You had a letter awhile back from a woman who saw another woman physically abuse her children at the grocery store. And you said the woman shouldn't berate the other woman or call the cops on her, but that she could say something along the lines of 'You must be having a really bad day' in order to snap the other woman out of her abusive mood. Well, I wonder what you would have said to a woman I saw recently in a local park. I was just passing through. She and her son had been playing on the equipment and were now preparing to leave. I heard her bark something to her son, who didn't hear her at first, then came running, like a well-trained puppy. He had a snowsuit on and, over that, what I realized were leather straps around his shoulders and chest. And he stood there obediently while she attached a leash to the leather strap, then barked another command, then led him off to the dog pound, I suppose.
Aren't there laws against this kind of thing? I was so stunned I couldn't bring myself to say anything. But I noticed that nobody around me said anything either. Have we grown so accustomed, after Abu Ghraib, to people being led around by the neck that we don't even notice it anymore? Or is there something I don't know?
Yours for a more...
Humane Society: There are many things you don't know, I'm afraid. You don't seem to know anything about children, for instance. Children, bless their souls, are little bundles of pure id who will take off running at less than a moment's notice. Or they will disappear in a crowd, as if abducted by the tooth fairy for trying to pass that Lego thingie off as a molar. They are, in short, more than a handful, which is why some parents have resorted to harnesses to keep them nearby. These needn't be as restrictive as the get-up Hannibal Lecter wore while being transported from abode to abode. In fact, most of them are quite cheery, in that childlike way. I've even seen ones that incorporate stuffed animals and a backpack, so it looks like the toddler is keeping the pet monkey in line when in fact the monkey is keeping the pet toddler in line. (They should have tried that one on Hannibal the Cannibal.)
Inhumane? I don't think so, especially if the child is overly rambunctious or has been diagnosed with ADHD. But some parents might disagree, and I'd love to hear from them, especially if their child is overly rambunctious or has been diagnosed with ADHD. Harnesses are more common in urban areas, I think, and I find it hard to imagine standing there waiting for the subway to arrive, my toddlers by my side, without some sort of restraining device. There's evidence, through paintings and such, that restraining devices ' leashes, ribbons ' have been used for hundreds of years. (Hence the phrase 'at the end of my tether.') That doesn't make it right, of course, but it doesn't make it wrong either. And let's keep in mind that there are laws that compel us to restrain our children when riding in a car, Britney Spears notwithstanding.
Here's where I draw the line, though. Parents who harness their children should never use actual dog commands. ('Heel!') They should never reward their harnessed child with biscuit-like treats. ('That's a good boy!') And they should never strap their harnessed child to a hitching post while they, the unharnessed parent, stop by the local saloon for a shot of joy juice. ('Whoa, horsy!') Or, if they feel they must, they should be sure to provide the harnessed child with plenty of water. After all, kids are people, too.
To tie me up, tie me down and shake me all around, write to: MR. RIGHT, ISTHMUS, 101 KING ST., MADISON, WI 53703. OR CALL 251-1206, EXT. 152. OR E-MAIL MRRIGHT@ISTHMUS.COM.