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!