Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Ouch, got me right on the nerve

The MomLogic website is not one I tend to waste a whole lot of time on. I find their “reporting” to be more like the nastier version of gossip, with loving attention slathered over people who are, you know, “just sayin’ it like it is”…a phrase which here means, “flinging soupy dung all over other people.”

I’m also not all that passionate about which movie star is having babies with what other movie star. I have enough trouble keeping track of my friends and family on that front, I hardly need to add keeping up with some ditzy bleached-blonde debutante’s sins to my day.

But someone pointed out a link to me today, and I followed the link, and man. Ouch.

Nothing but fast food and child harnesses for the Octomom's kids! features a snark about one of her children wearing a safety harness, and herself clutching a bag of fast food.

The octuplets' grandpa was snapped carrying one of Nadya Suleman's kids, who was wearing a harness. With 14, she'll probably have them ALL on leashes soon enough. Later, the paps caught Octomom after a fast-food run. Good to know she's concerned with providing a healthy diet for her kids!

Dudes. Quick question: How often in the last, say, month, have you gotten a quick bite from a fast food place on your way to and from something? Please. Not only does one stop at a fast food place not make fast food junkies of the whole family…even if she was feeding them mostly fast food, she is hardly alone on that. It is a terrible sin that pervades even the most comfortable of nuclear families.

But that’s not actually the part that stung me personally.

Yup. It was the harness thing. I look at that harness and you know what I see?

I see something I really wish I had.

Captain Adventure has outgrown his buddy harness (the kind with the cute fluffy animal ‘backpack’), and besides, he can unsnap it faster than I can. I need something beefier, like what her kid is wearing in that photo.

Because. He. Is. Autistic. I suspect perhaps the child in the picture is one of the special needs kids in the crowd…of course, I’m hardly an expert and even if I was I couldn’t diagnose somebody from one (1) picture on the danged Internet…but knowing that three of her six kids are “special needs” I’d be a little surprised if she didn’t have an assortment of adaptive tools in her home…from heavy duty strollers designed to take more weight and restraint for old children to yeah, safety harnesses.

The idea that a harness is somehow ‘convenient’ or a way to substitute medieval torture devices for, you know, actual attentiveness is such utter bullshit that…well, I’m on a bit of a peeved rant about it right now.

I don’t use the harness because it is convenient for me. Quite the contrary. It’s a pain in the tush. It’s awkward, it’s embarrassing, it’s yet another thing to keep track of whenever I’m going out of the house with Captain Adventure…which sometimes feels like I’m planning for a six week safari through darkest Africa instead of a half-hour trip to the danged mall.

What would be convenient for me would be having a four year old who responds to verbal commands like, “Come here.” “Walk with me.” “Give me your hand.” “WATCH OUT!”

A harness is an ugly necessity. He’s heavy and hard to carry when he’s being cooperative. When he decides he’s going to fight for his freedom, it’s like hanging onto a forty pound octopus on PCP.

When he decides he wants to run, he just runs. He doesn’t stop because I’m yelling frantically, he doesn’t pause to consider fast-moving traffic, getting lost, falling off cliffs or being mauled by the doggies he wants to pet – ‘pet’ being a word which here means ‘whack on the nose repeatedly while yelling “Oooooooooo, ICE OGGIE!” into its face.’

I hate the harness. And I love it. Without it, I wouldn’t dare take him to the mall, or the supermarket. No crowds. No fairs, no festivals, no Disneyland, no farmer’s market.

These are all things that are good for him. They expose him to different situations, encourage him to socialize, they give him things to talk about, get excited about, they can be used as excellent rewards for desired behaviors and punishment for less-charming outbursts…which again is an exciting development.

The kind of nasty judgmental attitude shown by this article is what I deal with, just about every single time I take him out for any length of time. He doesn’t look disabled, you know? He looks like a perfectly healthy, sparkling, intelligent little four year old dude.

It’s only when he’s trying to talk that it becomes painfully obvious that something is…off. Or when he suddenly melts down for no apparent reason.

Or when he does something so shockingly stupid that you’d swear basic human instinct should have stopped him.

“Christ, what is he, retarded?!” the witness yelled as I snatched him away from the huge moving wheels of the truck. Ten years off my life, because my little innocent wanted to get a closer look at the giant toy come to life. He would have gone right under those wheels, trying to play with the gas cap on a moving frickin’ big rig. Hyper-focused on what he wanted, he was oblivious to everything from my screaming to the fact that those really big wheels were moving inexorably forward…and of course, he utterly lacks the ability to think through such things as total rig weight versus his body’s ability to withstand crushing force and just how big an owie those things would cause…

My baby could be killed by something so bizarre and unlikely…all it takes is me thinking it should be OK to have him stand right next to me, just for a second, while I reach into the back of the van to pull out the shopping bags. When he has his harness on, I can loop the end over my arm – if he tries to dart off, not only does he not get far, I’m alerted the instant he starts.

Without it, well. He’s fast, and he’s silent. One second he’s there, the next he’s gone.

And you can call all you want…he doesn’t even hear your voice. Unless he wants something from you, in which case he still won’t respond to your calling by yelling back, or even call out for you in turn. At best, he’ll simply start to wail – a loud, undulating scream of frustration or anger…but seldom fear.

Even when lost in a crowd of hundreds in a strange place, my boy simply doesn’t grok the concept of fear.

“A child is not a dog,” other witnesses sniff when I snap him into his buddy harness so we can walk through a market or mall. “Ohmygawd, did you see that horrible woman?!”

It’s especially charming when they do that thing where they loudly comment to others about what a dreadful mother you are (studiously avoiding, you know, actual confrontation), and how in their day blah blah blah. Or, from the younger set, the ohmygawd, that’s, like, totally wrong and some junk! Gawd, when I’m a mom, I’d NEVER do that!

Funny how children hit so many buttons, huh? For we parents, someone else suggesting that we are anything less than perfect is mortal insult…for those of us making the, erm, suggestions, any parental failing (real or imagined) is fair game for snark-festing.

I can’t play holy. I’ve done my fair share of it, too…ironically, most of it when I was younger and had no children of my own. I’ve lightened up considerably since then, but still I have my moments of sitting in judgment on other parents for not doing what I, the Holy and Most Righteous Of Mothers (snort!), would have done.

And I have to say – ‘Octomom’ has really kind of invited this kind of constant negative press, hasn’t she. Good grief, madam, seems like every time you say something it only confirms my hunch that you are a few tentacles short of a sushi roll, there, doancha know.

But at the same time…as a mom with a special needs kid of her own…well. MomLogic Staff, I tell you what. Why don’t you try walking a mile in my moccasins, before you start accusing me of bad parenting because I use {gasp!} a harness on my autistic boy. Why don’t you just take him by his sweet little hand and try for a quick little trip somewhere. Anywhere. One of his favorite parks is, in fact, almost exactly one mile from here.

Why don’t you try walking with him, hand in hand…through the neighborhood, up the parkway, past his old school where his favorite teacher still works, past the siren call of the busily rumbling construction site, down the street to the park.

Betcha you’ll be begging for a harness before you even make the first quarter-mile marker.

Betcha you will.

(Thanks for listening to my ranting...I know I'm preaching to the choir with y'all, and you can't know how much I appreciate the way you put up with me when I'm like this...)


natasha the exile on Mom Street said...

Amen sister. Amen.

I don't know when becoming a mother became "signing up to be judged at all times by all people."

I sure as heck didn't sign that contract....

Louiz said...

I work in the legal area, and some of the clients my firm has are *real* bad parents - in that they are having their children removed for neglect or abuse. It gives a whole new outlook on what "bad parenting" consists of.

Anonymous said...

My shining moment was in the mall when a stranger made a very snotty comment about my using a leash on my child. I asked if she had a dog, "yes," did she use a leash on her dog, "yes," why did she use it? "why to keep her dog safe." To which I replied (sweetly, of course) "so you are telling me that your dog's safety is more important than my child's safety?" No response...

Lon said...

So many people thought my son's harness was cool and asked where we got it that we went into business making them. Foo on harness-sneerers!

Anonymous said...

When my twins were old enough to be fast and silent, and young enough not to *listen* and *understand*, I did wish for some harnessess. The boys were only consistent in one thing - they always ran in separate directions. I never ended up getting one, but I certainly wouldn't deride a parent who uses a harness to keep their child safe!

Uh, good thing you already knew you were preaching to the choir. ;)

Unknown said...

Have to agree that harnesses are good for all kids! Would you want to walk around all day long with your arm above your head, at the speed of someone whose legs are longer than you are tall?

I had a friend who was vehimently anti-harness. Then she had her second child. (that would be the one who loved strangers, wanted to see everything, and hated to hold hands) Suddenly it made much more sense!

Plus, if you have more than two kids, you have a kid holding another kid's hand. How safe is that? There's no way for me to hold three hands. I can have three harnesses in my hands, though. I know from experience - I worked at a daycare and had six two-year-olds to take up and down stairs between the classroom and snack - with wrist-leashes I was able to do it easily by myself. I never would have tried that without the wrist-leashes and that was in a closed environment! In a mall? Forget it. Harnesses.

Nancy said...

Years ago, when I was a lot younger and a whole lot stupider, I too looked down on people who had child harnesses. I mean, obviously this woman thinks her child is a dog or something.

And then I watched a child take off and get stopped, and saved, because he was on a harness. And I realized that harnesses, and the comments they elicit, are a whole lot better than a funeral.

I had a friend who let go of her three-year old's hand for the length of time it took to check a price tag on a dress, and he vanished. He was found five minutes later, hiding among some clothes. He was playing hide-and-seek.

Use the harness as long as you need to. Stupid comments are better than heart attacks, too.

Galad said...

It's too bad that so many people choose to judge what they don't understand. Personally, I wished for a harness plenty of times when my kids were little. They can move so fast!

Vent all you want and then do what you think is best for your child, cause you are the mom.

Barb Outside Boston said...

I can’t play holy. I’ve done my fair share of it, too…ironically, most of it when I was younger and had no children of my own.

EXACTLY! I laugh (inwardly) at people (especially RELATIVES!) with no kids who know JUST how children should be raised.

I just keep saying to myself--"Someday, you'll be sooo embarrassed when you remember what you just said!"

mama edge said...

So I went over to MomLogic, and
site explains its moniker as referring to "[t]he logical (or, at times, logically illogical) thinking patterns all mothers seem to share."

I don't know any mothers who think in such judgmental terms. A few motherf***ers, perhaps, but not mothers.

Anonymous said...

Been there done that.
If you have one you know what "a busy child" really means. Or, "this one's a runner". Now combine.

Trips to mall to buy the traditional (read lazy way out) wedding present of the crystal photo frame meant placing my money in an accessible pocket, pick up child while firmly holding arms. indicate with pointed chin which frame I wanted, thrust hip forward so clerk can remove cash. we all walk out into the maill where the clerk gives me my change and package, release pent-up-ball-of-energy.

I always had a mental image of Jonny Quest walking the Kimodo dragons while taking my daughter to the mall.

After one mall run (stood up to replace sleeper on rack), one park run (up the slide, down the slide, up the slide... down the berm on the other side) and probably more that I've blocked from memory - I freaking don't care what you think person without child.

And there's that dragging the arm thing too.

Trina said...

Funny, I always thought the harnesses were a good idea. My thoughts in the mall tend towards "Look at that smart mom with contained children, and look at the loose child who just ran away from his parents to try to drown himself in a fountain."

My parents lost my brother at a packed county fair once. They only found him because he had a red balloon tied to his wrist. That was 30 years ago.

Anonymous said...

People can be absolute idiots sometimes. I guess you just have to consider the source. We had a harness for ours when they were little, and it was a wonderful thing. Oldest son would march up to people and announce "My mommy got me this to help me be safe!" I'd just stand back and grin. You keep doing whatever you need to do to keep the Captain safe. You're a good mom, Tama.

Anonymous said...

My Mom had a bad back and my brother was a handful. So she used a harness. GO FOR IT. You have to do what you need to do for your child and yourself. Although I bet its hard to hear the comments. I,however, was a perfect angel (HA) and didn't need the harness. HANG IN THERE BABY. You are doing the right thing.

Leoal said...

My son liked to play hide and seek in department stores as well. He's old enough to listen, now, but when I got the harness it was a relief to to have to haul him around by the arm any more. But I got my share of comments behind my back as well.

Anonymous said...

People don't understand until they do it themselves.

My mom used two zip/snap harnesses at a time on my brothers, that way they could unzip/unsnap one and still be safe (of course the second one was zipped/snapped in the back where it was hard to reach). The boys thought they were so smart to undo the harness and couldn't figure out why they were still tethered. They are now in their 40's and still all in one piece.

knitinsage said...


there were 6 months when my little 1 year old boy screamed ear-splitting screams and slapped me in the face whenever frustrated -- easy to handle at home, much harder in line at the grocery store. i ignored the comments (tho they still sting, amazingly) and held him upside-down face out (so he couldn't kick ;-) with my left arm, and calmly pushed my cart and paid with my right. we discovered later that he suffers from bipolar disorder, and he was doing the best he could to deal with the scary stuff in that little brain.

pfft. i'm done judging other people's kids.

your job is to keep your little fellow safe and help him grow up while still feeding, caring for and paying attention to the rest of your family. and you're doing it with great aplomb. and allowing us to understand that there is someone else out there with parental challenges who can handle things with a sense of humor and a complete lack of self-pity. my comment: "good job, sister."

Anonymous said...

You have to go with what you know works for you and yours.

DH and I both desperately needed glasses, and began wearing them at about 3 years of age. Would you believe people accosted both of our mothers, saying "How can you be so cruel to put glasses on that child?"

Science PhD Mom said...

I hear you. It's easy to judge someone else, and far harder to try to understand them. Thanks for this post.

PipneyJane said...

Even supposedly "normal" children have trouble understanding the command "do not wander off". I have vivid memories of the tussles we had with my then 5-year-old nephew on his one and only trip to Europe. He could not register that people in other countries did not speak English and, if he got lost, he couldn't ask for help. We made him wear a leash.

"Other people" are idiots to judge. They don't know how stupid they are being. In the UK, at least we have the perfect retort: would Jamie Bulger have been murdered if his mother had used a leash? (I'm not sure how far the story travelled. He was a 2 year old enticed away by bigger boys at a shopping centre in Manchester and subsequently murdered.)

- Pam

Anonymous said...

My child was the most precious thing in my life - no way was I going to run the risk of his darting off. I used a harness for as long as I needed it (*^(*&%(*%& other people's opinion.

Should anyone be officious enough to give you those comments or looks just remember us - we'll back you up sister!

P.S.: Love Jeanne's comment.

Hollis said...

I've never understood the bad rap harnesses get. I'll take dirty looks over the possibility of losing my child any day.

Maybe i'll market a harness that reads: IT'S NOT A LEASH; IT'S AN ABDUCTION THWARTER. NOW GO JUDGE SOMEONE ELSE.

Anonymous said...

When my daughter was 11 months old, her doctor insisted we put her into a harness. She had a nasty habit of just walking away without looking back.

We looked all over the place, but in 1991 there were only nasty looking harness things for kids.

On the other hand, she's 18 now, and safe and sound, so I guess it was worth it. And she doesn't even remember the harness, so it evidently doesn't cause lifelong trauma, like so many helpful people told us it would.

Anonymous said...

AMEN!!!!!!! Oh my goodness, I cannot express how much I agree with you hon. I had to use a harness on my now six year old when he was 2 til 4 because he RAN. He ran right into a pond in a park, with me hauling butt right behind him losing my shoes along the way, screaming for someone to "Please grab him before he gets to the water!!!!" Did anyone (there were dozens of people there) do so? Nope. So after that, harness. Yup.

JanTink said...

I had no need for a harness until I had my third, who astonished us all by being a boy after our two girls. Yes, he loved to run straight away and since he was speech delayed, he couldn't tell anyone where mommy was. So I used a harness when we were in busy public places. I've got pictures of him in it at the zoo...but in our area, it must be a more accepted thing because I got no remarks. In fact, I remember a couple people wishing they had something like that when their kids were young.

I also remember when I was pregnant with my first being in line at Target behind an older lady and both of us behind a mom with two little girls who were having meltdowns at the check out counter. The older lady turned to me and sniffed and said, "We would never allow our children to behave like that in a store!" I looked at her and said, "Actually, I was kind of admiring how she was managing to ignore the screaming and get her business done with the cashier."

Yes, mine were well-behaved in the store because I gave them 5 simple rules every time we got out of the car: no running and hold my hand in the parking lot, no standing up in the cart, no begging for anything, no whining, no screaming. The one time the girls started a fight over some books they both wanted, the books were left behind. But I don't judge other moms...I avoided a lot of stuff just by not shopping during nap time, but that is not always possible...sometimes you just have to go out for more diapers or pull-ups and sometimes kids are just cranky. I also learned that two stops were the most any preschooler or toddler could handle, so I made sure not to stress them out with too much shopping.

Just found your blog! I'm a knitter too and though my son is not autistic, I can relate to a lot of the speech delay stuff.