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Toddler Leash: A Lesson in Mothering

One of my biggest struggles in mothering has been my elder daughter’s propensity for running off. She is independent and distractable, headstrong and adventurous. What will one day make her a formidable adult made her a nightmare of a toddler. I could not have survived those years without mommy’s little helper- the toddler leash.

a toddler leash is a practical solution to a toddler run awayThe toddler leash, such a divisive device. I write this knowing that half of you are thinking, “you shouldn’t need a leash to control your child” and that, as is suggested in one article in Today’s Parent, leashes are lazy parenting. Yet, each time my daughter disappeared from my side I was also judged. My daughter’s safety is my utmost concern and I felt defeated. I worried about all the ways I was failing as a mother. In hindsight, I can see that not only were the haters way off base but, yes, I put my kid on a leash and it made me a better mom.

Here’s How

  1. I’m okay being judged.

    No matter what choices you make as a mom someone will disagree. Moms can make the mistake of judging each other — we’re human, after all. When my child disappeared I was unkindly told to put her on a leash. When I had her on a leash people rolled their eyes about how I couldn’t “control my kid.” We all have to make the right choice for our families and be okay with other people throwing shade.

    Want to learn more about dealing with feeling judged? Try Parenting and Criticism in the Age of Technology. 

  2. I learned to forgive.

    Mothering is hard and I made (make) mistakes. Being a kid is hard and full of mistakes. I like to think that those watching would have been kinder had they known me. Forgiveness was the only way forward for any of us. After a tough day, we need to forgive. Grace is important in a relationship; the one with yourself, with your babies, and your neighbors.

    You can learn more about teaching and learning forgiveness in this great post by Heather, Teaching Forgiveness in the Home. 

  3. I learned to take a risk.

    Reasonable risk is a part of life and as a mom, it is my job to assess the risk and allow my children to take it when it will best serve them. Yes, I put my daughter on a leash, but I had to let her off and see if she would stay with me in order for growth to happen. In this case, the renewed consequence of being on a leash was part of the learning process. It was this cycle of risk and consequence (both positive and negative) that lead to freedom. 

  4. I can handle an emergency.

    The first time my daughter disappeared I was a nervous mess. Annoyance quickly flipped to fear. She fled through the store, I chased her and then she was gone. Usually, I would call her name and a nearby shopper would coyly point in her direction. This time no one had seen her. I ran to the service counter and in moments they had the store locked down and she was located. Its a mother’s nightmare, but run the drill a few times and suddenly you are cool as a cucumber. 

  5. I learned to laugh at myself.

    And to help others in the process. However sanctimonious some might feel about me losing my daughter, there are plenty of other moms out there struggling too. When we share our struggles, when we get real about our failings, we build a community. My hope is that when I talk about this I can help another struggling mom to feel not so alone, not so judged, not so overwhelmed.

    Need to find some mom friends to laugh off a tough day with? Check out this post from Brinn about How to Make Mom Friends

I got lucky. My daughter managed to outgrow her wandering ways without anything truly terrible happening. And my younger daughter is much less of a flight risk. Today I am practically fearless when it comes to taking my girls places. We have a system that keeps us all safe and happy. As is the case with so many hard things, I learned a lot and I’m glad its over. 


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