We took Adam to the beach for the first time when he was almost three. We packed the car and headed to Ocean City, Maryland. It was about 7 hours from our home. Adam did pretty well in the car. I didn’t. I always ended up crying when my husband drove on the beltway around Washington D.C. He thought he was Mario Andretti, made invincible because he was wearing a seatbelt.
If you are a parent, you know it isn’t all a bed of roses vacationing with a small child. My curly-mopped red-head didn’t know how to sit still. I looked at other children his age, and they could actually stand still for 30 seconds. Not Adam. He was always at full-steam ahead. He was a runner. I realized that I must in lala land if I thought he would behave himself on the Ocean City Boardwalk.
wearing a backpack, but I know better. Damn, why didn’t they have those back then? It looks like there is a monkey or dog on their back, but their tail is actually traveling over to Mom or Dad. Sneaky child restraint…on a leash.
Remember that wonderful video someone took of the mother dragging her kid by the backpack leash?
Aw, that wasn’t so bad. It would have been bad if the leash was around the kids neck. It just looks like she was going for a ride.
But in my case, people stared. I don’t think a lot of people had seen them before. It was 1988. My little red-headed motorboat would not stand still. It was a relief to have my son on a leash while we were walking on the boardwalk. The relief didn’t last long as more and more people, mostly women, looked at me like I was performing Shaking Baby Syndrome for a crowd of onlookers.
I just smiled to give them assurance that I was a happy mom. I wasn’t a child abuser. If I was a child abuser, I would let him run around like a banshee, knocking into Mr. Camera Around His Neck and knocking over his vanilla ice cream cone. Someone could steal my son. This was a judgement call.
Well, after we were walking for about ten minutes and I had to give Flounder a yank or two to reel him in a bit, a woman stopped me.
“I’m sorry, but what you are doing is awful. Leashes are for dogs. Not children. You should be ashamed of yourself!”
I still remember what she looks like. I burned her face in my memory for hopes of running her down with my car later. She was about 50 years old and had very blond hair. She reminded me of Dog the Bounty Hunter’s wife.
I really didn’t think that anyone would actually say something to me. I looked down at Adam, wishing he would take a bite out of her. I did come up with a quick creative answer. I majored in Speech and DRAMA, afterall.
(The actress bursts into tears….looks down at her son, and then over to her husband, then looks at the lady and says..
“I’ve already lost one child when it was run over by a tram car on this very boardwalk………”
My husband told me later, “Nice touch calling your deceased child an “it.”
Well, she deserved it. After I said it, I gathered Adam up in my arms and put my face up to his. And then just gave her one final look as I continued on my way.
She looked green but her husband looked at me and smiled. He knew I was yanking her chain. I turned around one last time, and he was still looking at me, while walking in the other direction. He smiled and gave me a big thumbs up.
I smiled back.
Years later, when my daughter was going on a field trip with her preschool class, they were lined up to walk to the bus. They were holding on to a rope. One of the mother’s made the statement that it looked a little bit like child abuse, making them hold onto a rope.
I replied. “It could be worse. At least they aren’t all on wrist leashes.”