The other day a two-year-old touring NYC with her parents fell into the East River.She darted away, slipped and slid saliently into the water in an instant. Fortunately, she was saved by her alert father within moments. He’s my hero. As a Mom with ADHD and three young and impulsive children (including a two-year-old) I can relate.
Thank God we’ve been blessed to have avoided near-death experiences, but I completely understand both the sheer terror of such a situation and the reality of how easily that could happen. I know that a child can move fast and can often be unpredictable. In addition, my own distractibility can be difficult to keep in check when I am somewhere with a lot of visual stimulus, so keeping a close eye on my little ones can be a challenge. Therefore, I AM that Mom in the store with the two-year-old tethered on what seems to be a leash. 😉
I’ve found the wrist-to-wrist link a helpful and practical solution to the battle of wills with my toddler in a store. The rule is: if she is going to walk then she must hold my hand (anyone with a toddler knows that loses luster fast) or hold on to the bracelet/leash. (OK, wear it). I’ve even tried to make it beautiful with ribbons which she loved, but inevitably even that is not enough. There are times when she just can’t stand not being able to run, walk away, or hide. I feel for her little free spirit, I do, but keeping her safe comes first for me!
I have gotten everything from praise and laughter to raised eyebrows and even rather nasty looks for this very visual representation of my parenting choice to do what I can to keep my child safe. I understand my personal attention challenges and the developmentally appropriate impulsivity of my two year old and I am doing the very best I can in order to teach my child limits and boundaries while respecting her need for independence and choice. There have been a few instances when my child threw a grand mall tantrum amidst the aisles of some store while tethered in protest of the confining reigns of Mom. She did not want to be in the cart, she did not want to hold my hand, and she did not want to wear the bracelet, but it was the lesser of the three evils so to speak as it minimized the power struggle. She screamed and rolled around on the floor as toddlers do while I leaned against a wall in embarrassment and self-doubt, with the other bracelet on and still tethered to her. I’d like to say that I calmly waited for her to stop and I read a book or something, but no, I just waited red-faced and tried to breathe. My anxiety was through the roof.
When she was finally calm and could choose to either walk with me or ride in the cart, I told her we could keep going through the store. The plan was if she didn’t stop the tantrum in 15 minutes then I’d pick her up and leave. I only had to do that once and it was more like 25 minutes of on-and-off-again tantrums; she did not want to stay with me at all, so we left! I didn’t get what I went to the store for that day and we were both mad as we got in the car, but at least I was able to leave with my child rather than the unthinkable, and hopefully she learned the lesson I’m trying to teach her: Stay with Mommy in stores and busy places so you are safe and don’t get lost.
As my older children have grown I’ve slowly introduced the concepts of being lost and helping them problem solve what to do if that happens through role playing with me, and having them demonstrate it (under my supervision) in various stores and public locations. Yes, I still hold my tether per se with them too. We have also talked about the ways someone might easily lure them into believing or befriending them and possibly wanting them to follow them. We’ve talked about what they should do if they encounter a suspicious person, too. I only pray that what is practiced is put into play if ever needed. I’m trying my best at each of their developmental levels and I know that inevitably, I can only hold their hands for a while, but they are tethered to my heart eternally.