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Clint Edwards affectionately calls his toddler daughter, Aspen, a "wild raccoon" and admits that he can't keep just one eye on her or she might dash away when something grabs her curiosity.
That's why the father of three from Oregon has decided to keep Aspen on a leash when they're in public — a decision he defended in a Facebook post.
Edwards, 34, who writes the dad blog No Idea What I'm Doing and is the author of "This is Why We Can't Have Nice Things," explained why he had Aspen on a leash while his family was at a local farmers market last month.
"The real difficulty with having a wild child is that you are damned if you do, and damned if you don’t,'' he wrote. "Because the fact is, if I didn’t put Aspen on a leash while at amusement parks, the zoo, a crowded mall, or the farmers market, she’d be the lost child announced over the intercom. She’d be the kid popping up in every Facebook feed for wandering into a shopping center parking lot, unattended. She could be the child climbing into the tiger cage. Because I can't, for the life of me, keep her from moving."
There was no specific event that prompted Edwards and his wife, Melodie, to put Aspen on a leash, but the two agreed they had to do something.
"She's so cute and she's so curious and we love her, but we want to keep her safe,'' Edwards told TODAY. "She's faster than any Olympic runner I know."
Aspen is also prone to nursemaid's elbow, in which a toddler can dislocate an elbow if yanked by an adult trying to keep him or her from wandering off, Edwards said. Her elbow joint has already popped out twice.
Aspen calls the leash her "backpack" and has not fussed when her parents put it on her.
"People have been, for the most part, very positive (about the Facebook post)," Edwards said. "It's one of those things that a lot of parents say they're never going to do until they have an active kid, so they go for it."
Amy McCready, the founder of Positive Parenting Solutions and a TODAY Parents contributor, doesn't see any harm in parents using a leash.
"I think it is a brilliant idea to keep the child safe yet still give her some mobility,'' McCready told TODAY. "It's really no different from a stroller or buckling them up in the grocery store (cart). In parenting circles, we talk about how it's much easier to control the environment rather than control the child. This is a way to contain her in a safe way."
The couple have two older children, Norah, 7, and Tristan, 10, who were shyer when they were younger and didn't need a leash.
Edwards said they received a snide comment and some looks from other parents when they first used the leash on Aspen at Disneyland in February, but had a simple message for other parents who might frown at the sight of a child on a leash.
"If you see somebody using something like that, it's for a good reason,'' Edwards said. "Don't make assumptions. I'm their parent; I know this child well enough to know that I need this. So trust us."
A parent in McCready's online community also suggested using the term "safety string" to combat the stigma of the word "leash" that can make the child seem like a pet instead of a human.
Edwards envisions not having to use the leash with Aspen in another six months or so.
"She's in that middle period where she's learning to talk and starting to figure it out, but doesn't fully follow commands,'' he said. "You don't know when she's going to listen and comprehend, but she'll get it and she'll grow out of it."
McCready added: "It is developmentally appropriate for this young girl to want to run off when she sees something exciting. He's just taking precautions. I don't see any problem with it."
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