Regarding your recent column in which the person who wrote in took a woman to task for using a harness and leash on her son when they left a local park: I definitely agree with you, Mr. Right, that 'Humane Society' is woefully out of touch with reality. We had twins when our older child was 3 years old, and I'd like to see Humane Society go shopping with a 5-year-old and twin toddlers in tow. You can tell children to stay close until you're ready to join the Blue Man Group, but it just isn't realistic to expect them to do it. At their height, all they see is legs, and most of them aren't able to tell their parents' legs from all the others. Yes, we put harnesses on the twins for a while, and a wrist strap on our oldest. How else can one person move through a store and keep three kids in line? How many hands does Humane Society have? Yup, thought so.
The mother in the park had only one child, it's true, but if I was raising a child in an urban area I'd definitely keep him/her tethered to me in some way. It's more humane to keep your children tethered until they're old enough to stay close to you on their own than it is to risk a potential abduction.
Proud Dad of Three
Your column about kids in harnesses brought back memories. My mother and father were in the Canadian and American air forces, respectively. My paternal grandparents lived in Mexico. With my parents' careers and the fact that we had family all over the continent, we did a lot of traveling. In the mid-'60s, my mother corralled three small children and our luggage through many airports, and she used harnesses, which were standard in Canada at the time. She occasionally tells the story of being confronted in some airport, possibly in New York, by an older woman who asked her, 'Do you think those are dogs?' My mom just smiled and challenged the woman to get us to the gate safely, in time, without the harnesses.
We have a lot of snapshots and home video from those days and aren't wearing harnesses in any of them. But Mom swears she couldn't have managed the travel routine without those harnesses. And we kids, now in our 40s, have turned out to be pretty normal adults, with no memories, let alone resentments, of being strapped in. Kids will be kids, and parents do what they gotta do to keep 'em safe!
Proud Dad and Prior Restraint: I'll let your letters stand in for all the ones I got from parents who don't seem to have a problem with the idea of shackling ' excuse me, tethering ' their children. And the fact that I got no letters from parents who do have a problem with it leads me to the conclusion that...it's open season on little people! Tie 'em up, tie 'em down, and if they try to get away, wrestle 'em to the ground! Just kidding. I totally see the value of some kind of tethering device. But there still must be some lines you don't want to cross ' straps too tight, harness never comes off, even at night, child chained to furnace in basement. And I was hoping somebody would speak to that issue. Oh, well.
By the way, I don't really buy the child-abduction argument, which Proud Dad briefly alludes to. This is used by the manufacturers and sellers of harnesses, but I think it's a scare tactic. Despite the newspaper headlines, child abduction is quite rare ' not quite as rare as alien abduction, perhaps, but no reason, on its own, for refusing to sever the umbilical cord.
Whether it's play centers or placentas, write to: MR. RIGHT, ISTHMUS, 101 KING ST., MADISON, WI 53703. OR CALL 251-1206, EXT. 152. OR E-MAIL MRRIGHT@ISTHMUS.COM.