Well, before leaving for our Texas trip, I broke down and bought one. "We'll be flying and airports are busy," I reasoned. My dad had mentioned on more than one occasion, "You should get him one of those harness things." Elijah runs now. He runs fast. It takes a lot of supervision to keep him safe because while Elijah does see, he doesn't see well.
With parenthood comes wisdom and I now see the merit in such a product. It's about safety, not about laziness or demeaning a child.
Elijah loved his new backpack harness. He was able to help us by carrying some of his own toys, plus I could hold the handle on the top and give Elijah a sense of freedom. I always hold his hand when we're in public so he thought he was on the loose – and he loved his new found freedom (or at least the perception of it).
We hadn't used the harness (which attaches at the bottom of the backpack and isn't visible in these photos) until we got to the airport for our return flight. The airport was busy and it seemed the perfect time to try it out. My parents offered to take Elijah while they took a walk around the airport, which allowed Andy and me to eat our dinner.
After a short time my dad came back and told us how a man had come up to him and said, "I suppose you have a cage for him at home too." Yes, someone actually said that to my dad.
My dad, without missing a beat, said, "Sir, this boy is almost blind." The man, not knowing what to say, walked away. My mom said firmly and loud enough for the man to hear, "Wow. That was rude!"
It wasn't too long before the man came back and apologized. I have to give the guy credit for having the guts to come back. I don't know if I would if I were in a similar situation. My dad, again being fast on his feet, accepted the man's apology and gently chided, "You know, perhaps you should think before you speak." And that was that. Elijah wore his harness for less than an hour (probably only a half hour) and we were criticized for it. It's no wonder I was apprehensive to use it.
I'm not trying to pick on this man, this stranger I'm sure we'll never see again. (Okay, scratch that... I am picking on that man. I can't imagine having the audacity to say that to a complete stranger!). The point is, I think this is a valid lesson for all of us. We're judgmental creatures. I'm as guilty as anyone else. But, if Elijah has taught me anything, it's that you really can't judge someone or something just by looking at them. You cannot look at a person who cannot walk or talk and know their IQ. You can't look at a person and know everything there is to know about them. And you can't look at child wearing a harness and judge their parents (or grandparents). Think before you speak.