Being too quick to judge…

Earlier this month I shared this photo on my Facebook page. It shows a father spending time with his young daughter in Forest Park. The daughter is attached to her father via a leash backpack, or safety harness. I have never used one for my son, and I generally snicker at seeing these on kids in public. I have a tendency to think that they are mainly used by parents who don’t want to be bothered by watching their kids. When I see one, I think, “Lazy parenting.” I know this is unfair, and as has been pointed out to me, some parents find these useful with children that are prone to run off in public, toward streets, too hyper, etc. So now I can understand why some parents need to use them. They want to do things with their children, and not keep them in the house. And in order to do that safely, they need a harness. Granted that, however, you probably know as well as I do that there are parents who use them so that they don’t have to use their eyes to watch their kids. But this is not characteristic of all who use them.

Realizing this, I now feel bad having commented the following with that photo I posted:

‎”Kids exploring nature is the best,” this photographer says. Yet the kid is on a leash.

I even commented on the Flickr page where the photo was originally posted:

“Kids exploring nature is the best.” I agree. Was she able to explore despite her restriction? Just curious.

I received no response on Flickr, but received many comments on Facebook [edit: I removed my Facebook thread with the photo, per the request of the photographer]. Whereas my first reaction to seeing that photo was something negative, what I should have seen was the positive: this dad is taking his child out to explore in nature. This was stressed to me by a local fellow nature-exploring parent. Does it really matter if she is attached to him via a leash? Probably not. I am sure she enjoyed the trees, probably some squirrels chattering overheard, the occasional glimpse of blue sky through the leaves, running her fingers across the moss-covered stones, getting her shoes dirty, maybe her fingers, too. And she was doing it with her dad. This is what I promote here on my blog, and I should be happy to see such a photo.

So, dad and daughter in Forest Park, I apologize for being too quick to judge. I don’t know you, and I don’t know why you use a safety harness. It’s none of my business.

What I will say is this:

Thank you for getting outside together!

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6 Responses to Being too quick to judge…

  1. Laura says:

    Good for you that you rethought that! Some of the trails in Forest Park are pretty steep. Sometimes a tether can make the difference between an outing that is full of shouted “NO!”s and one that isn’t. I got my son to walk everywhere as soon as he learned, and when he was only a year old he was definitely prone to get lost in huge crowds in NYC, so we used a tether. I expected dirty looks but never got any. I never, ever used a stroller, so when we moved here my 3 year old was fine with (leisurely) 5 mile hikes. I figured I’d better not judge people who use strollers- that was everyone I knew!

  2. Katie says:

    Hi there, I took this photo, and I apologize for not getting back to you. I happened to notice being linked to your blog in my flickr stats, but I never saw your question. I get a lot of comments and favorites on my photos, and I can’t keep up with everything. She was two years old when this photo was taken, and it has saved her from her jumping off cliffs and into streams because she was not a very good listener at the time, for whatever reason. Now that she is older, he doesn’t use it anymore. And, yes, she got to explore plenty. I’m a biology student, so she also gets little lessons in forest ecology along the way, which is more than most people give to their children, and she isn’t even mine. In addition to that, we climb up fallen trees with her, splash in mud puddles, and use twigs to pretend that we’re fishing.

    I’d also like to add that I have an autistic nephew. My sister uses one of these with because it prevents him from running away, which he has been known to do.

    Lastly, my photography is about finding beauty in the simple moments, not for discussing parenting. I’d appreciate it if you removed if from your facebook page. Thank you.

    Katie Baxter

    • darwinsbulldog says:

      Hi Katie,

      Thank you for stopping by and sharing your thoughts. Like I said, I didn’t know anything about you, the girl, or her father. Now I know a little more about how she gets to explore in nature, and that’s wonderful!

      I have removed my Facebook thread where the photo was linked.

  3. Mel says:

    I’m quick to snicker at those things, but I saw your FB thread and re-thought it, too. Whatever get people out is great (within reason). We parents can be kind of hard on each other sometimes. Next time I see a leash in the airport or wherever, I’ll give the user the benefit of the doubt. I hope other parents do the same for me.

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