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Taking the Lead

Mock me if you must, but that little boy at the end of my leash is a gift I almost lost

Never judge a mother by the leash to which her child is connected. At least, that's what I now firmly believe. But I'm a hypocrite. You see, after years of eyeing mothers who led their children on leashes, snickering and pointing behind their backs, I bought one for my son.

Flash back to a few weeks ago in the local drugstore: My curious two-year-old insisted on walking down each and every aisle as I trailed behind asking him to put the things back where they belonged. A bag of chips. "Put them back, please." A toilet brush. "Put it back, please." A super-size jug of Gatorade. "Put it back, please."

He took great delight in this little game. And he played it nicely and did as I asked, even when his sister urged him to take the item and run. As we approached the front of the store, I told them they could pick out a treat. I stacked my items on the counter and as the cashier rang them up, I opened his treat and placed it in his hand.

I reached into my wallet and counted out the money. When I looked back at my son to see how he liked his snack, he was gone. Only seconds had passed, and he'd vanished. I glanced around frantically and asked his sister, "Where's Knox?" She shrugged.

"He's out in the parking lot," two it-takes-a-village-challenged employees casually informed me as they stood inches from the door.

I don't know how many things I dropped on the floor. I just know that they dropped. I dashed outside to find my toddler running with his hand in the air, proudly displaying his treat. Seeing that he was headed for the oncoming traffic and running much faster than I could, I screamed his name. This slowed him just enough for me to catch the tag hanging out of the back of his shirt. I grabbed it and held on with all my strength.

Breathless, I walked back into the store with Knox in tow. I gathered my things and looked around at the small gathering of bystanders judging my poor mothering skills. The two unhelpful employees looked particularly disturbed by my lack of vigilance. I carried my son football style to the car while my five-year-old daughter lectured me on how I should have watched him more closely.

In the car, I couldn't speak. I couldn't move. I felt nauseated. I cried uncontrollably. My son's life was flashing before my eyes. Though he sat safely in his car seat, I couldn't let it go. More clearly than ever before I realized a hard truth: Your life can change in an instant.

I struggled emotionally for days over this incident. Knox was my responsibility. He trusted me. No matter who else might be there to step in and help, his life was essentially in my hands. Was I capable of such a task? Clearly, not always.

I talked with God over and over. Thanking him. Praising him. Asking his forgiveness. I couldn't let it go; I worried it would happen again. Then suddenly, I had an epiphany: Buy a leash. God approves of them.

I realized it wouldn't make me a bad parent. Knox is not only my child, but God's. I thought of the many times that I myself ignored God's leading and headed straight for danger, of the times that he had to chase me. Of the many times that he pulled me from danger by the tag of my shirt.

I remembered the day that I finally invited Jesus into my life and was filled by the Holy Spirit. On that day, a leash of sorts was attached to me. To protect me, God sent the Holy Spirit to guide me and connect me to him. He holds on to me always, only a short length away.

The next day I went into a different store. After searching for several minutes, I reluctantly approached the clerk. In a whisper I asked, "Do you carry leashes for children?" She smiled politely and motioned for me to follow her. There it was, in the safety aisle. And it was one of only three left.

We visited another drugstore that day, connected by a leash. As we walked down the aisle, a young woman looked at me with disdain. I knew what she was thinking. Glancing down at the leash, I caught my son's eye. Gazing up at me was the most beautiful gift, holding a bag of cookies. "Put them back, please." He smiled, tugging me forward to our next stop.

Judge me if you must. I thank God for the opportunity.

Laura Polk is the mother of two kids and a member of Christian Parenting Today's Expert Mom Panel.

Read more articles that highlight writing by Christian women at ChristianityToday.com/Women

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