"Look at that! I can't believe someone would do that to their own child!!"
I looked around to see the topic of her indignation. A mother with a toddler. The source of disbelief was the leash that was strapped to the child and held by his mother. It had a harness at one end that attached to the child's torso in a comfortable fashion. On the other end his mother hung on tightly.
I looked around. All about me I saw the traffic of a busy intersection. There were hundreds of people moving to and fro. Other restaurants lined the street with open air seating. Shops also lined the street, complete with clothing racks and other places perfect for hiding.Time turned backward in my mind to December of 2003.
Going to the mall to see Santa is an annual tradition for our family. We've been doing it since my son's first Christmas and we haven't missed a single year. The kids are always excited about our yearly trek.We start the evening by eating at our favorite Italian restaurant located next door to the mall and then we move into the mall in search of the line to see Santa. But December 2003 almost put a stop to this long-held tradition.
That year, after we had filled our bellies with ravioli, maniccotti, and lasagna, we ventured into the mall and found Santa's line to be a mile-long. The kids were only five and three, so instead of standing in the long line we decided to do some shopping first and then come back to see if it had shortened.
My husband, who doesn't get an opportunity to Christmas shop very much, asked if he could wander off alone and try to buy some surprises. Anticipating that these surprises might just be for me, I happily obliged.
This was my first mistake of the evening. I didn't realize how difficult holding on to two children alone in a mall was going to be (especially since one was a hyperactive and impulsive three year old with undiagnosed ADHD). Perhaps I should have realized this would be a problem based on my experience of taking her to the grocery store. But the mood was merry and I had no worries except what my dear husband might be purchasing to put under the tree.
No sooner was Rob out of sight than Sara Ashley darted across the mall and into a clothing store, hiding in one of the round clothing racks. As I frantically screamed her name, looking for her, Robert walked in the opposite direction headed to the nearest candy machine. After retrieving him, I was finally able to find Sara Ashley, only to have her run away from me again. This happened at least four more times within the next 45 minutes, and all the while she giggled at this game she had created. My description of this game: Scare Mommy to death and make her very angry in the process.
After 45 minutes of this, with Rob still no where in sight (where was he???), I finally found my daughter (again!) and grabbed her arm, holding on for dear life. The line for Santa had shortened slightly and I thought if we could just get in it, maybe she would place her focus on sitting in Santa's lap and not on hiding from me. But not one minute later I felt my arm jerk as she tried to dart away again. This time, I instinctively jerked her back to me- hard. As I turned to angrily explain to her that she could NOT run away again, I noticed that she was holding her arm (the one I had jerked) in a very unnatural position.
Oh my Lord, have I broken my child's arm??? I crumbled. I did everything I could not to cry in front of my kids. Where in the world was my husband?? HELP!!!
A few minutes later, Rob finally showed up, shopping bags in hand. Turns out this man who has a keen sense of direction when outdoors, gets totally lost when inside a mall. He had shopped for 30 minutes and then it had taken him 30 more minutes to find us. (Even today, he still gets lost in this mall?!) So here I stood, with Robert on one side of me and Sara Ashley on the other, close to tears.
"Look at her arm Rob! She can't lift it. I think I've broken her arm!"
Rob looked and agreed that something was definitely wrong. We stepped out of line and headed to the closest ER, only minutes away. Unfortunately, Sara Ashley had also busted her lip at school that day while playing on the playground. As we checked into the ER, we were greeted by two employees who took each of us to different areas of the hospital and questioned us about what had happened to her. I was SURE we were going to be charged with abuse and taken to the nearest jail cell.
After the nurse who was examining Sara Ashley had convinced me that I had, indeed, broken my child's arm and I was in hysterics, the doctor came in. His examination was quick, and with a pop of his wrist, her arm was back to normal- fully functional.
"She had nursemaid's elbow," he told me. "It can happen pretty easily. Be careful. Once it happens one time, it can easily happen again." And off he went.
Needless to say, I have never been so relieved in my life. We left the hospital and headed home without seeing Santa and with my husband vowing never to go back to the mall again. A week later my sister went back with me and we finally got that year's coveted picture with Santa (see above). Thankfully, by the next December, my husband agreed to go back and the tradition continues. We can now look back on this experience with laughter and have shared it often with Sara Ashley and Robert who don't remember it at all (thank goodness!).
As I sat and watched this mother holding the leash, I thought to myself, I completely and totally understand this leash that she has attached to her child. Like our heavenly Father who desires to protect us when we go to Him, a parent desires to protect their child. How can we fault someone for that?
When a child is impulsive and hyperactive despite discipline, lacking normal reasoning skills and an understanding of danger, when a parent is working their hardest to teach their child obedience and respect but has to work within these differences, a leash is not a cruel tool. It is the protection of a loving parent.
Whoever goes to the Lord for safety,whoever remains under the protection of the Almighty,
2 can say to him,
“You are my defender and protector.
You are my God; in you I trust.”
Parenting is hard, especially in a fish bowl. Do you have a leash experience? Or maybe just a time when, because of your child's differences, you chose a different path than others that caused judgement?