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Backpack Tails in Georgia

I’ve learned a lot of things since becoming a parent, but one little nugget that unfortunately continues to rise to the surface the deeper I go is this: I used to be a little bit of a judgey asshole pre-kids.

I’ll never be that mom. The one whose kid is throwing a fit in the grocery cart, the one who hands over an iPad at a restaurant, the one who forgets to sign the reading folder, and God forbid, definitely not the one who hooks her child to a–wait for it…toddler leash. 

I admit I hate them–those harness things you buy to keep kids close. I’ve always been more of a stroller girl. Or a baby carrier mama. The leashes always seemed so–I don’t know, animalish.  Not my style.

Pause for side story. In the climbiest of Dash’s climbing days last year, I was looking for a door gate tall enough to keep him from climbing over it so I could at least contain him to a room while I showered. “I bet a pet gate would be tall enough,” I mentioned to my mother-in-law. She got very quiet and then finally spoke up, “Don’t you think that’s a little–I don’t know–inhumane? I mean, I know we have to keep him safe, but I think a cage is going too far.”

“A WHAT?” I asked.

“A pet crate, right?”


A good laugh for both of us.

My God-no-not-a-leash mentality was well before my adventurous boy who loves to have two feet on the ground–running, darting, dashing–came along. And before we planned a trip to include hiking near the edge of steep bluffs. So a few weeks ago, simply in attempt to explore my safety options for our hike, I typed, cringing, into the search bar: toddler leash.

Pleasantly surprised, I found adorable critter backpacks–bees and owls and funny little frogs–discretely including a small hook at the bottom and–let’s just call it a removable tail–that, if you so choose, could clip on and hold from an arm’s length.

I bought the bee one and immediately texted my sister to confess: Oh my God I just bought a toddler leash. 

Her reply: ….”you didn’t.” Yes, yes, I did.

We used it this week–just for the hike–and it was perfect. Dash freely explored and climbed the mountains close by my side, and my heart rate maintained a steady calm rate. Win/Win. We just added one rule: You take a picture of the leash, you die.

I still don’t love the harness. But I love my boy and sometimes figuring out what works doesn’t always fit inside the box of what we thought we knew. We unclipped the tail and got a cute backpack out of it…it’s a keeper.

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And more mountain adventures in Helen, Georgia:

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Anna Ruby Falls was breathtaking, a cool damp uphill hike through the forest with a prize view at the end.

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Road Trip Rules: Stop at look-outs. Bring backpacks with tails.

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A scenic stop along the Ocoee River:

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Grocery Store (this Barbie’s name) gets an outdoor shower.

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And always a favorite stop on this trip, downtown Chattanooga:

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(Facetiming Daddy from the fountains)

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Amen, amen.

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…and we just crossed the Michigan state line as I’m finishing typing this. Honk honk honk honk.


Leave a Comment
  1. Hahaha this is so cute and funny! Animal crate-sooo funny! Hey you gotta do what you gotta do!! Pictures are adorable. What wonderful memories you’re making! Have a wonderful and safe 4th of July holiday!!! Jodi

  2. I love these little blog updates of your road trip. Can’t wait for the Michigan highlights. Keep ’em coming. Enjoy the 4th!!!

  3. Nella is adorabeezle in that hat! Happy 4th!

  4. Kristen says:

    My friend and I always joke that we were the BEST parents before we had kids. I’m a Michigan girl (Yooper!) living in Georgia, about to make this same road trip up North next week. Can. Not. Wait. Enjoy your time with family in Pure Michigan.

  5. Mellisa says:

    Makes, me miss home (Ducktown, TN/ Blue Ridge, Ga), glad you enjoyed our mountains!!

  6. My son’s turtle backpack/leash saved his life. Twice. Toddlers and busy inner city roads are not a good combination.

    Looks like a lovely trip.

    oh, and a big hello from the UK!

  7. Hey, I get it. My youngest was a running. I mean full run as soon as she was out of the stroller. You have to do what’s right for you to keep them safe.

  8. Terry D says:

    Years ago, I had my very active daughter “on a leash” in a department store during a huge sale. While standing in line, I was given a stern talking to about how degrading it was to have my daughter “on a leash, even if it is cute”, “leashes are for dogs” and on and on by another customer. I didn’t say anything at the time, which is very unlike me. Within minutes the same woman that was scolding me starts screaming “Michael, Michael, call Security, lock all the doors!”. She could not find her son. I calmly paid for my items and made a point to walk past this woman, who was still frantically still searching for her son, and said “At least I know where my child is.” Tacky, I know, but I also knew that security had already found her son hiding in the fitting room. Leashes serve a very good purpose.

  9. my younger daughter was a climber and my wild chid..don’t know what I would have done without the leash/harness…even used it under her life jacket at the pool and beach to keep up with her..they didn’t have the cute ones like they do now!! Kept her safe and made me worry less

  10. I’m a mother of three children (one with developmental disabilities) all of whom have lived through adventurous childhoods. I’ve had about as many trips to the ER as the average parent of three. I’ve used strollers, backpacks, and leashes… er… tails. I’ve had to run into the ocean, clamber through deep snow, and climb tall trees to rescue kids.

    Here is my advice: Do what you need to do so that everyone has a good time! Stollers and backpacks are much more confining than a leash. An adventure with some constraints beats the heck out of a “safe” day in front of the television.

  11. GA!! I was born and raised there! I recognize the names/places of these pics! And yes, I have been to the Chatanooga Aquarium before too! Fun times!

  12. Jennifer Henderson says:

    My momma used a “leash and harness” when I was little. She said it gave us both freedom. She also said all the non-parents would fuss at her and all the parents would want to know where they could buy one!

  13. How funny! My almost 2yo wears that same skip hop leash backpack, but that’s because I modified it to hold his feeding tube pump + bag. I always wonder if people are judging us, assuming I have the leash hidden somewhere! It was just the smallest/cutest pack I could find. Anyways who cares what people think, we’re taking care of our babies :)

  14. You named him Dash !!! Just saying you put it out there in the universe and it listened haha.

    Glad you and the tribe made it safe. xoxo

  15. I always figured if we use leashes to keep dogs safe than we can certainly use them on our little ones. Safety first!

  16. Just a little leash story … I went for a walk with my little boy, on a leash … I don’t remember how old he was but he was walking … but all of the sudden, on that walk, he decided to crawl. Then a car drove by. I always thought that it must have looked pretty funny (or horrifying). Anyway, he was an extremely active boy and I did use it from time to time, and I don’t think it bothered him at all.

  17. So excited to see the pictures of the Tennessee Aquarium… brings back happy memories. I spent a week one summer with my best friend right when her son was about five months old. She was a single mom, and the ladies in her church had bought her a very expensive, very nice stroller that she hadn’t used yet because it was so expensive and nice. One day we drove up to the aquarium with her mom and sister, and she decided it was time to break out the stroller. She mentioned – again – how expensive and nice it was and how loved she felt every time she saw it.

    We’d been in the aquarium for maybe ten minutes when we had to go down the escalator. The baby was fussing, so she picked him up and I offered to push the stroller while she soothed him. I’m the oldest of six kids, so I’d maneuvered strollers up and down escalators all the time… no big deal. Well, the second the stroller wheels touched the escalator, it “grabbed” them and twisted them and yanked me off my feet and the stroller and I went head-over-heels down the escalator. The whole way down, I was thinking “She’s going to KILL ME for ruining her stroller!” and I’m pretty sure the first words out of my mouth when she ran up to me at the bottom were “Is it broken?!”

    (The stroller was fine. And to her credit, she said, “I don’t care, are you okay?” 😉 We still laugh about it.)

  18. Katherine says:

    As with nearly everything in life I think it’s the attitude with which a person does something – not the actual thing – which matters. I nearly cry when I see parents tugging and pulling kids so they nearly fall and little feet have to scramble and their desires and emotions are completely ignored. . For safety, it’s 100 percent fine! Actually I feel exactly the same when people yank at dogs who are enjoying a nice smell instead of asking them to come!!!

  19. I was so judge-y of leashes until I got one for Ellie for the zoo… and about 8 billion parents expressed jealousy of my brilliance for leashing my kid. Not even above it anymore.

    Also great for airports!

  20. Your posts make me smile !!! And your photography is stunning !!! Great photos and great writing !

  21. I glanced at the title on a bloglovin email….and smiled! I also was the prebaby totally judgemental ahole! First, I would never have a child while not married, ✔ child while not married, I would NEVER be that Mom that blew up social media feeds with pictures of my child, ✔ ✔I continue to blow up all social media feeds with pictures of my child, and I most importantly would NEVER EVER use a leash, well I haven’t used one (YET), but only because I do something else, equally horrific to judgy pre or perfect 😉 Mom’s, I helicopter parent holding her during a full day of Disney in Fl, to the point of jelly arms, sweat, and lots of , ✔ ✔ ✔! I am a new follower of your blog, and love your honesty! It’s amazing what we know, before reality teaches us we have No clue! I could name a million other things I stubbornly and stupidly insulted sweet loving parents, and common sense with idiotic judgemental Never wills.. That is definitely not a feather in my cap, yet it feels good to now recognize I have grown. I now say I can never judge a mother’s love ! Your children are beautiful, and bright! Thank you so much for sharing your pre children Never will stories! I wish more parents could have a sense of humor, and remember that the best thing we can do is encourage each other in Love. When my daughter was 2, she started using reverse psychology on me. She would get mad at me for something, then use a toy (secretly yet obviously representing her and I) and say it’s finding a new mommy, or doesn’t like it’s mommy anymore etc. I was instantly devastated! After realizing she was just venting her frustration, and still loved me, I was able to use that to resolve or work through mid understandings etc so we could get to the point. One day while in a rare moment of shopping without her, an obviously tired Mommy with a little toddler girl and buggy passed by me. As that did the little girl made comment that her doll hated her Mommy. I could see the pain and shock on the mom’s face. She didn’t know how to react, just as I didn’t, other than wanting to cry. So I casually appeared on another isle they were, and said Bless your heart mine just grew out of that phase. I explained what I had graciously been taught by a very wise Mommy, and we hugged. 99% of us love are children more than life, and are clueless, just taking it second by second. Your article/honesty passes the wisdom, and love needed to be better parents! Big hugs to you! Sorry for super long comment, but I had to share! Blessings to you and all that are yours! Blessings to all the Parent’s who spread the love of humble honesty!!

  22. Your pictures are beautiful, as always! I especially love the one of the flowers with the mountains in the background, and also the one of Nella running and the history quote in the background. You capture the spirit of your adventures so perfectly. :)

    I laughed when I read this because we were walking around at a large event yesterday and saw an active little boy in a monkey backpack with a harness. He was so excite about everything, much like I imagine your Dash is, but that harness was definitely necessary to keep up with him!

  23. Looks like a fantastic little trip! I recently bought a backpack for my 15 month old son so he could carry his own stuff to daycare. It was just an added bonus that it came with a removable leash. When I bought it, I thought, Man this might come in handy! But I haven’t really had an opportunity to use it yet. Strollers or baby wearing are still usually my first choice. But hey, if it works, I say go for it!! I mean, we put our pets on leashes because we love them enough that we want them to feel somewhat free but not run off and get hit by a car, right? Why should the same treatment for a toddler be considered a bad thing?!

  24. We live in Chattanooga and the fountain at the aquarium is one of our favorite places to go play! We were also at the Ocoee just the other day! It looks like y’all got to be there before the rain came in. Have a great trip!

  25. His name IS Dash, after all. Of course you need to restrain him in dangerous situations!

  26. My older daughter was a runner as a toddler (she will still just walk away from us in a crowd while interested in something, so we ALWAYS have to keep an eye on her), but I got her a backpack/leash combo then for safety.

    Once she grew out of it (her younger sister never needed it), I would find that she put the backpack and “tail” on her little sister, and they would actually be playing “dog”…outside…in my front yard.

  27. What a fun adventure and beautiful images! I’ll never forget when my mom bought a leash for my brother in the 80’s. I was so embarrassed and never thought I’d get one for my own children. Well when you become a parent protection is at the top of the list. You find yourself doing many things you never thought you’d ever do! I myself purchased a cute backpack leash for my kids.

  28. Ashley Chambers says:

    This makes my heart so happy every time you say ya’ll have stopped in Chattanooga :) :) :) I love our town so much and love love even more when bloggers I read up on visit and love it too! So nice to get others perspectives on things you are “used to”! I was wondering if you all would make a stop here again! Enjoy your summer!

  29. I am a mom of three. I used a leash with one of my children. My other two preferred the stroller. I too felt weird about using a leash until my sister who is a pre-school teacher pointed out that from a developmental standpoint a leash is better than a stroller. It allows them to interact and explore the world rather than just observe from a stroller. Not that I feel there is anything wrong with a stroller–we have used them many times and own three. My son with autism often relied on the stroller as a safe haven when the world/environment became to much for him (from a sensory stand point). Whatever works for the family/child.

  30. Oh my goodness! I’ve sworn off those leashes too but I’ve already had to eat my words so many times that I’m sure a leash is in our future, as well. Great post! And damn, your family is beautiful.

  31. Liz Vellali says:

    OMG…I used to feel the same way about harnesses until:
    1. My son rode a ride toy out of a mall toy store and into a nearby department store (past 3 adults and a security person). And it took half out of sheer terror to figure out what he had done and thinking that he would never be seen again (of course he thought this was a delightful game having security chase him through the department store on walkie talkies)

    2. He ran between my mom and I like ET and promptly disappeared. We had to shut down the department store (no one in and no one out) and found him hiding up inside a circular rack.

    The leash went on…sorry….my child’s safety is much more important than someone’s perception of me.

  32. I completely agree! Sometimes we have to think outside the box to find what best works for us! Also, cute pictures!


  33. My youngest two are twins. “Back in the day” before the cute little backpack models, when they still LOOKED like leashes… I just had to put up with The Looks. Major Airports, active toddler twins, carry on luggage, grade school kids fascinated by every. little. distraction. at the airports. Oh, and then hiking in the Hocking Hills of Ohio. Call them leashes…. I didn’t care. The judgers obviously weren’t the ones concerned with the safety of MY kids.
    My guys have lost their leashes… they are less than 400 miles from finishing the Appalachian Trail!

    • March 9, 2015… My DH and I drove our twins to the top of a mountain in Georgia and abandoned them in the woods.
      It sounds much more dramatic than saying we dropped them off at the Springer Mountain trailhead!
      I came back to my comment because I mentioned they are off the leash. I failed to mention they are now 19.

  34. Stacey Skrocki says:

    I don’t know if you “really” use the backpack, or if it’s just a plug for a company that sponsors you (maybe both), but I’m psyched to see this product! I use to laugh at parents that had their kids in a harness! Do you remember the old Mike Myers SNL skit of the hyper-active kid that was strapped into a harness and tied to a jungle gym?? That’s what they reminded me of, but now I’ll need one as my 3 year old boy with D.S. is becoming more adventurous! Very excited!

    • I will always let readers know if something is sponsored. We bought the backpack. We love the backpack. We love sharing things we love.

      • Stacey Skrocki says:

        Very cool! The authenticity of your opinion on a product I am seriously considering means even more from one mom to another. Looking back at my comment, I sounded snarky which wasn’t my intention. Sorry about that and thanks for clarifying Kelle!

        • Late reply, sorry! No worries. :o) Did you get one? We ended up using the backpack a few other times on the trip, and I’m so glad we have one now. Better safe than sorry!

  35. Kristen says:

    If you stop in Chattanooga again check out high point climbing. Right in downtown and has a great climbing area for kids. We stopped on our way to Florida the kids loved it so much we did it on the way home too!

  36. I think we say a lot of things before we’re parents that come back to bite us in the «behind»! I’ve definitely been there with my second child (the first was easy).

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