The Child Harness Debate: What’s the Big Deal?

The Child Harness Debate: What’s the Big Deal?

Cloth diapers versus disposable. Breast versus bottle. Cry-it-out versus super snuggle time (guilty, I’m a snuggler). While the Mommy Wars rage on, I like to see both sides of the debate and the benefits and detriments to each. I want to know how I really feel about something, so it helps me to read and learn about how others do it differently, especially if I am tackling a new phase with my twins. Usually, it validates my feelings. I get ideas from moms who have been there and done that and try out various approaches.

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Now that my twins are mobile and running about, I always have to scope out how to keep them safe when we venture out. Logistically, I can carry them both, but only for a short while until my back starts to scream for mercy. I am half joking when I say that I am surprised my arms aren’t totally buff yet. When people ask me what I do when they both run in two different directions, I tell them that I have it all figured out. “I just scoop up the faster one,” I deadpan, “because then I can definitely catch up and get the slower one.” The truth is, I only have it figured out in fenced-in, familiar places where I also have my stroller at the ready, so when they go nuts, I can easily call it quits and go home. I spend a lot of time researching places that are new to us. I’m the type of person that always has a plan and a back-up plan.

So, the issue that I have to decide where I stand is one that is always fraught with tension: whether or not to use safety harnesses or backpacks with leashes.   I’d like to first understand why it seems to me that people either voice an emphatic “No!” or are adamant that their use of them promotes safety at the risk of scrutiny from strangers. I’ve been mulling it over for weeks and observing parents that use the harnesses to see how the children and strangers react. This is what I found out:

Why the anger? – People get downright angry about this topic and I think I have a few ideas why. The connection of seeing a child restrained in this way is too reminiscent to pets being leashed. If some dogs have the intelligence and ability to be trained to sit and stay, is it bothersome that some children cannot be taught the same set of elementary skills or are unable to follow directions? Do people assume that the parent is lazy and not attentive to the child? There’s a lot of assuming going on, without understanding why this is the parents’ choice and if they have exhausted other more socially acceptable options. Is it our own self-righteousness that fuels this debate? Parenting is hard. Parenting twins is doubly hard. Throw into the mix a child with a harness and the parent is looking at their phone. It’s like all hell breaks loose for onlookers. I’ve watched this scenario go down at the park, and the looks directed at the inattentive parent were scary, even to me and I’m a New Yorker! Thankfully, we live in a free country and can choose how to parent our children based on their needs.  Anger, be gone!

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Why so nosy? – Does it really matter to you how people choose to keep their children from running into a busy street or escaping the playground area? Assuming that the child is not being hurt, whether the harness is the backpack kind or chest kind, how does it directly affect you other than being troublesome because you might disagree with the method? When I put my twins down, I almost always scream out, “Release the babies!” for my own amusement. Should I not do that because you think it is silly or stupid? Some of us have tentative children, those that are reluctant to venture too far from your pant leg. Some of us have full blown marathon runners. I’m sure as a parent of multiples you have endured the usual barrage of unwarranted advice from people who don’t have twins and can’t understand the dynamic. How is it any different for me per se, to give advice to a parent with a child that zooms off if I don’t have a child that runs off easily?

What works for one may not work for another – I have three children and they are all very different. I do my best to implement different approaches for each. What calms my youngest son? Sweeping the floor. What calms my daughter? Listening to music (especially dance music, so thank you, Rihanna!) What calms my oldest son? The promise of candy, and then he is calm until the sugar kicks in, so parenting fail on my part. I’d like to believe that parents do have the well-being of their children at heart and even though some choices are controversial, if it helps your child, you do it and run the risk of people’s comments. We all should be used to random comments by now!

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The bottom line is, and you are probably not going to like it, after writing this article I did decide what to do about safety harnesses and I am not going to reveal which side of this fence I stand on just yet. I now have a strong viewpoint, because I know which method I am comfortable with and how I want to teach my twins to understand boundaries and what is acceptable behavior at the park, beach, or store. I came to this decision after spending some time with my favorite cousins out of state this past weekend. They have a huge park like property, where the twins were able to run free. But, they also have a stone patio and bears (!!!), and we had at least two sets of hands on deck to chase, and I mean CHASE, them all around. That experience of letting them run free really let me learn what my own limitations are and how I am going to work with them until they are older and can understand fully what “stop,” “look out!” and “danger” mean. I’d like to hear everyone’s stance to see if anyone could sway me to other side, but either way, I’ll take the heat. We’re moms, it’s what we do! Tell me why or why not you use safety harnesses.

daniele parrisDaniele Parris is a work from home mom to an upbeat seven year old boy and one year old boy-girl twins. She lives in the suburbs of New York City and has degrees in Fine Arts and Philosophy from New York University. She makes her living in the Healthcare industry and spends most of her time with her boisterous Italian family, trying to get a word in edgewise. Her hobbies include cooking and baking, an unholy knowledge of 80’s hair-metal bands and trying, albeit almost always in vain, to guess the monetary value of the items on Antiques Roadshow. In addition to her full time job, she has an online shop at http://www.cafepress.com/littlebambinos that specializes in fun clothing for twins and multiples.