Monday, October 19th, 2009
An uncomfortable conversation at the K-Mart check-out
This tale begins with the revealing of a deep, dark family secret. Last month, we became one of those families. Or more accurately, my wife is one of those mothers, and I am occasionally one of those fathers, but only with a deep sense of shame because of what I infer other parents think of me. I avoid being one of those fathers whenever possible.
Our 18-month-old son has a leash. Oh, sorry, I mean a tether. Or harness, as if that’s better.
I profiled child tethers four years ago, before they became popular. Back then, if you wanted one, you probably had to order from a website. I was skeptical at the time, leading to the shame I feel today. These days, child tethers go for $1 at garage sales.
The one thing my son doesn’t do in public is listen to his parents, and he loves to run, grab things and throw. It sounds normal for his age, but some of it seems related to the speech communication problems we’ve been having. Curbing repeat bad behavior is our biggest problem. So we carry him in a wrap or stroller whenever possible, but sometimes it’s just not convenient, especially now at 28 lbs.
Contrary to my prejudicial thinking, my son didn’t revolt when he was first leashed up. The harness has a plush teddy bear on its back with a tiny pocket. We began putting on the leash when dropping off, or picking up, our daughter at school. She wears a real backpack, and he wants to be just like her.
Some kindergarten, 1st and 2nd graders thought it was a backpack, and a cool one at that. One boy asked with great surprise whether my son was in kindergarten.
And better yet, when tethered up he is happy to be in the proximity of a parent without running wildly around. It’s a bizarre limitation he accepts.
Okay, so, about this K-mart conversation…
My wife made a quick trip to K-Mart on Sunday to pick up socks for my daughter… bringing both kids. I cautioned her that our son would pull products from the shelves, so she needed to use a wrap.
She went with the tether anyway, but resolved the issue by having him carry the socks through the store.
At the check-out, the female cashier leaned over the counter, looking at our son, and said, “Ohhh, I’ve got one of those! No one believes me, but I do.”
My wife thought the clerk was referring to our son, and she didn’t say anything intelligible: “Oh, mmm hmm.”
The clerk continued: “I get nervous out in public, so I have my husband put it on me and lead me around in crowds. It makes me feel safe. I panic when I’m around lots of people.”
My wife was essentially stunned, fumbling out, “Well, it’s good that it fits you.”
When she told me this story the first time, I thought my wife was saying the woman had an adult harness. But no, the clerk was, at most, a petite 110lbs.
I just hope telling this story doesn’t make Thingamababy a Mecca for adult harness lovers like it has for adult blanky lovers. (I jest. Everyone needs a home.)
Anyhow…. back to my son’s harness. After K-Mart, my wife stopped by a grocery store. My son carried an orange through the store. At some point he dropped it, the orange rolled along the floor, then he picked it up and gave it a firm full-mouth chomp.
And that there is our son, totally different from his sister in almost every way.