Free the child, ditch the leash

It’s not Benny the Bulldog who frantically barks at squirrels, humans, and the wind. It’s not Chewie the hyped up Pomeranian puppy who makes you dizzy just watching him run laps as he tries to chase his tail — it’s Cindy, the tiny human with pink streaks from a Mr. Sketch marker in her frizzy, blonde hair, a chocolate smeared face, and a leash around her back.

Yes, summer is an exciting time in Edmonton for friends, couples, and families to take advantage of a variety of festivals. From the Street Performers Festival to K-Days or Heritage Days and the Fringe, crowds are inevitable. And with crowds come child leashes.

When I see a child leash, I can’t help but draw some harsh conclusions. It screams, “I’m a parent who can’t control my child,” “responsibility — I’m working on it,” “sometimes she disappears and sometimes I notice,” and “freedom, freedom, I can’t move, freedom cut me loose.”

Before you all hastily point it out, yes, it’s easy for me to judge because I’m simply the childless observer who’s enjoying a mango on a stick. But if I try hard enough, momentarily I can understand the struggle.

Summer is a time for you take a break from packing your daughter’s Frozen lunch box and driving her to and from school. It’s time for you to enjoy your summer and indulge a little. Understandably, you don’t want to worry about finding and paying a babysitter who’s just going to be checking out the new Snapchat filters instead of watching your little angels. And if you do hire a teen to watch your kid, the guilt you’ll feel for indulging in a deep-fried sugary goodness on a stick without your toddler’s slobbery face there to dive in for a bite is too overwhelming. On the other hand, you don’t want to chase Cindy as she crawls through strangers’ legs, splashes and falls into puddles, eats her third helping of mud, hides behind food stands, and runs toward the big fluffy stuffed penguin that’s twice her size. So, naturally, you pick a colourful animal-themed child “harness” (because that sounds better) in hopes that it will solve all your problems. But really, who’s domesticating whom here?

I don’t think I’m alone when I say I hope child leashes are one of those fads that dies along with mullets, barbed wire tattoos, and diamond-encrusted grills. Let’s face it, child leashes demand  attention from onlookers, and thus their judgement. There’s literally a website dedicated to the humorous epidemic that is children on leashes.

Some of you may think child leashes are a necessary safety precaution. But here’s what they’re not: they’re not backpacks, stuffed animals, cute accessories, an extra hand, a loving physical bond, excuses for losing your children, an acceptable way to be lazy, fun for the whole family, or socially acceptable.

So next time you’re thinking about going on a family adventure, ditch the child leash and try things the old fashion way: condemn bad behaviour, teach Cindy obedience, don’t hype her up on cotton candy and ice cream, and consider holding her hand rather than harnessing her into a monkey leash and dragging her around all day like an empty water bottle or your last green onion cake.

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