By Deana Morton
It was almost picture perfect. I sat on the rug with my 9-month-old in front of me. He was about to crawl for the first time. Facing me, he was headed my way. Arms outstretched with my camera ready, I encouraged him: “You can do it, little guy.” He rocked back and forth on all fours. Then, he looked slightly over his left shoulder and turned around. I snapped a photo of his rear end as he began crawling away from me.
This was the start of a pattern. Wherever I was, my son was either crawling, walking or running in the opposite direction. I learned that there are two types of kids: the barnacles that remain obediently by their parent’s side, and the sprinters who take off the first chance they see fit.
My son also loved to disappear. If his vanishing act wasn’t so stressful, I would have tried to book magic shows for him in Las Vegas and billed him as the mini-Houdini. He was that good.
I did everything to keep him by my side. I bribed him. “If you stay with me, we can get a new Hot Wheels car!” No dice. I told him about stranger danger, which caused him to point at people and yell, “Are they a stranger?” He loathed being in his stroller and carrying him was like trying to carry a little breakdancer. He had mastered popping and locking in my arms.
I started training at the gym like I was training for the Olympic 100m dash. While doing sprints on the treadmill, I would close my eyes and try to find my inner Florence Griffith Joyner, aka Flo-Jo. No matter how much I trained, I was still not quick enough for my mini Usain Bolt.
Out of sympathy, my sister gave me a backpack with a leash attached to it. I immediately put it in the basement. I would never do that, I thought. I’m not putting him on a leash like he’s a dog. I am not that mom.
The following week we had a relaxing vacation planned and the first stop was the airport. Without my knowledge, my husband put the leash backpack in his carry-on. As soon as we got to the airport, he used my heels like they were starting blocks and took off. I sprinted after him in my sandals. I leapt over people’s luggage like they were hurdles on a track. This was the ultimate 100 meter dash and I was losing.
Then my inner Flo-Jo came through and I ran full force, grabbing my son at the top of an escalator that he was about to tumble down. Huffing and puffing, I was thankful that we avoided a trip to the emergency room. But I was also a little annoyed I didn’t receive a gold medal after that race. Without saying anything, my husband pulled out the leash backpack and strapped it on my son. He tugged on the leash once or twice and then magically, my son remained by our side.
The leash backpack became a part of my son’s life after that. It helped us both relax when we were in crowded places. We were now able to enjoy our little adventures stress-free with him tethered to my side. Instead of my running opponent, my son became my little sidekick.
As for my son, he’s come a long way from his sprinting days and disappearing acts. Over time, he’s calmed down significantly and now feels more comfortable holding my hand. The leash backpack still makes an appearance on vacation and in really crowded places like the zoo and museums because he will randomly try to run off.
And fortunately for me, his younger brother turned out to be a barnacle.
About the Author
Deana Morton lives in Boulder, CO with her husband and two kids. She is a radio DJ and freelance writer. She loves parmesan cheese on her pasta, and she will not go camping with you even though you insist it will be fun.