‘Don’t let her lick that – it might have pee on it’!
These are the words that assailed me as I wandered across a local park this morning. The item in question was a bright orange plastic cone. The person in question was my daughter Annabelle.
A quick glance over my shoulder confirmed that my toddler had assumed the position. Slight crouch, arms outstretched, neck angled forward, tongue extended. Never mind the fact that her face was already covered in dirt (her snack of choice).
Cue the quiet but furious utterance of a word I can’t repeat here. Then I sprint. I am not a natural sprinter. When it comes to physical finesse and fitness, I am from the shallow end of the gene pool. Therefore my running style is highly entertaining, or so I’m told. Picture a red faced woman, wild of hair, glasses askew, balancing her morning cup of tolerance (coffee), moving across the grass with about as much grace as an elephant on ice.
Once I had extracted my daughter from the potentially pee covered plastic cone, I attempted to recover my dignity. I delicately dabbed at the coffee now spattered across my chest whilst discreetly hitching up my pants (Annabelle is always pulling them down when she’s cross; it’s horrifying).
I peeked out from behind my (askew) glasses and saw a small but amused audience. I brightly smiled at them all whilst internally cursing them and their pee free mornings.
I have two daughters and their ability to embarrass me in public is second to none. I think they have secret meetings during which they come up with new ways to increase my humiliation and consequently their amusement. I am endlessly proud of my girls, don’t get me wrong, but their complete disregard for my dignity is astonishing.
We three ladies are quite capable of creating a spectacle wherever we go. Both my girls are what I call ‘runners’. They both have a huge desire for independence and freedom. They also possess an uncanny ability to sense danger and they use this ability to take flight at the most risky of opportunities. Car parks. School crossings. Parks full of unleashed dogs. Any shopping centre, indeed any shop. The Great Ocean Road (I aged 10 years after that one).
Listen: Bribe Your Way to a Better Morning Routine. Post continues.
Tired of being a source of merriment to the general public (and to my daughters), and more than a little concerned about my anxiety levels, I invested in a child harness for little Annabelle. Although I must say I don’t know why they call them child harnesses. It’s clearly a leash. But I daresay it’s not politically correct to leash your children so for the sake of correctness we shall refer to it as a child harness.
I had mixed feelings purchasing my toddler a leash harness. On one hand, I knew I would be opening myself up to uninvited commentary from strangers on the street. Naïve youths would snicker at my inability to control my child. Free spirits would condemn me for curtailing her freedom. I had my response ready for those types; the second word of which was ‘off’.
On the other hand, the thought of being able to keep the more unreasonable of my two daughters safe was a huge plus. No more sprinting on to roads! No more crawling under parked cars! No more shopping trolley gymnastics! This would be a way to keep my little cherub safe whilst giving her the independence she needs to gain confidence.
The harness arrived a few weeks ago and I now use it every day on the walk to school. I will say this; there is no denying that essentially what you are doing is taking your child for a walk. I have even employed some dog walking techniques from years gone by (a gentle tug and retraction of the harness strap is an effective and silent tool to stop her in her tracks). She trots along ahead of me, stopping to sniff flowers and fiddle with letterboxes.
She is very happy to be walking and I am even happier not to be running. If I leave some slack on the strap she doesn’t even know I’m there! Success!
Even more pleasing was the reaction I received from people! So sensible, they said! So smart! I liked to think they were praising me for my commitment to safety, when in actual fact these responses probably stemmed from witnessing our prior altercations. But still, people have been largely encouraging and I now step in to the street with my head held high (and my pants securely fastened – I still don’t trust her temper).
Mind you, we are still capable of rousing a decent audience here and there as we navigate our way through the neighborhood. But I will say this; since I bought the harness, not once have I been asked to stop my daughter from licking pee covered plastic cones. And that, my friends, is a win.