Child Safety-When Your Child Runs Away
If your child is like my three year old son, John, and runs away from you for fun, or from lack of impulse control, you definitely need to make plans to keep him/her safe in airports. John has put me to the test on this many times. Here’s our story and one solution:
My son John, age three, is a runner. When he was two, he would exclaim, “I got to run! I got to run!!!” For the past year, he has been able to run fast enough that I have to literally sprint to catch him. When my daughter, Ella, was this age, I taught her her to stop when I called, “STOP” by going to an open field with her and practicing. I called out and used sign language to say, “STOP!…GO!…” She thought it was a fun game and quickly learned to stop immediately when I said stop.
With John it’s a completely different story. Although he likes playing the STOP/GO game, outside of the game when I say, “STOP”, he giggles and runs faster. I’ve tried yelling “freeze”, “danger”, “cookie” (LOL), but nothing I do or say will convince him to stop when his desire is to run. I’m really hoping this is simply a lack of maturity and in the near future he will become more obedient about stopping on command. In the meantime, to keep him safe when I’m traveling through the airport on my own (without my husband), I usually have John wear a monkey backpack harness. Often he will still hold my hand or help push his car seat-turned-stroller (with GoGoBabyz Travelmate Wheels), but I have the assurance that if he suddenly runs away, he won’t get far.
Last summer I was flying on my own with Ella and John. As we prepared to deplane, I decided I didn’t need to put the backpack harness on John since we were just walking off the plane and would then stop on the jetway to wait for his car seat to be brought up from the cargo hold. Ella walked out first, with John between her and me. Well, when John stepped off the plane, he smelled FREEDOM! He broke into a full sprint and raced up the jetway. I had a backpack on my back, a lunch cooler on one arm, and a tote bag on the other arm. I yelled stop, but as previously explained, to John that means, “run like the wind”. I called to Ella to stay where she was, dropped my bags beside her, and ran as fast as I could to catch John. It was a long jetway, but I didn’t catch him until he was ten feet into the terminal already! Another three seconds and he could have easily been lost in the airport crowd.
Some people think that backpack harness, or “child leashes”, are inhumane and cruel. I’ve noticed plenty of judgmental stares as we walk though the airport with John wearing the monkey backpack harness. (It didn’t help things when we were in the Miami airport last year and John thought it would be funny to get down and crawl on all fours. I can’t remember if he started barking too. You can imagine the shocked judgmental looks I got then! But I thought it was funny so instead of making him get up, I videotaped him. LOL!)
Last year I took a poll to see what my friends and readers thought of using a child harness to keep children safe. You can see the results here. After my experience with John running away up the jetway and into the airport that day (plus other times when he has run into streets and parking lots), I really don’t care what kind of judgmental looks I receive. It is my job to keep my children safe, and until John has the impulse control he needs to keep him near me, I will continue to use the harness to ensure he is not lost or hurt. (He’s actually getting much better about staying near me now that he is three years old. But in crowds, especially when I’m the only adult, I still like to have the safeguard of the backpack harness.)
This is the time John decided he was too tired to walk so he just laid down on the floor. It’s not the only time he’s done this. Silly boy.
What do you think about child safety harnesses? Do you see them as useful or inhumane? Do you have a child who runs away at the worst times? We’d love to hear your opinions or stories in the comments below or on Facebook! If you have any tips on helping your child learn to keep near, we’d love to hear that too!