Boys & Strangers in Public Restrooms: Two Stories

Hi Readers! Here are two recent comments, prompted by the Anderson Cooper post below this one. Which bathroom encounter makes YOU feel queasy? – L.
Dear Free-Range Kids; On a long drive, we stopped for gas and for my 8-year-old son to use the restroom.  While in the mens’ room, the lock got stuck on his stall.  He couldn’t get out!  I was wandering a bit in the mini-mart, but a man figured out I was his mom and let me know he was stuck.  Just as I was opening the door a bit to ask my son what he needed, he walked out — a second man had helped him get out of the stall.
So not one but *two* strangers in a gas station bathroom helped my son when he needed it. Just another story demonstrating that most people are actually helpful and nice, not menacing.  — Stephanie Ozenne, in California
Dear Free-Range Kids:  Last weekend we went camping in north central Florida.  I was brushing my teeth in the bath house when in walked a mom with her son.  I looked over to see a boy who was at least 8 years old.  I was floored that she’d bring him into the LADIES’ bath house, and judging by the humiliated look on the kid’s face, he wasn’t real keen on it, either.
It got worse.  She went on to brush her teeth and then tell her son that she would brush HIS teeth for him because she, “doesn’t trust him to do it right.”  I kid you not, she then brushed the boy’s teeth.  It was all I could do to keep my own mouth shut.


And we wonder why boys aren’t growing up to become men? ! — Kelly Down South

Would you let your son go to the gas station bathroom ALONE?

121 Responses

  1. I’m glad to hear that the two men in the first story weren’t too scared of being thought of as unsavory to help out the little boy. I know that I–as a woman with a young son–sometimes second guess my friendly impulses toward children because I get tired of the “stranger danger” ridiculousness. Bravo to men who are willing to simply be upstanding adults when our culture makes it clear that only weirdos are interested in kids other than their own.

    As for the mom in the second story, I really wonder what she believes she’s doing for her son.

  2. Mom in the second story is a control freak, and her son just happens to an available person to control. The same type micro manages at work, even re-doing other people’s work because it’s not ‘right’ (aka, it’s different). I think a lot of bubble wrapping is about control, and kids are just the unfortunate victims. I’d be interested to know if these parents also try to control aspects of life that don’t involve their kids- like work, civic government, stores they shop at, etc.

  3. Your photo reminds me of when I was a kid. We lived four houses down from a corner gas station. We had one toilet for a family of 8. My older brothers were instructed to go to the gas station if they needed the restroom urgently when someone younger needed to go. That was when gas station bathrooms were unlocked and accessible from outside. And no, our parents did NOT accompany my brothers for this purpose. Magically, they are still alive.

    On another note, yesterday a sweet tot with Down syndrome looked at me, smiled, and reached out as if he thought I was someone he knew. My choices were to ignore him or acknowledge him with some affection. I chose the latter. What I don’t like about this was that it felt like a non-conformist action. The hurtful choice would have been the more “correct” one nowadays, I fear.

  4. I also think that telling the boy she didn’t trust his own tooth brushing wasn’t for his benefit, but the ‘audience’. If he’s 8, and she brushes his teeth, then this surely can’t be new. So why tell him about the routine if it’s routine?

  5. When my son was three, he started to refuse to go to the women’s with me. While I was not crazy about it on the NJ Turnpike – he survived (his brothers stayed with him). Now, he is an independent six-year old.

  6. About the brushing – how long do you all “occasionally” brush your kids’ teeth? One of my 5yos is really lazy about this. Does she need toothbushing boot camp?

  7. @RichW – I agree. The 2nd mum would be the type to control everything around her. Also, I see why she’s brushing her 8 yo’s teeth. It is more efficient. But life’s not always about efficiency.

  8. I am grateful to the city of Chicago for posting on its facilities that boys over six are not allowed in women’s changing rooms, locker rooms or restrooms. I am amazed at the number of people who seem to think it should not apply to their male child. I have 2 boys aged 4.5. If I can send them off to the men’s room on their own, your 7 year old should be just fine.

  9. My poor little brother … we grew up constantly hearing my mom say that someone was going to “steal him” from the men’s bathroom. She still allowed him to go into the men’s room, but always with a lecture to “be sure to scream loudly if someone tries to steal you.” This was up until about age 12. 😦

  10. In defense of the second mom, my kids have extremely soft enamel and need more fillings pretty much every time they visit the dentist. One needed crowns when she was 3 or 4. On their dentist’s advice I still “check” my 5 year old’s brushing job (as in, I brush everywhere in case she’s missed any spots) and my older child through about age 8. However, they yield the toothbrush themselves as well. And go to restrooms on their own!

  11. Christina, that’s interesting about that law! We need that where I live — too often there are 8 and 9 years old boys in the women’s bathroom.

  12. When I take my boys (3 and 5) to the playground, I’m often playing with them, helping them learn the monkey bars and climbing walls, holding them up because they’re way too small to do it on their own, and it’s too far to drop, they would hurt themselves. It’s not like I’m trying to be superdad or anything, I just spend a lot of time commuting and working, so it’s the best time to spend with them.

    A lot of times other kids come running up and ask me to help them, too, and I just can’t bring myself to do it. Especially with little girls who want me to help them across the monkey bars — I know I’m OK, the kid trusts me, but the last thing I need is a parent freaking out on me or to get arrested.

    It happened to me on Saturday, and it really bugs the crap out of me that as an adult male who loves kids, I have to second-guess myself and tell some little kid who doesn’t understand exactly why I have to walk away when they ask for help with learning something new.

  13. raketemensh, I always told my kids (and the ones at the preschool that I worked at) that if they could get up there and go across the monkey bars on their own, they were big enough to do it. If they couldn’t reach to do it, then they weren’t big enough.

    I figured if they were big enough to go across, they were also big enough to fall down. I have never felt that some equipment was too high if they could get up on their own. (Even when the last was only 9 months old and climbing everything.) I want my kids strong enough to do the things on their own, otherwise, a nice dad like you helping them up (who might not stick around like you) could lead to my kid getting hurt before they are ready. I really wouldn’t want you helping my kids in this way. (And it doesn’t matter if you were male or female.)

    This is all a personal family issue, so tell the kids that you don’t know if their parents want them doing it before they are tall enough to do on their own. If the parents say yes, then it is your back!

    Teaching them how to throw the ball, or telling them how to do it (letting them do it on their own- like, “put your foot over here, grab there…”) or something like that? Go for it! I always love having dads at the park.

  14. I used to climb under bathroom stall doors when stuck- as a little girl. Yuck, right? On another note I find it creepy to be sharing a public restroom with a boy who is too old. Some are old enough to be curious about women’s bodies and I find it a violation of my privacy. Those stall doors rarely fit tight leaving big gaps for prying eyes.

  15. Crazycatlady- I worked at a prek for three years. One with lots of tall equipment. Our rule was “if you can’t get up you can’t get down”. Staff was not allowed to put kids on equipment. Most figure out a way up on their own. Safer for the kids, encourages independence (nothing like the smile when they do it by themselves) and saved our backs.

  16. I’ve raised 3 girls and one boy. At one time or another either my wife or I took the wrong sex child into a bathroom. What else can you do? Once the older girl(s) got to 7 or 8, they could take their younger sister in for me.
    As to helping a strange boy in the bathroom, I’m a mid-50s southern man with a Wilford Brimley mustache and speak to little kids everywhere, including the bathroom. I’d be more than willing to help one if that was what was required.
    If you have a pure heart, you (theoretically) should have little to fear.

  17. I was raised by a widowed mother. I had one set of grandparents because I never knew my late father or his side of the family. I also had a big brother from Big Brother’s Big Sister’s of America. My big brother was a middle aged man and now he is about to retire. I was born in 1984 but was raised more like a kid in the 1960’s. My grandparents are now gone, they passed away in 2008. I got stuck in a bathroom stall onetime when I was about 8 or 9 at a restaurant. My grandfather came looking for me and helped get me out. The stall door was messed up. I was just fine, it was not a busy day or place. I was taught self reliance and fiscal responsibility. Everyone I grew up with made fun of me for my old fashioned and strange ways. Now I am married have a son on the way and we plan to raise our son in a traditional house hold. I work for the Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks department keeping our state parks clean. I run an independent ministry all for free called Montana Truth Seekers Ministry. I do not accept a paycheck from the Ministry.

    My wife is a housewife and we get along better with old couples than people our age because they are so irresponsible. I have to say I loved this blog. I do follow your blog because it is quite interesting. Women need to let their sons grow up to be self reliant even if they mess up here and there. My mother got cancer when I was 12 and almost died. I was taught to do laundry and everything else I would need to know to survive. I learned to cook on my own. I did burn several food items but never burnt the house down. I would have been well taken care of if my mother had not survived the cancer. I was still taught to be self reliant though. Thank you for your post and I am appalled at women who cannot trust an 8 year old boy to brush their own teeth or drag them into a women’s room. My wife witnessed the same thing the other day at a local pizza place. The boy was standing outside the stall talking to his mother though not brushing his teeth.

  18. Just as mom’s dragging boys into the bathroom is wrong, I have seen dad dragging way too old of girls in with them. Last fall was at a restaurant bathroom using the urinal (yeah im a guy) and it was situated such that it was kind of exposed when you came in the door…. guy walks in with like a 7yo girl…. I was like ‘yikes man’.

    I’m personally not that embarrassed (dont personally think nudity’s a big deal in general) but kind of felt bad for the girl. Hopefully made the dad think twice.

  19. I’ve told this story before, but I was at my daughter’s t-ball game and went to the ladies room. A young man aged 9 or so came into the women’s bathroom alone. I asked him why he was in the ladies room. He told me his mom told him to use the women’s room. I told him that unless his mom was with him, that he needed to use the men’s room and that a boy his age really shouldn’t be in the women’s room at all b/c it was uncomfortable for me and many other women. The sad thing is that this was in the safest area you could imagine. Nothing has ever happened in that area as far as I am aware. I felt for the boy too. But, I was not about to let that slide.

  20. @raketemensh – Why not tell the child to ask his/her parent or try to catch the eye of the parent and ask if it is okay? You appear to be talking about young children so a parent should be around.

    I’ve never been one for the “if you can’t get up there, you can’t do it” mentality. My child’s been doing monkey bars with me spotting her since she was very young. By pre-k, she could do any monkey bars within her wing span, including rings. Since she is also very small for her age, she has only been able to reach SOME monkey bars recently. Many she still can’t reach but she can make it across if boosted up. I don’t think my daughter should be delayed in her monkey bar endeavors because she is tiny.

    As for the post, I agree with whoever said it that the second lady is simply a control freak. I do think that is what is behind most helicopter mentality. Either people who try to control every aspect of their lives or people whose life is otherwise somewhat haywire so they control the one thing they can – their kids.

  21. The pool I swam at a year ago had signs saying at what age you had to send your kid to the appropriate locker room. I was grateful for the rule, as I’ve seen boys nearly as tall as me in the women’s restroom in some places. Sadly this pool really should never have needed this rule. In addition to the men’s and women’s locker rooms, there is a family locker room. Thus, even toddlers have no need to be in the wrong locker room at that pool.

  22. I remember when I was little my great grandfather told me to be wary of men with weak handshakes, who treat their mothers poorly or still need their mother’s help with unremarkable tasks. (He also had definitive opinions on gentlemen’s manners but that isn’t the point here) At the age of 5 I didn’t appreciate this advice but when I entered the worlds of dating and working I started to understand. Even in my generation mama’s boys are way too common. I fear the increased prevalence in dragging perfectly capable boys into the ladies room is going to make it so much harder for boys to become capable men when my children are adults. *sigh* At least our free-range sons will stand out.

  23. Yes, I agree that it is not fair to the girls if a big boy of 8 or 9 is in the girls’ restroom. When I was a kid, some boys that age were known to engage in “sexually curious” actions with girls (and I’m sure it still happens). I send my 5yo girls to the restroom alone. The last thing I expect them to encounter in there is a bigger boy who is unaccompanied by his mom. If any mom here does that, please stop it now.

  24. As for helping the kids on playground equipment, I also do not want any adult of either gender helping my kid. If I am not up my kids’ butt at the playground, it’s because I have decided that it’s best for them to rely on themselves – for the physical stuff and the social stuff. My kids sometimes ask me to help or play with them and I say no, a playground is for kids to play with kids, not adults (except for little toddlers). So yes, it bugs me if someone of a more “caring” bent comes along and “helps” my kids. I think it sends the wrong message. Obviously the above does not apply in an emergency situation where a kid really cannot safely get down.

  25. Why on earth would it be ok for a boy of 8 or 9 to go unaccompanied to the ladies room but not the men’s? If he is old enough to go on his own to one than surely he can go to the gender appropriate one? Or ids this more of the “all men are bad” thinking. Sheeseh.

    When my boys were younger there was a dad with 7 year old twins (one of each) who were in swimming classes at the same pool we went to, the dad brought his daughter into the boys change room with him, even though there were family rooms, and a sign stating no opposite sex over age 5. My sons pointed out to me that the girl was making comments about what she was seeing, I asked the dad to not bring her in anymore, he refused, It took the pool manager getting involved to make him stop. I mean I understand, he was a single dad, but there were facilities where he could helicopter to his hearts content, and leave my boy’s privacy and dignity intact.

  26. I feel especially sorry for young girls when mothers bring boys into the ladies room. I know that when I was a kid I would have been horrified to use the ladies room with a boy there! And most of the boys I knew would have loved for a chance to get a peek at the girls using the bathroom! (Not because they are perverts, but they are naturally curious.)

    As for the play equipment, I believe it is designed so that it is safe for the kids who are able to climb it on their own. I used the “if you can’t reach it, then do something else rule.” There was always plenty of other things to do.

  27. Rest stop bathrooms are the worst, I’ve seen moms bring in POST PUBESCENT TEENAGE sons into the ladies’ room.

    Why bother having separate restrooms if you’re going to bring men into the ladies room?

    And don’t get me started about 8-year-olds who run in and look under the stalls to see if they’re occupied.

    What I don’t get, is for every paranoid mother of a boy, shouldn’t there also be a paranoid mother of a girl who doesn’t want boys in the restroom with HER little darling?

    The worst was a couple weeks ago at the changing room at the pool this kid totally checked out my boobs. It was awkward.

  28. I’ve written about this before, but I sent my (6? 7?) year old son into a men’s room alone at a baseball stadium in Vancouver, BC. Totally unremarkable for him, in fact, I sent him there from his seat, since I trusted him to be able to find it on his own. This was really disturbing for my friend who also had her own son with her (he was maybe 6 months younger than mine). Her M.O. was to take her boy into the ladies’ with her. I refused to do this with mine, and since he was 4 or 5 I’d been sending him into the men’s room, wherever we were.

    I think the compromise was that I’d take the boys myself to the door of the men’s room and wait outside for them. My son came out just fine, and the other boy didn’t. Even I started to panic after a few minutes, and I asked a man going in to look for him. He came out shrugging his shoulders. I was totally bewildered. Had the kid evaporated? I’d been standing there the whole time…. how could I not have seen him leave?

    His mom finally came to the door of the men’s room and she was nearly hysterical when I told her I had no idea where her son was. My son and I had been standing there, waiting for him, but hadn’t seen him. She started working herself up into a serious frenzy, assuming he’d been kidnapped. Somehow, although I was embarrassed that on my suggestion, the boy was now missing, I didn’t really think he’d come to harm.

    A few moments later he came tearing down the causeway toward the bathroom, laughing. His mother dissolved in sobs as she embraced him. “Where the devil were you?” I asked him. “I was standing here the whole time, how did you leave the bathroom without my seeing you?” Proudly, he trumpeted, “I hid behind a man as he walked out. You totally missed me!”

    So who do you imagine the mom was furious with? The son, right? Right?

    Wrong. She was furious with ME. How could I have been so careless with her boy, to send him into the MEN’S ROOM ALONE?


  29. “leave my boy’s privacy and dignity intact.” Really? Same for guy at urinal, etc.

    Can we please separate these issues? Someone seeing you nude in a place you know there are other people is not a violation. Through the peep hole, yes. In a public rest room, no.

    I agree that it is sad that people over parent by bringing kids who are older into the restroom/ locker room. I think its great to teach kids to be independent and would choose to parent my children that way when they are older (currently only 3 and 9mths)

    But who cares if someone sees you? In all honesty it is probably much healthier for all involved for kids to see real people naked and not just the pornographic enhancements they will find on the internet. Our progression of personal privacy in the 20th century is simply amazing. We went from tenements with public bath houses down the street or 1 tub in the kitchen for the whole family to raising kids with “their own” bathrooms.

    Not to mention, at least 1/10 of the people who are in your own restroom are sexually attracted to your gender. 1/10 of the kids in that swim class are gay so what is the difference if its a girl or a boy looking?

  30. Mollie, the last thing I plan to do is FRK-ize someone else’s kid. I would leave it up to the kid’s parent to deal with him, while I dealt with mine. You just can’t win in a situation like that. Now if only other parents would give me the same respect, we’d all be happy.

  31. Brian, if that’s how you feel, I’m sure there are places you can go where your kids can get a “healthy” look at the other gender naked. Most of us have been raised with sensitivity toward that and it should be respected. As for the 1/10 are gay comment – that is one reason why gay boys get attacked in the locker room. Young boys do not want to be “looked at” that way, especially when they are in a vulnerable (naked) state.

  32. @Brian – not even shares your modesty, it might be better if everyone did, but you have to respect that everyone doesn’t.

    That being said, I’m always amazed at some of the kids I see in bathrooms so freaked about someone seeing them they are willing to press up against a dirty urinal…YUK!… moms, tell your boys if they are that shy (which is OK!), to just use the stalls.

  33. Craig, thanks for the reminder. I wouldn’t have thought to tell him that and I’m not sure my husband would either (as he isn’t shy in the least). Growing up as a girl and an only child has some disadvantages when it comes to parenting boys.

  34. Who has time to brush an otherwise competent (we’re assuming) 8 year old’s teeth? Good grief!

  35. @Heather welcome.. .and while I am thinking of it… also tell the little ones that if they aren’t tall enough to reach over the lip of a urinal, dont try it. seeing some kid strain on his tippy toes rubbing all over the lip of the urinal is never a happy scene. (also remind them there is usually one that is way lower than the rest – made just for them).

    I better shut up now, or even more moms will never send their boys in alone.

  36. Craig, LOL! I agree with using the stalls! (But mostly, I’m glad I only have girls!)

  37. @craig we’d better not mention that sinks are usually too high for little ones to wash hands. That’s the only reason I accompany my 5yo into the bathroom (not the stall) so I can help him wash his hands.

    Funny aside, I was in a grocery store washroom that had a sign saying you should wash under running water for 30 seconds. But the water auto-stopped after literally 2-3 seconds. I mentioned it to the checkout lady, and she, and the bagger, burst out laughing. Obviously a topic for them.

  38. @rich – yes or the soap is wayyyyy out of reach. LOL at the auto faucets that shut off too fast – or worse yet – the ones that won’t kick on at all.

    I thought of one more for the moms…remind your kid not to stare… please! 🙂

  39. I think that kids should be encouraged to be independent but getting all hot and bothered about an 8 yo boy perving on you in the bathroom or getting worried about them sexually engaging with your daughter in there seems like over reaction. We’re trying to tach our kids that not all men are perverts but most boys are??

  40. I have to supervise my 10-year-old son to brush his teeth correctly. He is on the autism spectrum (although you wouldn’t usually know it) and he hates hates hates the sensation of doing it right. However, I wouldn’t embarass him in public that way.

  41. Justthisonce, why don’t we just send our daughters down the street nude, since all our neighbors are not perverts? That’s not the point at all. There’s a reason for separate bathrooms. (Heck, some transgender people won’t even go into the one that matches their anatomy.) Would you be OK with me going into the men’s room and watching while you’re at the urinal, if I assure you that I’m not interested in you sexually?

    And, sorry, but I do remember having a 9yo boy’s hands all over me and down my pants (uninvited) when I was 8, and that does not make me a perv or a helicopter parent.

    I think some people are in denial regarding how early kids actually get these ideas. Of course they get the ideas from older kids, but they can and do start in elementary school. It does not help our kids if we are blind to this fact.

  42. @Brian, if you review some of the past posts on this site, there was an instance where a boy was using the urinal in the men’s room when a little girl walked in on accident. He told her to get out, a little forcefully, if I remember correctly, and later he was picked up by the police for “exposing” himself to her. He’s now on the sex offender registry. So yes, I do think there is a huge issue with children going into the wrong bathroom unaccompanied and definitely wrong even when they’re accompanied over a certain age.

  43. @Justthisonce – Nobody is worrying about an 8 year old boy “perving” on them. 8 year old boys (and girls), are however, at the age when they are becoming very curious about the bodies of the opposite sex. That is prime “playing doctor” and “I’ll show you mine if you show me yours” age. A boy that age is very likely to sneak a look at a woman or girl in the bathroom. There is nothing sexual about it. It is pure curiosity. But I also don’t have to want me or my daughter to be the object of some boys curiosity when all we want to do is go to the bathroom, get changed or whatever.

  44. Last year when DH and I were going on vacation, we stopped at a rest area along a busy interstate highway. It was almost deserted, broad daylight and just outside of a medium-sized town. While I was in the ladies’ room, a woman came in with her kids – including a boy who appeared to be around nine. I came out of my stall and almost walked into him!

    Apparently, she had taken the girls she had with her into the large stall and left him standing there outside the stall door. I said, quite loudly and plainly that he was too old to be in a ladies’ room, and went to wash my hands. When I walked back that way, she was pulling him into the stall with herself and the girls. I remarked that the world wasn’t that bad of a place, but she grumbled something like, yes it was, at me and I left. She was obviously annoyed with me for objecting to her middle-elementary aged boy being in the ladies’ restroom.

    She clearly didn’t want him in the stall with the girls and herself, because he was standing there outside the stall alone. I was quite embarrassed and a little bit angry – for both him and myself – to find him there. I raised three boys, and would never have done that to one of them. They were using the men’s room by themselves early on. (Poor DH had to listen to me rant about this for the next 50 miles of the trip.)

  45. Not too long ago, my family and I were out at a busy local pancake restaurant on a Saturday morning — in a town in South Orange County CA commonly rated as one of the safest in the nation.

    As it was time to pay the check, my wife took our 2 1/2 yo out to the car to get him in his seat, and my 4 1/2 yo son and I went up towards the register to pay. He needed to use the bathroom (right around the corner from the register, where I had full view of the door), so I sent him in alone. 30 second later, I walked in, he’s pulling his pants up, so I have him wash up and we’re good to go.

    Like a proud father I get into the car and ask him “can you tell mommy what you just did like a big boy?” Yeah, that didn’t go over well. Did I mention she’s a bit neurotic and overprotective?

    Her entire family still thinks I was being irresponsible. “You don’t know who might be in there!!!”

    But I guess growing up with a free-range dad and a helicopter mom is still better than growing up with both parents hovering…

  46. Brian, M then 5 , 7 and 9 year old boys did not want anyone seeing them naked at that age, but it was more than that, the little girl was making comments about the boys equipment, and such , she had no business being in there in the first place, and as for the 1 in 10 being gay, may be that is so, are you assuming or insinuating then that all gay people are checking everyone of the same gender out when they are in locker rooms??? The point being there is a stigma, I have seen this on several occasions where boys are dragged into ladies room , because their mom’s think it is not safe in the men’s room for them alone. Why, because there is a huge stigma in society on men, and single men in particular as being a threat to children. That is the attitude that needs adjusting IMHO.

  47. I was probably one of the first generation of “bubble-wrapped kids,” and my parents didn’t trust me to brush my own teeth either–well, okay, they trusted me to brush my own teeth after breakfast and lunch, but not after dinner, because that was right before bed, and it was “important that it be done properly,” so they’d floss and brush my teeth before bed every night until I was…….well, I forget how old exactly, but TOO old–well into school age, and even pushing training-bra age, I kid you not. As for public bathrooms, though, I was allowed to go alone, and shower/change alone at the swimming pool, from a reasonable age–it was my brother in the boys’ change room who they were worried about, so a lot of the time, we just didn’t go to the pool unless my dad was available. My mom was also afraid of the public bathrooms at the beach (especially the mens’), so a lot of the time, when *that* situation came up, we’d just go home. Looking back, we live close enough to the closest (lifeguarded) beach that, if I were a parent, I’d let my kids walk or bike there by the time they were, oh, maybe eight years old. Ditto the pool at the recreation centre up the street.

  48. P.S., just to clarify, I was raised before the advent of bras for six-year-olds (born in 1984, so you can do the math), so I really was too old not to be trusted with my own oral-hygiene regimen.

  49. Emily – just curious – once you were out of your parents grasp, did you totally rebel….. by say – going an ENTIRE day without brushing your teeth or worrying about it?

  50. @Chris–No, I never rebelled by not brushing my teeth. I’ve always shared my parents’ revulsion for dirty teeth and bad breath.

  51. >>Christina, on April 17, 2012 at 00:28 said:

    I am grateful to the city of Chicago for posting on its facilities that boys over six are not allowed in women’s changing rooms, locker rooms or restrooms. I am amazed at the number of people who seem to think it should not apply to their male child. I have 2 boys aged 4.5. If I can send them off to the men’s room on their own, your 7 year old should be just fine.<<

    I agree. When I was growing up, the YMCA had that rule, although it was never really enforced, and the minimum age for the adult change rooms was 16, so the result was pubescent girls being made to feel extremely self-conscious in the GIRLS' change room, being stared at by little BOYS, who weren't quite so little anymore. A lot of people complained (mostly about that, but sometimes about the reverse problem as well), and the YMCA's "solution" was to put up a "teen change area," which was a small room, in OUR OWN change room, where we could supposedly change without getting perved on. The problem was, there was no door, and it was only designated as a teen area from Monday-Friday, 3-7 p.m., so it was completely useless when I had swimming on Saturdays. Needless to say, I started using the women's room at 13 or 14. The Y has since bult a family change room, but they were more than half a lifetime too late for me. Oh, and when I was in university, there were no kids' change rooms (funny, could that have been because a university is a place for ADULTS?), but the university would always want the extra revenue from teaching kids' swimming and sports programs, so every weekend morning, the women's locker room would be overrun with moms and (often school-aged) boys.

    As for the monkey bar thing, when I was a kid, we found away around not being able to reach. Back then, the equpment consisted of wooden posts and platforms, and metal monkey bars and ladder rungs. So, when we wanted to reach the higher bars, we'd find reasonably sturdy sticks, and put them in the holes to use as footholds. Ironically, I think my mom (the same mom who didn't trust me to brush my own teeth at night) taught me to do that.

  52. We’re on the cusp of letting our 4.5 year old son alone in the men’s room. He’s very friendly, which is usually not a problem, but I want to instill in him a good boundary for his body and the nerve to scream and yell if needed.

  53. I should have mentioned, that when I did not help my kids on the monkey bars, and they REALLY wanted to do it, they learned how to shinney up the pole so that they could do what they wanted to do. Which, had I been helping them, they would not have learned how to do. Like Emily said. When there is a will, kids will find a way!

  54. When our kids were younger, my husband used to ask me to take our kids into the ladies’ room when they needed to use the washroom. I thought it was his way of getting out having to help out with the kids. He claimed that it was because the ladies’ room was cleaner than the mens’. When I questioned him as to how he would know that the ladies’ room was cleaner, he assumed that the ladies’ room would be cleaner because women sit (so no pee spray) and that women are more likely to wash their hands. I laughed because women do spray and I’ve seen plenty of women who don’t wash their hands! Plus, we have all those little boys in there who certainly spray more than the average full grown man! Husband was busted and now the kids go in their appropriate gender’s washroom on their own (ages 5 and 7).

  55. My son has been using the men’s room since he was 4, while “us girls” went the other way, and given to direction to “wait out here when you’re done”. Never had a mishap in the 3 years since, but several chuckles and positive reports from adult men when they hear me ask him if he washed his hands.

    As for older kids in the wrong bathroom, at home we are an “open door” family, so my kids all know what the opposite parts look like and we are anything but prudes. But it definitely is NOT the same thing if they were to run into an opposite-sex friend in the pool house. That is completely unacceptable, and I too am glad for the posted rules about ages (I am also in the Chicago area, although not in the city).

  56. P.S., In case anyone is wondering, I did complain at university about school-aged boys in the women’s locker room, only to be told that I was being unreasonable…… expect a female-only environment, in a female-only locker room, in a purportedly adult-only institution, where you wouldn’t expect to see children of either gender. Well, it turned out that the “safety” of these boys aged 6, 7, 8+ years old (translation: their mothers’ neurosis) trumped the rights of the students for whom the university was intended for in the first place.

    By the way, I didn’t hate kids, and I was involved in the “Big Buddies” program my first two years (I quit for reasons that are a story in and of themselves), and I was paired up with a delightful little boy named Anthony, who was eight when I joined. We went swimming quite often, but I always changed in the women’s change room, and Anthony in the men’s. If he needed help tying up his bathing suit (hard to manipulate a drawstring that’s wet), I would find a male lifeguard to do it.

  57. Just to clarify, my objection was not about kids on a university campus, but rather, with older, opposite-gendered kids in a locker room where they didn’t belong.

  58. Gee! I had enough trouble dragging my three year old nephew into the female bathroom! (Had to take two year old neice. Couldn’t really trust the three year old not to run off, and had strict instructions from the mum not to let the two year old go by herself -she was independent, but wasnt quite trustworthy enough yet).
    He was quite convinced he was a boy and not a girl, so therefore did not belong in the girls bathroom!

  59. ^Yeah, that’s the other thing–most of the older school-aged boys (six and up) I encountered in women’s locker rooms at the Y and at uni seemed perfectly fine with the situation, as if it was completely normal for them to be there. It’s kind of creepy, when you think about it–“Women” becomes “Women and little girls,” which becomes “Women and young children of either gender,” but then the definition of “young” just keeps creeping up, and up, and up, until we find ourselves unable to change and shower in (relative) privacy, and wondering where things went wrong.

  60. I know this is kind of off topic, but I agree CrazyCatLady. I am a great proponent of not helping kids up play equipment or other climbing structures. It was my rule for trees too. “If you cannot get in by yourself, you shouldn’t climb it”. I even left my girl stuck in a tree – according to her – with a “you got in, so you should be able to find a way to get down” a couple of times. And she did of course. My daughter – now 7 – is the best tree (and cliff) climber I have ever seen. 🙂 She can also scale vertical poles like a monkey. She is the monkeybar queen and I have NEVER held her up to use them.

    I am actually totally against helping kids in playgrounds. It is supposed to be a space for them to explore – kids’ only domain. With the exception of pushing the swing maybe.

    I had a friend who used to always hold her child when she went down the slide. I was quite horrified when I discovered that at the age of 3.5 this child had no idea how to go safely down a slide without falling off the edge. My daughter was walking up the wrong side of the slide soon after she learnt to walk! (Only when there were no other kids wanting to go down – I was a nazi when it came to playground manners, I have to admit) I never held her or helped her.

    As for older boys in female bathrooms, I have not seen it here. And I sure hope my daughter’s dad has stopped taking her in with him – I’d better ask now!

  61. Even with me initially helping my kid on the monkey bars, my kid’s shimmeying skills are fully developed. Kids have a knack for wanting to do things for themselves eventually, even if helped at first. I found my child more motivated to find her way up the monkey bars when she knew that she could actually get across once up there.

  62. To each their own when it comes to playground equipment. I DID help my child on the playground (although never held her hand on the slide) and at 6 she is still the best tree climber of her group, can scale vertical poles like a monkey, can walk up the wall holding the rope, climb any rock wall and do any monkey bars within her wingspan (sadly, not all of them are when you still wear toddler clothes at 6). And she probably got a boost and encouragement the first few times she tried any of those things.

    The one thing I HATED doing was pushing on the swings. I’d push for a minute or two but she needed to learn to pump herself at a very young age if she wanted to swing.

  63. I guess I’m just saying that I don’t think there is any advantage in helping them really. They will do it when they’re ready. I’d rather go on the swing myself! Or on one of those dizzying rotating poles that they didn’t have in my day and that make me scream “Make it stop!” after exactly 2 seconds, but I still have to try it every time we go to a playground. lol!

    And yes, I was over the moon when my girl learnt to push herself on the swing! As was I when she learnt to wipe her own bottom. lol

  64. This reminds me of a post awhile back on the FB WhattoExpect page asking what ages we would let our kids to into public restrooms alone. I was shocked and disgusted at how many said they would NEVER allow thier child go into a restroom alone…not until 18 yrs old! Even the slightly more sane folks said their kids would not be allowed in a restroom alone until they were 12 or 13 at the oldest. Reason? Because apparently there are pedofiles sitting in bathrooms stalls across America just waiting for unaccompanied kids to enter. Wow.

  65. I agree with the comments that older children should not be in the opposite gender restroom. But there are some parents out there that don’t really have any other choice! I am one of them. I have a almost 6 year old son. He is developmentally delayed. He tends to wander off if I’m not careful with him. He also can’t handle the snaps and buttons on pants. He also cannot take care of personal hygiene in the stall. And I still have to brush his teeth for him. He can’t get the toothbrush to work the way it is supposed to. Plus he hates the feeling of it. So if I didn’t do it then it would not be done at all. The thing is you would NEVER know all of this to look at him. He looks like a perfectly normal little boy. In fact he is extremely cute! And unless some miracle comes along then he will still be like this when he is 8. And most of the time I am not with my husband or another male that can take him into the mens room. So I guess I better either get my son used to not being able to ever use a public restroom or get used to the dirty looks, stares and hatred that I am going to get when I take him into the restroom with me! So instead of jumping to the conclusion that this mother MUST be some kind of control freak because she can’t even let her little boy use the mens room or even brush his own teeth maybe you should just assume that she is a good mother who is doing the best she can with a difficult situation!

  66. How on earth do we ever expect children to grow up into functioning adults if they can’t even go to the bathroom alone? Good grief people…argh!

  67. What AM I supposed to do with my just-turned-six son (though he looks 5) in public restrooms now? He seems completely normal, and often is, but his Asperger’s/ADHD makes him extremely pokey (I can live with that) or worse, impulsive around water. He regularly puts things in urinals, drains, etc. (finds shutoff valves, etc. – we’re pretty sure he’s going to be a hydroelectric engineer, as he is extremely bright). At school he is followed to the bathrooms by an adult who waits outside the door or stall for him so he doesn’t flood the place. I probably have a while before people start wondering, as he does look younger, but I agree that older boys should go to their own gender’s restroom. Luckily more and more highway reststops have family restrooms – I will start looking for and using them again (as we’ve “grown out” of them). He’s very outgoing – chats everyone up. He’ll be the 9 year old trying to have an animated conversation with the man at the next urinal (probably about how the plumbing works)!

  68. A month ago I was shopping in Nordstoms and went to use the bathroom. There were 5 stalls–one of which was completely unusable as someone had plugged it. A women was in front of me with 2 boys 5 and 7–who used 2 of the stales. When it was my turn the lady and the youngest son came out of one of the stales–with peed all over the seat and the floor so I decided to wait. Now quite a long line has formed and the lady said–that stale is open to me and I said first off your sons should be using the mens room and not contributing to the line up and second you should clean-up the seat after you or your son peed all over it. It’s so bad no one even wants to use it. She soo wanted to leave the bathroom asap–but couldn’t because her older son was still in the stall.

    Now I do understand the difficulty of keeping high energy kids close by as my youngest 5–despite the rule that she wait by the sinks for myself and on occasion leave the restroom. Which she did recently on a trip at a rest stop and I searching for her and saw her run but the window outside and what running back and forth on the sidewalk– “exercising”

  69. Listen to Beth & Betsy! I get the point of the stories but you also have to remember you just don’t know the specifics of someone’s situation. My son does not have delays but he is off the growth charts tall for his age. People often think he is much, much older. While this works to our advantage that strangers don’t think I’m nuts for letting my kid do so much independently, I would hate to think that free rangers are automatically assuming my kid is older and I am a crazy mom that won’t let my kid grow up.

  70. I was at the grocery store last week, and my 4yo needed the bathroom while we were in the checkout line (just after I put all of the groceries on the belt, of course). Luckily, the restrooms were within visual range so I sent him to the men’s room (he feels very strongly about going there, so I let him unless we’re at a big place like a museum and I have to pee too).

    I finished checking out, keeping an eye on the door, and wondering what was taking him so long. Then I took my cart and waited outside the door. To my horror, after a couple of minutes, I heard my son’s blood-curdling, panicked screams. I almost burst in but decided to ask a nice-looking man who was passing by to check instead. He went in and discovered that my son was stuck in the stall – he couldn’t get the latch open and, having never encountered that situation before and being only 4, it didn’t occur to him to crawl under the door. The man tried to get it open from the outside, but couldn’t. Just then a mom passed by with her ~10yo son and, hearing the commotion (the screams had stopped but my son was NOT happy and not calm enough to believe my instructions from outside the bathroom that he could crawl under and out) sent her son in to crawl under and open the door.

    Of course, we had a long talk about how to escape if this happens again, but I was really pleased with the freerangeness of this – a) my first though was that he’d fallen while trying to use the sink (since he’s short and monkeys his way up), not that he was being abused/kidnapped, b) that a random man was willing to help and c) that another random mom sent her boy to help too. This is how the world _should_ work!

  71. Of course allowances and exceptions should be made for kids with disabilities, but those kids are the exception, and not the rule. When it became “the rule” for the locker rooms at the YMCA and at uni to be overrun with perfectly healthy, non-disabled children of the opposite gender, that’s what I objected to. At one uni I went to, there was a little boy who was disabled and walked with a walker, and he took swimming lessons at the same time as his sister, so mom, brother, and sister would use the female locker room together before and after swimming. This was fine, and it also would have been fine if the little boy had been physically able-bodied, but developmentally delayed. But, that was rarely the case–what happened was, moms would bring their too-old sons into the female locker room, and the sons would change on their own–it was apparently just a “safety” thing.

  72. Still trying to figure out the ‘omg there might be a pedophile in the bathroom’ concern. has anyone ever heard of a child being assaulted by a stranger in a public bathroom??? I can’t imagine even the most brazen pervert being that bold. maybe its happened and I missed the news story – it just seems so far fetched to me.

  73. Craig, it does happen.

    But it’s very, very rare. And it’s not going to happen when there are three other guys in the bathroom. And it’s not going to happen when people are walking in and out of the bathrooms constantly. And it’s almost certainly not going to happen when the bathroom is in a place where people have to pay a substantial amount to get into the place where the bathrooms are (i.e. amusement parks) or have no business being for extended periods of time and can’t blend in well if they’re just there to lurk around looking for victims (i.e. small to medium sized stores or restaurants.)

    So even if you were worried about this kind of thing, I would think it defies logic to be afraid of sending your kid alone into a busy bathroom in a place where people can’t easily just hang out and hide in the bathroom all day long hoping for an unattended child, without being noticed. If I were inclined to worry about this, I might worry about a highway rest stop or the County Fair (although the county fair we usually goes to has attendants in the bathrooms, so that’s another level of safety) or a large theater at late hours. I wouldn’t worry about Disney World or Applebee’s.

  74. I understand that a developmentally disabled boy might need his mom’s help in the locker room. However, is it right that my young daughters would be there wondering what “that” is? (And don’t get on me for not making the parenting choice to explain all that yet. That’s my business.) If that is the situation, best to go into the handicapped toilet stall if there is no family changing room. And also, advocate for a family changing room if there aren’t any. (We’re lucky to have a couple at our rec center.)

  75. Yeah, the bathroom stall solution would have worked, except that there were only two of them in the girls’ locker room at the YMCA in my hometown the last I was in there, and there are only three in the women’s. So, changing a too-young or disabled boy in a bathroom stall would have just resulted in people getting annoyed with you for tying up the bathroom stall. I know this because I used to change in there because I was self-conscious, and didn’t want to be stared at by little boys while changing before and after swimming.

  76. I’m just so relieved that in both cases the boys emerged from the bathroom “un-harmed”.

  77. Question: is it MORE ‘dangerous’ to send your biologically-female-but-identifying-and-presenting-as-a-boy 8-year-old into a men’s room at a rest stop? I did that, and must admit it was one of the more disconcerting moments in a long line of unusual situations one comes into when raising a gender non-conforming kid. I’d do it again if necessary (being a huge proponent of free-range parenting) but have gotten some pretty horrified responses. Why does it seem even more ‘risky’ to send a girl (in disguise) in to a men’s room than to send your average little boy in? I don’t know the answer myself – my brain sees no logic in it but I (and others, obviously) have an irrational reaction to the idea.

  78. As soon as my son was old enough to understand that one room was for ladies and one for men, he resisted going into the ladies’ room. By the time he was 4 1/2, he wasn’t going to be caught dead there. He hasn’t been abducted since, and it’s been a year.

  79. Bottom line is; your child needs to be old enough/able, no matter what their gender, and to feel empowered enough to fend off anything inappropriate from crazies (tell them about kicking and screaming and hitting). I have always read the news stories to my (now 10 yr. old dgtr.) about the kids who have known how to keep from being stuffed into a car or carried off. The knowledge, to a child, that those folks don’t WANT trouble, seems to me to be far more useful than the platitude of “Don’t talk to strangers” (far more useful in my mind to say “Don’t GO with strangers”).

  80. @Linvo – And I don’t think there is any advantage in not helping them have some success when first wanting to learn to do something. You shouldn’t follow them around the playground doing things for them and holding their hand. But I don’t see why you wouldn’t help if they ask for help in learning something new. I didn’t just throw a book in front of my child and say “you’ll figure it out when you’re ready.” I don’t think it really makes much sense to say “I’ll push you on the swings until you can do it yourself but I won’t spot you on the monkey bars until you are confident enough to do it yourself.” Help is help.

  81. Donna, here’s how I make the distinction. The parks we go to are full of different equipment for differently-sized and differently-abled kids. If my kid is too small get up on the big __, she should probably be spending more time on the little __ developing her skills and nerve. Besides, if they do everything as tots, what will there be to look forward to when they get older? Also, if I agree to help whenever asked, my kids (maybe not yours) will ask when it isn’t necessary, to get more attention or whatever. Or because one of my kids is lazy. A further reason is that I think kids ought to be spending time with peers (if possible) at the playground, and that happens less if they are off with their parents climbing on the equipmet meant for older kids. Still another consideration is that kids need to have a full undestanding of getting both up and down on their own, because someday they are going to attempt it when there is no parent around, and when kids overestimate their abilities, that’s how legs get broken.

    My kids have managed to get into situations that were hard to get out of. 99% of the time when my help is needed, I do not actually touch my child. I guide her through the problem-solving process so that she can see that she’s capable of getting down on her own.

    That said, I must admit that I helped my kids learn to ride their (training-wheel-free) bikes. I helped them learn to read and so on. Those were some things I wanted them to learn before they were likely to figure them out without intervention. Climbing on too-big playground equipment just isn’t on that list for me.

  82. @ Craig – It does happen. My best friend was flashed in a women’s bathroom by a man who then tried to feel her up when she was about 8. 9 year old Matthew Cecchi was killed in the men’s room while his aunt waited outside at a campground when I lived in California. But these are rare occurrences. Millions of people use public restrooms every day without being molested or murdered.

    Further, while a man will probably not try feel up a kid with a parent (or other adult) present, what does a mom think she is going to do to prevent a schizophrenic being told by “god” to murder from murdering her child? He can slit her throat just as easily as the child’s and she is no physical match for a crazy person on a mission from “god.” Some horrible events are just a matter of being in the wrong place at the wrong time and not an issue of lack of parents at all but I knew many people who blamed the Checchi family for letting Matthew go into the bathroom alone and this is frequently sited as a reason to never let boys go into men’s rooms alone.

    It has also lead the push for family restrooms – a good thing being proposed for a bad reason. I’m all for family restrooms. Honestly, regardless of disabilities, I don’t want your older boy in the restroom with me so family bathrooms make it easier for you. But I still feel that it is completely inappropriate for a mother to physical attend her 9 year old (or 8 or 7 or 6 or 5) son in the restroom. He has to find that embarrassing and emasculating. And we do usually see this discussion in terms of mothers and sons. It seems as a society we more readily accept girls going into the restroom alone at young ages than boys and seem to understand the inappropriateness for everyone of an older girl being in the men’s room.

  83. I must be the worlds worst dad. I let my 5 year old son go to the men’s room at LAX at 5:30 am on New Year’s day. Max D.

  84. Donna–I’m not a parent, nor do I play one on television, but I think the difference between pushing a kid on a swing, and spotting him or her on the monkey bars, is that nobody ever got seriously injured from not being able to swing high enough on a swing, whereas falling from too-high monkey bars can lead to broken bones and concussions. Hence the rule of “if you can’t reach on your own, you’re not ready for that piece of equipment.”

  85. @sk1 –

    It seems more like a decision that the playground is your time off than a decision with any real rational basis – particularly if you are helping them on some equipment and with developing other skills. And I have no problem with not doing things simply because you don’t want to. I do take issue at this need to find a bunch of lofty goals in something that is really a choice to be uninvolved because you just want to be uninvolved at the playground. I think society has made it impossible for parents to ever say “I don’t do ____ because it is not a necessity of life and I just don’t want to do it” or even “I don’t put my kid on the monkey bars because that is my time off.” We now have to come up with benefits to the child for our lack of action as if parental convenience, wants and needs don’t matter. And I think that’s wrong. And it also makes some find issue with people who choose to do things other ways. Afterall, you have built up all these lofty goals so surely anyone who is doing what you are not is not meeting those needs of their children.

    Frankly, I don’t think it matters one single bit in life whether you put your child on the monkey bars (trees, etc.) or not. If you want to do it, do it. If you don’t, don’t. And back off people who do it differently. I don’t think anyone is wrong for not doing it. I do get annoyed by people telling me that I’m wrong for doing it. Ultimately, your children will still achieve whatever they were meant to achieve in life either way.

  86. @ Emily – Except that is not always a fitting rule. My child was ready for the equipment long before she could reach it. She’s tiny; she still can’t reach some monkey bars now. She can do all monkey bars hand-over-hand if given a boost to them though.

    I don’t care whether people put their kids on monkey bars or not. I certainly don’t think that it is something you MUST do as a parent. I took issue with people indicating that it was wrong to do and that you are harming your children in some way by doing it.

    I very much agree that you should NEVER put someone else’s kid on the monkey bars (or any other playground equipment) without their permission. They may have a very good reason for not wanting their child there. I used to get extremely annoyed when people would put my child on the swings. She was obsessed with them and would swing all day. If she was not in the swings, it was because she had already swung, done her countdown to swing departure, begged and pleaded for more time and been told no more swinging for the day. I really didn’t want to go through all that again because some “kind” stranger decided to put her in the swing.

  87. Donna: no need to bash me. I did not attack you; I’m talking about my own decision process, since you said you can’t understand it.

    The topic came up about whether someone who is NOT my kid’s parent should help her on the monkey bars. I prefer not (except in an emergency), because I myself do not want her helped on the monkey bars period. I do not care what you do with your own kids at the playground.

    No, the playground is not my “time off,” it is my kids’ time to engage physically as well as mentally. Idly being pushed in a swing (which I also will not do) or lifted up to pretend to climb the bars is not as beneficial for my kids as having to do things for themselves.

    Obviously your life is structured differently from mine, and we’ve never met, so I suggest you don’t assume anything about me.

  88. skl1 – I didn’t bash you. You’ve explained your our decision-making process which sounds very much like I don’t want to do this and it isn’t important to me that you learn it so learn it whenever you want, particularly when you readily admit to helping your children learn other skills that you admit they were not actually ready to learn on their own, like riding a 2 wheel bike, because them learning those skills early was important to you.

    And this is a perfectly acceptable thought-process to me. I do view my daughter’s time at the playground as my time off – time she is supposed to be interacting with other kids or playing by herself and not demanding my attention and it’s a time when I can chat with other parents or read a book (the closest park is too far for her to go alone or she would). Despite agreeing to put her on the monkey bars a time or two or pushing her on the swing for a few minutes(neither needed anymore), she was expected to play on her own. I take her to the playground to play with other kids, get some physical exercise and to get some peace, quiet and time to myself while she does it.

    If you were insulted by my comment, rather than simply saying I’m wrong, it is only because you believe that there is something wrong with simply not wanting to push your kid on the swing or place them on the monkey bars because you don’t want to. And since I am very much that person who doesn’t do certain things because I don’t want to, I guess you did, indeed, bash me. I readily admit to regularly taking my child to the playground for no reason whatsoever other than I NEED her to be occupied with something else for 30 minutes or I’ll kill her. No grandiose notions of building her physical and mental health. No not putting her on equipment because I want her to learn independence. It is nothing more than pure self-preservation on my part.

    And that was my only point. I think the ability to say that is very much being lost in this country. If we are not actively doing something for our children, we are considered “lazy” and feel the need to justify our behavior with character building reasons for it. I said the same thing in the thread about leaving kids in the car. Everyone was trying to come up with a million reasons for it to be better for kids to be left in the car when the real reason is it’s just plain more convenient and there is nothing wrong with that.

  89. I stopped using the YMCA near my school, when one of my male students walked into the ladies locker room. At the time I was teaching 5th grade and he had been retained in 1st so he was 12.

    The YMCA buy my house enforces the no kids over 6 in opposite locker room. There are family change rooms for those people who need help and the person accompanying them is the opposite sex. I see more adults with disabilities using them than people with kids.

    I take my 4 yo nephew in there to shower off and wash his hair – because he can’t do that himself – he has his Mom’s hair that will turn green if not shampooed after swimming in chlorine. He goes into the mens to use the bathroom during the visit.

  90. Donna, one of the things that I have taken away from Lenore’s book is that we should learn to let go of the idea that every little thing we do for our kids (or not do) is going to have a major effect on how they turn out. So, it’s all good. 🙂

    I think I like talking about the topic because for me those playground visits when my daughter was younger was what mademe realise that I was different from a majority of other ‘modern day parents’ and what later made me identify with the free-range movement. But there are no detailed rules on what makes the best free-range (or other) parent!

    I know we will disagree on a number of topics, but just the fact that we are here commenting already shows that we are thinking about the best way to raise our kids and not just letting the media or pseudo experts tell us what kind of parents we should be. 🙂

  91. My take on the restroom thing is that when they are in school, they are expected to use separate bathrooms, girls and boys, so by the age of five, boys should be going to the men’s room. So far, so good. I do think that there are probably men out there who could take advantage of little boys in a public restroom, but more than likely, something like that would take a little more time than it takes to run in, pee, wash hands, and run out. I do think it’s wise to teach children that they need to run away (and yell, whatever) if someone wants to see their private parts or tries to show them THEIR private parts, or there’s any touching going on, whether it’s a stranger or their best friend from school. That is something they need to be aware of in this sex-crazed world. But I still feel like it’s fine for them to use the men’s room.

    As for the brushing teeth thing, the American Academy of Pediatrics even recommends that you help them brush they’re teeth up until they’re eight. It doesn’t go beyond saying “help them”. In our house, that means that once they can hold that toothbrush and spit when they’re done, they do it and I say, “Did you brush your teeth?” and on the occasion I sense a lie has been told, I might check the toothbrush to see if it’s wet. They have to learn how to do it sometime. My 7-year-old who has had one filling is super vigilant now about brushing because the experience of a filling was so traumatic for him. Consequences to actions can sometimes be the best teachers.

  92. Until recently I have been wondering at what age I should start sending my kids into the bathroom themselves in public places. My daughter is 4 1/2, my son is 3. Then, last week, my daughter told me quite firmly at a local restaurant that she was going by herself than you very much and could I please leave her alone. I doubt she washed her hands as well as I would have liked, but she was thrilled with her independence. I expect my son will likewise let me know when he is ready. Of course, for the sake of other visitors, I will have to make sure he has learned to focus and not point his penis in every conceivable direction while his mind wanders!!!

    As for the tooth brushing, I have a friend whose son still needs assistance with some personal hygiene issues at age 9. But, when they go camping and use public facilities, she lets it go for a day or two just to avoid embarrassing him in public. He isn’t going to get cavities by doing a bad tooth brushing job once. So, I think we CAN safely make some judgments about the Mom in this scenario.

  93. Craig, I understand what you’re saying, but molestation is something that parents need to think about and take appropriate risks with.

  94. Donna, you said my reasoning was irrational and I was making it up to cover for being uninvolved. Fact is, these are my beliefs and while you are free to disagree, I don’t appreciate being called a liar. I don’t take rest at the playground; it’s one of the few times I get to spend with my kids, and I sit all day at work, so why would I go there to sit? I just don’t want to waste an opportunity for my kids to be active. If my life were different, they might have lots of other opportunities to run and climb, or I might have the whole day to spend with them, but this is our life. A single, working mom has to make the most of every minute with her kids. That is not a comment on anyone else’s life.

    My kids spend the work day in KG/daycare, where they are not allowed to take any physical risks beyond what a toddler can safely do. On top of that, most of the time our weather is not conducive to playing on the park equipment. One of my kids needs a lot of exercise or she’ll get fat. And both tend toward being wusses, thanks to the way they are coddled by most adults. So yeah, when we go to the park I have some “goals” in mind for them (though they don’t know it). Does this mean I’m going to get kicked off the FRK Website?

  95. My husband has run into the problem of what to do when the girls have to use the bathroom a time or two over the years with 3 girls…when they were very young he would seek out a family bathroom or post our much older son at the door of the men’s room (it was actually pretty comical from what I have heard) to let them know that he had young girls in there. He started sending them at around age 4 to the women’s restroom by themselves and then as a group. There were a couple of times he got negative comments over this practice. The community pool is a whole different issue as they have a rule in place where no child under 9 can be unaccompanied in the locker rooms. Our youngest is 8 and he refuses to take her to the pool by himself and into the men’s locker room…only 6 more months until they can have some swim time! We did try it once with my now 13 year old daughter taking her (she was 12 at the time) and were promptly given a warning for not properly supervising her with an adult….

  96. So I had some further thoughts…

    I relieve at various stations throughout two states, so I travel alot. In the past two months I have put 20,000kms on my personal car sort of lots of travel.

    There is one public bathroom on a major highway I would not let my ten year old brother happily by himself. Not sure why, something just gives me the heebie-jeebies about those restrooms – I dont even use them (although the places truckies breakfast is delicious!).

    Now, at ten I reckon he could hold it in for another 40kms until the next possible stop. But if he couldnt? I dont know…

    So, I guess there are circumstances I wouldnt feel comfortable letting a child, even a not so small one, go by themselves. Hell, I felt uncomfortable when my ex would use them! (only once, then he agreed with me they didnt feel right!)

  97. From a speech given at BYU:

    We had some great experiences on the farm, my teenage brother and I, unsupervised. I think he was more steady than I was. We had some fruit trees and a lot of lucern, a lot of hay. We grew some corn; we grew a little wheat. We had a number of things on that farm. We weren’t the best farmers in the world. We were doing the best we could, but we were not the best farmers. We were surrounded by other farms, and those farms were being farmed by people who knew what they were doing. One day one of the neighbors came to my father. He was a farmer, and he had a whole list of the things that my brother and I were doing wrong. I think I could have added more things to that list than he had. Anyway, he went down the list as he was talking to my father, and my father sat back and then he said, “Jim, you don’t understand. You see, I’m raising boys, not cows.” And Jim, a few years later after my father passed away, shared that experience with me. In looking back I was grateful for the fact that indeed my father decided that he was going to raise boys and now cows, and he did. That’s become a very important lesson to me as a father.

  98. Okay, I just gotta say this…

    babyparamedic said:

    “I relieve at various stations throughout two states,”

    In the context of this thread, can you imagine what I initially thought you were talking about when you said, “I relieve at various stations?”


  99. Pentamom: that’s exactly what I thought and if it weren’t for your post, I’d still be thinking that. I did think it was an odd dialect for these parts . . . .

  100. @Shera–Nine seems like a rather high cutoff for being allowed in the locker room unsupervised, barring a child with a physical or developmental disability, or a proven behaviour problem. But, since I assume you can’t lobby to have that changed, would it be possible to simply have your daughter put on her swimsuit under her clothes before leaving for the pool, and then shower/change at home afterward? It’s not perfect, but it’s probably better than having to miss out on swimming all summer unless you’re with her.

  101. Emily: putting on the suit before going to the rec center would work for many of us, but coming home wet would not. Where I live, it gets way too cold to go outside in a wet swimsuit most of the year.

    9yo is ridiculous. In our rec center, kids over age 3 are not allowed in the opposite gender locker room. There are two family restrooms/changing rooms, and people sometimes line up for them. (Some people actually change their kids in the hallway, despite signs forbidding it.) However, it seems to me that a 4yo boy ought to be able to take off his trunks and put on his pants without help. He can emerge from the room for help once his privates are properly covered.

  102. But if you are talking about summer only, then yes, that sounds like a solution. When I was a kid, we used to put on our bathing suits, walk to the public pool, swim to our heart’s content, and walk back. The suits would dry along the way. On a good day, we didn’t even lose or destroy our towels.

  103. There’s a difference between a public bathroom and a locker room…

    While I’m not happy to see boys who look older than, say, three or four in public women’s bathrooms, I really dislike the growing practice of bringing boys into women’s locker rooms. I think it’s problematic for both the women and the boys.

    From my standpoint, when changing in a locker room after a swim and a shower, I don’t want to have to cover up more than necessary to meet my needs. If your son comes through with you, I feel I must cover up as much as possible. I raised a son, and I know boys are very curious about bodies at a young age, and, no, I don’t want your ‘kid’ checking me out.

    I also, and this is a more subtle point, don’t want to feel that my nudity might be experienced as shocking, or overwhelming, or as just ‘too much’ for your child. I’m there to relax, exercise, and socialize a bit with other grown women; I’m not there to feel like I need to protect your son from viewing my body.

    And, yes, some boys taken into women’s locker rooms are definitely old enough to be a pain in the neck–I recall one day having a kid and his buddy pull my shower curtain open. Had they been a few years older, well, I don’t like to contemplate that scenario…!

    What a lot of this boils down to is, as is so often said on this blog, parents getting a better grip on reality and trusting that their kid can navigate the world of public bathrooms.

    And, with regard to locker rooms, it boils down to perhaps postponing certain activities with your kid (yikes, did I suggest *postponing* an activity with kids in a modern family?) until your opposite sex child is old enough to handle a locker room on his (or her) own.

  104. @SKL1: You’re right–I’m from Canada, so I understand that wet bathing suits outdoors (even with clothes worn over top of them, after drying off as much as possible) really wouldn’t work. I was just picturing Shera’s community pool as an outdoor pool that gets most of its traffic during the warmer months. As for postponing swimming until kids can negotiate a locker room independently (sometimes at an arbitrary age chosen by the pool facility, like at Shera’s pool where the age is nine), I’m not sure I agree with that–kids should ideally begin getting acclimated to the water at a young age (I started with parent-and-child classes as an infant) so that they have a solid foundation to start learning to swim, which of course includes basic water safety. Swimming isn’t just a fun activity, it’s a very important life skill, because without swimming ability, you’re really not safe in a boat, on a dock, or anywhere near open water.

    For example, by the time I was nine or ten, I was swimming lengths of the pool at the YMCA and the rec centre near my house, and I got my Bronze Medallion at 13, and Bronze Cross at 14…….and, the summer I was 14, I saved my brother from drowning in the lake during a family cottage vacation. If I’d lived in Shera’s community, and couldn’t START learning to swim until I was nine (because I wouldn’t have been allowed in the locker room alone until then), I probably wouldn’t have been far along enough to swim out to my drowning brother, pull him back to the dock in a cross-chest carry, and then haul him out of the lake.

  105. I agree with you, Emily. In the cold months, there aren’t many physical activities for young kids, especially after business hours (when it’s dark as well as cold). And swimming is one of the few “sports” that interests my younger daughter. I would be really bummed if she were kept out of the [indoor] pool over something arbitrary like that. Of course, the safety issue is pertinent too.

  106. I just want to make a comment on the number of people stating that boys of a certain age are “curios” about bodies, as I stated above, my experience in a locker room was with a girl making the comment about boy’s. It works both ways, just because the majority of posters on here are women does not mean that girls are above this type of behavior. Is it not this kind of thinking that can lead to the “all men are pervs” type of thoughts?

  107. JustADad, the reason we’re mostly talking about boys is that it’s usually moms who take little kids to these things, so it’s more likely to be little boys in the ladies’ than the other way around. Also, I think men are automatically less likely to try this because urinals are not private. However, of course what’s inappropriate for boys is also inappropriate for girls. I’d probably still be in therapy if I had to look at a guy at a urinal when I was little. (OK, maybe not therapy, but . . . .)

  108. skl1, I agree, but there is a trend of more dads being involved in these things, I think that people just need to use more common sense. (asking a lot, I am sure). My ex and I used to worry more about what one of the weasels of death would get up to if they weren’t supervised. That being said, we have to place some trust in our kids to handle situations, even awkward ones, on their own.

  109. the reason we’re mostly talking about boys

    Keep in mind that most readers of this blog are moms. In fact most parenting blogs are ‘mom’ blogs. It’s kinda sorta like the filtering thing Lenore talked about in another post, in which your internet experience is personalized, and you end up getting a filtered experience.

  110. @SKL1–I’m glad you agree with me. Maybe it’d be a good idea for parents to do a few “practice runs” with their children at home, and have them independently put on swimsuits, gather towels, etc., for the pool, and have them shower and get dressed for school in the mornings, as a matter of course, in order to prepare for the more challenging and distracting experience of a public locker room. Even then, parents can make it easier for their young children, by dressing them in clothes that are easier to manipulate on swimming/gymnastics/dance days, like elastic-waist pants that can be pulled on and off without zippers or buttons, Velcro shoes, Crocs, or flip-flop sandals instead of lace-up sneakers, T-shirts instead of button-up shirts, etc……and, for little girls, two-piece bathing suits (tankinis, for modesty purposes) and two-piece dance/gymnastics leotards are much easier to remove for bathroom breaks than their one-piece counterparts. I guess what I’m saying is, swimming is a skill, and getting dressed/undressed independently is a skill, so it makes sense to practice both from a young age.

    Of course, none of this would make any difference at Shera’s pool, unfortunately, but I have to wonder if other members of the community haven’t complained about it, through letters, etc.–I know that I would be, because it affects everyone. Sure, it affects the parents who can’t go swimming with their “awkward”-aged kids (as in, under nine, but old enough to refuse to go into the opposite-sex locker room) unless a same-sex parent is available (and both parents, if you have kids of both genders), and it affects the kids themselves as well (no riding bikes to the pool in the summer until they’re nine, even with older siblings), but it affects the general population as well, because they’re no longer guaranteed a single-gender environment in a purportedly single-gender locker room at the pool.

  111. I agree, Just A Dad, that girls can be very curious (and not always in a ‘nice’ way) about nudity at an early age, just like boys. I raised a girl (and was once a girl!) so I do know that that is indeed true–and why not? The reason I wrote from the perspective of boys in women’s locker rooms is two-fold.

    First, while I don’t like to feel I need to cover up more than I want for anyone, when a little boy is present I do cover up more than when a little girl is present. Gender differences die hard (maybe never?).

    But also, the trend of bringing opposite sex kids into bathrooms and locker rooms is much more pronounced with moms bringing boys into women’s spaces, not the opposite. I did read above a couple stories of men being surprised to find dads bringing daughters into men’s rooms, and while I can hear their discomfort, that must be, I hope, very, very unusual. So I wrote from a woman’s perspective because I am a woman, and because this trend is mostly, but not exclusively, in one direction.

  112. I have to wonder, if things are this restrictive now, what will it be like in ten or twenty years? Padded cells for kids at home, and full-face crash helmets and leashes with harnesses in public, until they’re eighteen?

  113. Justadad – This does appear to be more of a trend for moms to take boys into ladies’ rooms and not vice versa. Most dad’s I know with daughters let their daughters use the ladies room alone when out with them. I have never met a man who took his 8 year old daughter in the men’s room. Ive seen 8 year old boys in the ladies many times. I think this is because of (a) the general view of men as potential pervs and women as safe (b) the urinals and (c) the view of mom as mom.

    Only the most extreme helicopter parent truly believes that men are hiding in the ladies room unknown to anyone and waiting for a lone little girl. And since all child molesters are male (yeah right), ladies rooms are safe in their lack of males. Many people believe that male perverts are prevalent so the chances of a boy running into one at the urinal are high.

    I’m most families, dad stops seeing daughter naked at a very young age – probably preschool age. Mom is mom. She supervises baths, takes care of medical needs and checks boo boos. There is less social sigma attached to mom seeing her son naked than dad seeing his daughter naked. I wonder if this will change as more and more men become primary care givers.

  114. @Linvo – I agree with you 100% that every decision we make for our children is not imperative. In fact, very few are. It doesn’t matter a hill of beans in life whether you put your child on the monkey bars or not. I put my kids on monkey bars because she liked it, not for any other reason and I couldn’t care less what decision you make or why. It’s kinda an idiotic thing to discuss from the get go.

    Yet someone on this thread mentioned putting kids on monkey bars and several chimed on with “I never put my kids on anything and if you put your kids on playground equipment you are limiting them in _______ way.” And yet people here apparently get very upset if someone puts their children on monkey bars as if it’s a crime worthy of the death penalty because their child will never be the same again (although I agree that people should not put strange kids places without parental permission, it just seems like a silly thing to get really worked up over). And we seem to go down this path every time playground equipment comes up. It is not even a FRK issue. In fact, the fact that you are letting your kids near monkey bars at all pretty much moves you out of helicopter range. So I’m just not sure why we go down this road so frequently and it annoyed me this particular time – probably because I was in a bad mood already. I shouldn’t have let it annoy me though.

  115. OMGosh, joining this discussion late, but had to pop in my two cents wort. My littley, 9 at the time but on the small side, got stuck in the cubicle of the toilets at Monte Cassino – she could latch the door to close it, but realised too late that the latch, on a very solid door with no room at the bottom to crawl out beneath, was too high up for her to then unlatch. (We, her very sociable parents, were miles away talking to others on the bus tour, and it took us about 15 minutes to realise the kid was missing!). I don’t speak but a couple of words of Italian, but with hand signals managed to show the caretakers the problem. They had a wonderful time kicking the door down, NYPD police style! Wonderful how we can trust strangers, even when we can’t actually communicate directly with them 🙂

  116. Oh, and Donna, looks like you are posting here too. Sorry I haven’t got back to you further regarding coats, have been head down bum up with an assignment, but will google it this weekend – promise! Hope you really enjoy your time here in July, and make sure you get north of Auckland a bit at last, Auckland being just another big blob of a place, very spread out, and I know you have lots of big cities in the States. That said it is a fairly cosmopolitan place, so you might find it interesting anyway, and most of the people are friendly! And the offer still stands if you get further south another time, just let us know beforehand through here and we’ll take you sightseeing! Cheers

  117. Donna, I think you are being sensitive, because I didn’t notice anyone acting that weird about other parents putting their own kids on the equipment. The reason it came up is because a dad metioned putting other people’s kids up on the equipment. Some of us said we don’t want that and it has nothing to do with pervs. I don’t think that my explaining why I do ABC equates to my telling you that you’re terrible for not doing ABC. We can’t have a conversation here if that’s how people are going to take everything.

  118. My son has been going into the men’s since he was 4, he’s 6 now and it’s totally not a big deal. His grandparents don’t feel comfortable about it though.
    I don’t think 8 years old is too old to ‘check’ that they brushed correctly. I don’t think you should be doing all the brushing though. I’ve heard dentists say you should check their teeth until they are 12, which does seem too old, imo.

  119. regarding little boys – a couple years ago at church camp, in the ladies dorm we were in, a church group had some moms with 3 & 4 year old boys. They would wander around during the times the girls were getting ready for evening service, or after the shower times, and basically.. ogling? them? They’d just stare & stare. Several of the girls said this made them feel very uncomfortable.

    I know little kids like to look under stalls, changing rooms, etc. I *used* to deal with it with a slap of the shoe to the kid when I was a teenager, if it wasn’t a baby, but was an older kid peeking under the stall.

    I’ve helped out in the ladies room, when a kid couldnt’ reach the sink/soap or towels, I’d just pick them up & hold them so they could wash/soap/dry their hands. Too bad more places don’t put lower sinks for those kids.

  120. Dawn Rachele, I think it really depends on the kid but 12 is probably more than enough to be independent to clean his or her teeth.

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