how I unwittingly became the poster mom for kids on leashes

Last week I wrote a post on Babble Voices about my feelings about kids on leashes (or child safety harnesses, as they are branded at Target).  Honestly, I don’t have strong feelings about these devices.  Like most issues of motherhood, I tend to assume that normal mothers who use these devices are likely doing so because they’ve deemed it their best option for a given situation – whether that be because they are at a crowded theme park with a runner, or because they have a child with special needs who needs a bit more safety consideration, or perhaps because, like me, they have more kids than they do hands.  I’m sure there are some mothers who use them inappropriately . . . but there are also mothers who use food inappropriately.  I don’t think the leash is all that different than strapping a child into a stroller near a street on in a busy setting, so I don’t see the outcry from people who deem it inhumane.  Still, as I mentioned in my post, I’ve really only used a leash on one occasion.

Somehow that post caught the attention of Good Morning American, and their producers called me to ask if I was willing to take part in a segment about kids on leashes.  I reiterated that I wasn’t really in the practice of using one, but that I’d be happy to talk about the stigma.  The producer said that was okay, but asked if they could just get some footage of me demonstrating how it was used.  I agreed, reminding her that we didn’t use normally, and that I had no idea how Karis would respond.

The crew came out, and suddenly it became obvious that getting footage of Karis on a leash was as much a priority as my interview wherein I’d hoped to talk about the ills of moms judging the choices of other moms.  I agreed to let  them film Karis on the leash while crossing a street, but refused to do it when they requested it in other settings we visited, because the whole point of using one should be for safety – not to keep your kid on a leash at a park or other setting where kids should be free to explore.

We sat down and did an interview I was pleased with, but after the crew left, I started feeling really nervous about how it might be edited.  I wondered if I’d be presented as a mom who uses it all the time, and pitted against a mom who was against them in the typical manufactured media mommy war.  I wondered if my intended message of how moms need to stop making snap judgments based on 5 seconds observing another mom’s behavior would be lost in a sensationalist story about CHILDREN! ON! A! LEASH!

Then the weekend happened and I promptly forgot about the whole thing, until a couple people on facebook mentioned that they saw me on tv, and I realized I’d missed it and forgotten to tape it as well. They finally posted it online and my heart sank when I saw the title: EXTREME PARENTING: KIDS ON A LEASH. 

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At the end of the day, the title was a little sensational, but I was happy that they at least didn’t edit out the part where I said we didn’t use it.  I had lots more to say about judging mothers that was left out, but I felt the other mom interviewed did a nce job of illustrating that point.  AHEM.  (Seriously?  She can tell from one parenting choice that another mother must be lazy and not paying attention?)

Unfortunately, other news channels picked up the story, and ran the footage of Karis and I as they discussed the issue, without playing anything I’d said on the matter. So yes. Karis and I are the new stock “b roll” for kids on leashes.

The irony about the whole experience was that it confirmed for me that I’m not comfortable using a leash.  Karis didn’t mind it at all, and has been asking to wear it, but it’s not for me.  But I won’t judge anyone else for using it in an appropriate way.  (Clearly, the mother dragging her child on one has more issues than her decision to use a leash).

I still maintain that when it comes to “mommy wars”, we have bigger issues to worry about.


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