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May 10, 2010 | by  | in Opinion | [ssba]

Harness baby

Ever seen those little children in stores who aim themselves at anything ceramic, and think “would it be too barbaric to put you on a leash?” Well, not in England. Hello, my name is Rebekah. And I was a Harness Baby.

Alternatively called a child tether or walking reins (because apparently small children are some strange form of equine), the baby harness is worn by toddlers as a safety precaution. Taking child degradation a bit further, the parent or guardian then attaches some form of leash to the back of the harshness, allowing the child to walk freely. Freely my arse. Reading between the lines here, I understand the following: over-active child wears lead, parent holds lead, and child becomes a puppy. Why in God’s name do parents put kids in these devices that were so obviously derived from some form of medieval torture?

Apparently, they were all the rage in England.

Often accused of being emotionally repressed, the Brits have really out-done themselves with this Baby Harness shenanigan. Born in Liverpool in the late eighties, I’m shocked to think other children in the area were kept on leashes. I can see it now: Mrs Bennet taking me to play-group and all the Liscard mothers going down the Cherry Tree Shopping Centre, accompanied by miniature versions of themselves who scrabble ahead, wheezing and panting as their respective leads hold them back. Our chubby little legs raced on but it was always followed by a gasp of shock as we pinged back towards our mummies. Baby Harnesses, for the record, market themselves just over a metre in length.

It wasn’t until we moved to New Zealand that the use of the Baby Harness became more of an issue. We passed through LAX (Americans obviously weren’t fussed at seeing an imprisoned child) but it was avid shoppers in Wellington who weren’t ready to see a small person who was more man’s-best-friend than whole-lotta-baby. Mum only used the harness once in New Zealand. Still at that age where I was saying ‘hello’ quite loudly to every shopper until they replied, passers-by in the Mall looked at me with pity and my mum with disdain.
I’m pretty sure we down-graded to ‘holding Mummy’s hand’ after that incident.

The issue of the Baby Harness wasn’t brought up again until high school, when Mrs Bennet informed a friend of mine I was one of those unfortunate tubby creatures who wore a glorified dog leash as a toddler. Said friend occasionally finds ways to bring it up in conversations (you wonder how, right?) but it was Atticus’ comment the other day, mocking me for being a Harness Baby, that finally set the record straight. For years I thought Mum was ashamed of being seen as a bad parent and simply kept my younger sister off the lead so as to avoid CYF intervention… But the real reason?

“Hate to break it to you kiddo, but you were too fat to fit Rebekah’s Baby Harness.”


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