pistols were still really cool, even though I was likely listening to AHa! and Boy George on my super sweet pink Walkman, riding those buses around town. But still, in order to keep order amongst the chaos, apparently the British parents felt they needed to keep their toddlers on a leash.

My tween self wondered, can’t they control their brats? Why can’t they just learn to walk with their parents? Further, this violation of personal liberty really tugged at my liberal heart strings. Didn’t these children have the right to roam free? Was this another example of Margaret Thatcher and Reagan keeping the man down? Controlling even the youngest, most unsuspecting of tykes, surely I wondered, as I thought about boys, the upcoming Sadie Hawkins dance and if my bangs would curl up and stay that way.

Now, 20 years later, while I still have the fresh faced, glowing skin of a tween, I might have some conflicting thoughts about the old leash trick. But then again, maybe not. After chasing around a busy and fast toddler since she found her mobility last January (much to my chagrin), I have found myself wondering a few times if a leash might be the way to go. If maybe those lazy, bad teeth British parents might have gotten something right?

And yet, I still cringe when I see parents using the leash. It still just seems wrong to me. I wonder to myself, by using a leash, are you just delaying the inevitable? At some point, don’t you have to just let them roam and teach them to be safe, stay out of the street, and hold your hand? Will they really learn this if they are kept on a leash so much?

I’m pretty sure my husband would go for the leash if I would let him. I mean, if for no other reason than the already established understanding that the American Husband is inherently lazy, and well, leashing a toddler means less running and chasing for the rest of us, right? Right. But see, there’s another reason I think my husband would be pro-leash, he’s been itching to install a GPS tracker into our darling daughter since the week she was born.

You got it, apparently he has no concern for civil liberties and personal freedom if he can unabashedly wish to track our daughter at all times. In fact, he once told his co-workers that he had already installed such a tracker into the sole of her foot and the thing is, they believed him.

So then, imagine my surprise when I read this story about jackets with GPS tracking devices built in for children (and shocker – note the byline – it comes out of…where else..wait for it…..LONDON):

http://ap.google.com/article/ALeqM5hvCLQyjDwOmcw4hSmwESXnVosu5A

According to the AP: “The jackets, released this week by the British clothing company Bladerunner, have a GPS tracking device in the lining. The device can track the jacket anywhere in the world, within 43 square feet.”

Using Google Maps, the parents can track where their child is, and the location is updated every 10 seconds.

I mean, honestly, is this insane or what? Sure, the voyeur/stalker in every one of us parents is intrigued by such an invention. We can cloak it as “concern for their safety” but really, who are you kidding? As your child grows and gains more independence, isn’t it just comforting for you, as the parent, to know where the hell they are at all times?

Sure, it is. Of course it is. That and you like to spy.

But it’s also psycho. And what good does it do your child. Doesn’t it teach them that you, inherently, do not trust them at all? Furthermore, that they should be so afraid of this big world that they need to have satellites and google maps updating parents on their cell phone, as to their whereabouts?

I will admit that now that I am a parent, I give props to my parents for just letting their children roam and explore these cities all around the world as we were growing up. Sometimes we were, truthfully, up to no good, but wouldn’t we have been up to no good anywhere?

The reality is they let us build up our confidence and sense of adventure.

But that’s not the only point. The point is that high tech parenting likely comes with a price, one that I’m not willing to pay.

One Response to Whatever happened to leashes?
  1. Emma
    November 2, 2007 | 7:51 pm

    My mother swore by her “leashes”. She called them harnesses. I remember vividly flying to Belgium to join my dad who flew early to find a house. My mom had 2 leashes for me and my brother. At the time he was 2 and I was 5 respectively. My mother had to fly from Denver to LaGuardia, cab to JFK and then fly to Brussels alone with two young kids. My brother was an animal – and had the habit of running off so my mom bought the leashes. We behaved and she was able to sort of enjoy her cross country/ocean trip. OK, so she didn’t, but she didn’t lose one of us either! I’m all for the leashes!

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