The subject of child safety harnesses – or more casually known as leashes – came up this morning on one of the radio shows I do traffic for. The hosts took calls from listeners giving their views, and it seemed the pros and cons for leashing were about even. Some folks see it as animalistic, while others swear by leashes, especially in crowded areas such as the San Diego County Fair (going on now), not to mention amusement parks of any kind, where sometimes kids get so excited that they – yes, like 4-legged creatures – bolt.
Had I decided to become a parent, I would have definitely fallen into the leash camp. Nothing drives my decision more than the 1993 abduction, torture and murder of 2-year-old James Patrick Bulger. I remember the story vividly; he was with his mother Denise at the New Strand Shopping Centre in Bootle, not far from his home in Liverpool, England. Denise was distracted for a moment while placing an order at the butcher shop in the mall. Two 10-year-old boys, Robert Thompson and Ben Venables saw the toddler near the door, took his hand and led him away. This action was caught on security cameras set up in the mall.
I can’t bear to go into the horrific details of young James’ murder, but I would venture to believe that if Denise Bulger could go back in time to February 12, 1993, she would have gladly had her young son attached to a leash of some sort, no matter what kind of disapproving glances she got from others.
Months after the trial, Denise and her husband had another little boy, but soon after that, their marriage collapsed. This news didn’t surprise me, as even the strongest of marriages can be threatened when your world is turned upside down. I had also heard that at one point, Denise, so distraught from her son’s death, had even tried committing suicide. “Of course she did,” was my reaction, “Who could blame her?”
But back to the initial subject of whether or not to leash your child, if you choose not to, that is your prerogative; but to cast judgment on a parent who chooses that method of keeping their child safe, is unfair and intrusive.
“Leashes are for dogs,” some spout, while others advise, “Just hold your child’s hand or put them in a stroller!” If that works for you and your child, fine; but many children fight having to hold hands with their parents, while others detest even more, being confined to a stroller. A child safety harness allows a child to roam, hands-free, but within feet of the attached parent. What is so horrible about that?
A very sobering fact is that children of all ages are abducted everyday; and although you can’t keep a leash on your child forever – I’m sure many parents would love that – when they are especially small, it only seems logical to me.
Having children is a personal choice, and how you choose to keep them safe once they are here is just as personal. There are many stresses in life, so if a safety harness for your child helps to alleviate some of that stress, I am all for it. If people insist upon glaring disapprovingly, or worse yet, vocalizing their sentiments, just tell them to either mind their own business, or better yet, to Google “James Patrick Bulger.”