You want to visit your parents. They live 11 hours and three airplanes away. Your 6-year-old travels well, but the 2-year-old courts danger. He is lured by trash cans, escalators, and unknown hands. Perhaps you need a leash.
At first you are horrified at the thought. You imagine your child restrained like a yappy manicured poodle. He will fume. People will stare, and they will wonder: Does she hit him, too?
You ponder the alternative. You know that losing this boy, a blue-eyed blond with sausage-size curls, would ruin your life. Reluctantly, you buy the leash.
It comes in a fist-size plastic package. A picture of a boy is featured. He is about the size of yours. One end of the leash is strapped to the boy's hand. His mother is grasping the other end of the leash. You can see that she would rather go through labor again than let go. The boy has short brown hair. He is smiling.
You open the package. Out spills a white elastic strap three feet long and one inch wide. There is a baby-blue stripe running down the center.
One end is a loop for your hand. Two four-inch pieces of Velcro stitched to a black plastic buckle make up the other end.
Your 6-year-old says it will never work.
"He'll pull his hand out," she cries. You look at that silly smiling boy again and decide she is probably right.
"But," she says, "you could put one end on his pants."
"Around his belt?" She nods with enthusiasm.
You depart the next morning at 5:30. The baby sleeps in his car seat as you drive to the airport. The brilliant one is awake. She sports a contagious smile.
You arrive with the dread of a college final exam. Baby now sleeps in your arms. You tearfully kiss your husband goodbye. You cry because his helping hands must stay behind. You point your first-born toward the airline check-in counter.
You order her to march.
You follow, carrying 50 pounds of child and backpack with one arm. With the other, you drag a suitcase missing wheels.
You enter the airport terminal. Sleepy boy's head pops up, swinging sprinkler-style from left to right and back again. He grins broadly. He shrieks, "Put me down!"
Physics rule. You cannot restrain 30 pounds of fighting torque. He is now five feet ahead of you. You drop the suitcase and scramble after the floppy tail that trails him. You grasp the leash handle and pull it toward you with a yank.
He is caught off-guard and so he bristles. Shock splashes across his face. Seconds later, though, his expression folds to sheer admiration. His blue eyes meet yours, and he finally understands.
His age dictates the planetary nature of your relationship. You are his sun. He is your satellite orbiting six feet around you. Outside this domain, peril may lurk. Inside it, he is protected. This leash is the gravity that secures him.
Your son pauses for a moment and then smiles up at you. He offers a tiny hand and you take it. Your trip together begins.
Snacks, toy trucks, and an able assistant get you through the next 10 hours.
People seem not to judge, but smile instead.
As you consider this incredible piece of elastic, you are wondering: Is there anyone else I could use it on?