Bathroom Busybodies: Kindly Concern or Mass Psychosis?

Hi Readers! You’d think that, after a certain point, I would be inured to cultural confoundedness. (Or  at least know how to write a sentence in English.) But in fact it is still amazing to me how wild the public imagination has become and how eager it is to imagine the most extremely unlikely, horrifying scenarios. It really is mass psychosis. And here’s just another instance of it, from Hannah Zuniga, a reader who describes herself as a Common Sense Mom. – L.
Dear Free-Range Kids: I received my first verbal hand slap regarding my child raising. I have 5 year old daughter, a 1 year old son, and a third on the way. A few weeks ago I was checking out at Costco when my daughter, Elayna, said she had to go to the bathroom. I was at a register near the end where the bathroom was in plain sight, so I told her to go. (She has been allowed to use public bathrooms by herself for some time now, although I am always close by. We are also at Costco once a week, so she is well acquainted with the bathroom.) I finished checking out and pushed my cart and son over to the bathroom and waited for her to come out.
After a few minutes, I began to wonder what was taking so long. I wasn’t worried, just curious. Then a woman came out and asked if I was waiting for a little girl in a dress. I said yes, and she told me that my daughter was washing her hands. She laughed and said, “She seems to really like the hand dryers because she’s washed her hands at least three times.” I laughed, too, and a moment later my daughter came running out, holding up her hands for me to smell because they were so nice and clean. She was very proud of herself.



Later that evening, I told my husband, who thought it was funny. The next day, I told my mom, who also thought it was funny. A few days later, my mom told the women she worked with who were absolutely shocked and horrified that I let my daughter go in by herself: “What if someone had taken her?”


My mom tried to point out that I was close enough to see the bathroom the entire time and no one could have gotten past me with my daughter. She pointed out that in a busy place like Costco, it was very unlikely that anyone could kidnap a screaming little girl. She explained that my daughter had been allowed to use public bathrooms herself for the last six months, and that she is a smart, capable child. She also explained that, so far, the only issue Elayna had run into was that some restroom doors are very heavy and hard to open, but that was why Mom, Dad, Grandma, or Grandpa was always near by. Grandpa learned very quickly that Elayna could go in by herself and, if he was concerned, he could always ask one of the women coming or going to check on her, and these “dangerous” strangers were always happy to help.



The women at my mom’s work were not mollified, and continued to go down the list of possible things that could have happened.


But they didn’t happen. What happened was that I was able to check out without having to get out of line. My daughter didn’t have to do the potty dance while waiting for me. I didn’t have to abandon my shopping cart while juggling my son and purse just to stand and watch her do something she’s been capable of doing since she was two. And my daughter got a little boost of pride and self-confidence by doing something herself. But the overall consensus seems to be that I am a bad mother. I guess I’ll just have to live with it.  – Hannah


Lenore here: And you’ll just have to live with most of us here thinking you are a smart and sane mother, raising what sounds like a lovely little girl! 

Well, the story was sort of about a grocery store and I loved this photo so…voila.

56 Responses

  1. You go, Mom! Way to instill independence.

  2. I was in an airport last week and a woman outside was trying to coach her young son in the stall, and he was having some issue. She finally announce she was coming in. She got him squared away, and as she left she said “Sorry Gentlemen”. I yelled out “It’s ok, we’re parents too”. Best supportive line I could think of on the spot. I sure hope we some day get over our issues mixed-sex bathrooms. Parenting would be easier if they were all unisex.

  3. I let my 3 and 4 year olds go to the bathroom without me at Costco frequently. I also let them throw away the wrappers from their hotdogs by themselves. The pride and thrill on their faces when they successfully handle these jobs always amazes me.

    I’ve promised my 4 year old that when she turns 5, she’ll get to buy the hotdogs after we go shopping. She is looking forward to it like you would not believe!

  4. Lol… That is brilliant.

  5. Here is Los Angeles, this week marked a milestone in our house. Our 10 and 12 year old kids were sent to the store for supplies by themselves, and our 10 year old went all by himself the next day as well–surprisingly, he also came back with a live Beta fish for mom on mother’s day. The store is about 4 blocks away and across one major street–with a streetlight. They even used the self-service checkout lanes at the store.

    It feels so good to be able to leave them alone in the house for a little while and to be able to send them out into the neighborhood by themselves as well. The biggest danger they face is fighting with each other.

  6. My 6 1/2 year old daughter has been using public restrooms by herself since around 5. I’ve never once have anyone say anything to me about it. I’m actually a bit disappointed by that, as I have a great come-back speech ready and I’m dying to use it!
    Maybe I’ll get lucky with my 4 1/2 year old when the time comes! 🙂

  7. What is it with the weight of bathroom doors. I can’t let my nephew (4) go to the bathroom alone at the zoo – because he can’t open the doors. I was waiting to pay to feed the giraffes and he needed to go. I couldn’t leave my niece (7) in the line because they won’t sell the tickets to someone that young. So I sent her with her brother. I thought they would either go to the family bathroom or the ladies. Instead they pulled on the men’s room door together. He went in. When he needed out – he hollered through the door. He pushed she pulled, and a kindly gentleman reached over to help. (He was cracking up. I would have loved to hear what nephew was yelling)

    There was an animated discussion – and the two of them went into the ladies. Then came back out. Turned out he could’t reach the sink in the men’s room. The new bathrooms have foldable steps under one sink in all three types of bathrooms, but he couldn’t figure out how to unfold them. So she took him in the Lady’s to wash his hands. Their logic – all the women are in stalls but men aren’t (cue 7 yo disgusted girl face).

  8. So far, my 4 1/2 year old daughter has only gone to the bathroom unattended at our church…usually because I’m still in the process of cleaning up after my 1st & 2nd grade Sunday School class every time she REALLY needs to go RIGHT NOW. Other than taking forever because she’s playing in the water, there have been no problems. Even better, in spite of the number of other moms and little old ladies in the building at any given moment, no one has discouraged me from allowing it. My co-teacher, who is nearly 9 months pregnant with her first child, did make a comment about how she’s not sure she would be able to handle it the same way, but I have a feeling she’ll be OK when the time comes to make that decision for real.

    In other public places, it’s not so much the fear of “something” happening to her that keeps me from encouraging her to go it alone as it is the fear that I might not be able to refrain from telling some well-meaning busybody to F-off when they chastise me for allowing it. That, and the knowledge that she gets a little bit freaked out by automatic flush toilets that sound like jet engines, and just might pee on herself trying to finish and flee before it goes off. (She hasn’t quite grasped that they usually don’t flush until she gets down.)

  9. Geez, am I a contender for worst mom now? My 5 1/2 year old boy prefers to use the men’s room “because that’s what big boys do”. For the first time on Mother’s Day I actually used the Ladies’ room by myself while he used the Men’s room by himself. And you know what, he was waiting patiently outside of the bathroom area for me. Made me very proud.

  10. My response to these things is to reply in mock shock that of course they’re right to point out the fault in my parental decision making. Everyone knows that if a predator doesn’t get my child, a flying spaghetti monster will.

  11. My favorite bathroom story involves my cousin, who is now in his 30s. When he was not quite five, my Aunt took us both to a regional amusement park. It’s a popular place, and always busy, and like most places, the line for the ladies’ loo is always about four miles long, and the men’s doesn’t have a line at all.

    So Cuz had to go to the bathroom, Auntie asked him if he’d be cool just going to the men’s, he rolled his eyes and went in. We waited. And waited. And waited. And after about a dozen fellas had exited, Auntie hollers in and asks him what’s taking so long. “HELP ME WIPE!”, yells Cuz. Cue UPROARIOUS laughter from everyone inside and outside. And some fella inside calls out “No worries, I’ve got him!”

    We told that story for years and years, and the reaction was always one of hysterical laughter – until about ten years ago. Now it’s one of shock and horror and “What if someone had taken him?” When did we get to be such a nation of candy-ass cry-babies?

  12. I am a nanny, and I feel that reading free range kids will lose me a job some day because i will be more free range than parents prefer… but I’m glad there are parents like this still!

  13. @Missy.,… rofl. love it.

  14. Even in social conversation, there is a tendency among some of us to allow our thinking move toward disastrous outcomes eg one of our friends is late so suddenly they may have had a serious accident, and the evidence soon starts to mount up, until said friend arrives for no bigger reason than they are just taking the laid-back approach to the day. Of course, on rare occasions bad things do happen to people, but waste our lives being paranoid. And when bad things happen, we are far less resilient for feeling we should have controlled life to the ‘nth’ degree.

  15. This weekend my 7 year old son used the washroom on his own at a restaurant. When he came back he told us that he took a while because an old man needed his help. We were wondering why an old man would need help from a boy in a washroom so we asked, “How were you able to help him?” Apparently the old man couldn’t figure out how the automatic soap dispenser and taps worked so my son “an expert at technology” came to the rescue. The elderly gentleman stopped by our table to thank our son again and commented on how he encounters this problem often and rarely someone helps him, let alone a boy on his own in the washroom. We were proud of our son and his kindness towards a stranger in need.

  16. Yep, biggest problem with sending them by themselves is reaching the sink to wash their hands. Mine have always been able to find someone nice enough to help. I send my 7 year old to the bathroom at the grocery store and give her an aisle # to meet me in. Sometimes I have her pick up a few groceries on the way back. Once I got distracted and was not in the right aisle … A few minutes later, my daughter found me with store manager in tow. She had calmly asked for help and, whadda ya know, was able to find it. Give them some skills and they will prove to be quite capable.

  17. When my daughter was five, I let her finish using the bathroom alone, walk through our small public library alone and wait out front for me so I could swing by with the car and pick her up. By the time I was putting her little brother in the car, I could see that she was standing patiently in front of the library waiting for me. A lady with two older daughters (maybe 10 and 12), stood talking to her and I saw my daughter gesturing at me, so I waved to show the obviously concerned woman where I was. She yelled to me that she would walk my daughter over, but I said, “No, I’ll pick her up,” and less than 15 seconds later I swung around and fetched my kid. The woman waited with her. When my daughter got in the car she shook her head and said (with a little exasperation), “She just didn’t get it, Mom!”

    I did notice that the woman made her daughters each hold one of her hands as they went to the car. Did I mention this was a small public library?!?

  18. My DD (now almost 10) has been going to the ladies’ on her own for about 5 years now. The heavy doors and tall sinks were definitely an issue! Once she locked herself into the one-holer in the basement of a local restaurant and couldn’t get out; that’s the worst thing that’s ever happened to her in a public washroom. We’ve gotten some “concerned” looks from people, but I don’t think anyone IRL has ever said anything. On the Internet, on the other hand … hoooo boy.

    I think it’s telling that I’ve only gotten in trouble for this from strangers on the Internet, and Hannah only got negative comments from people who don’t actually know her daughter. When faced with an actual child who is clearly fine and knows what s/he’s doing, many people who might not approve in the abstract find it a bit harder to condemn — the cognitive dissonance gets them, at least long enough for the kid and the parents to get away 😉

  19. Holy cow, Kim, I’m glad nobody’s gotten on your case. I mean, if kids can’t go to the bathroom by themselves in a church, or any community house of religious worship, then the world has indeed lost its mind…..

  20. Selby, at most churches now a parent can let their child go to the restroom by themselves but if they need to go during Sunday school 2 adults need to escort them. I completely understand the reasoning behind this but it makes me really sad that we need to take such percausions.

    My kids have been going to the bathroom in public since they were around 4 and I haven’t had anyone say anything to me about it either.

  21. @Suzanne – TWO adults need to take a kid to the loo at church? Buh?

    Back when I was Lutheran, it was No Big Thing for kids to go by themselves. If you can’t trust the people you GO TO CHURCH WITH, something is horrifically wrong.

  22. You know what else could happen if you make your child wait while you check out? They could pee their pants in the checkout line.

    I’m not using potty-humor, either. The last time I was at Costco (this was right after Easter- lamb was still on sale.), there was a mother there with her young son (about kindergarten age) who really had to “go”. Instead of letting him run off to the bathroom, she yelled at him and told him to “hold it” until grandma came back from wherever she had gone, and could take hime to the bathroom.

    The result? He peed his pants, and all over the floor. It was a massive puddle, spread around quite a bit by his dancing around trying to hold it in. Poor kid was horrified. The entire time I was standing behind him (and later helping his mother lay down paper towels while the manager called over someone with a mop) I couldn’t help but think that this could easily have been avoided if she had just trusted herself, her son and the shoppers of Costco to let her kid use the bathroom by himself.

  23. It seems like we all have a Costco story–I remember the time I first let my daughter take my son to the bathroom. It was at Costco and I had just unloaded about $200 worth of stuff on the belt and my son said he had to go to the bathroom. I knew my son well enough to know that when he said he had to go, he had to go NOW! NOT 5 minutes from now. He was 3, my older daughter was 5. I asked my daughter to take son to the restroom. She took his hand, led him away…..and both came back about 5 minutes later, all well and fine and in one piece.

    I compare that to when we went to Disneyland, and my 5 yr old daughter and I were waiting in a long line in the women’s restroom and while we’re waiting a boy who HAD to have been AT LEAST 10 or maybe even 12 came out of the stall and washed his hands. I couldn’t believe it. My daughter was practically peeing in her pants because she had to go so bad and the line was so long and there was boy taking up a precious stall. I gave him and his mom an aghast look. I know the boy was completely uncomfortable there. As well he should have been. He was seriously old enough that were I a prude, I’d have been uncomfortable with this nearly teenage boy in the ladies room!

  24. I am 32 years old and I have been peeing in public restrooms by myself for 29 years. An adult was nearby but not necessarily *in* the bathroom with me.

    Nothing bad ever happened. Not even close. Ever.

    Granted, I grew up in a small town (14,000 people), everyone knew everyone, and we watched out for each other. Would I send my son to pee in a public restroom by himself when he was 3 years old……maybe. We’ll see. He’s only a year and a half now and is more interested in what I do in the potty than he is interested in going himself. If he’s a responsible child, I’ll let him pee by himself. I can’t hold his hand and wipe his tush forever….

  25. The kid is 5, and this is the first verbal hand slap for her parenting choices? It seems to me the writer lives in a pretty fabulous town if 5 years have elapsed without such criticism.

  26. lol, I once sent my 5yo to the toilet by herself when we were having dinner at a restaurant in Chinatown in Sydney. I was so over her always having to go to the toilet just when our dinner arrived that I refused to go with her that time. So I sat outside eating and she had to go up the stairs, find the bathroom and find her way back. A waitress actually had to show her the way. I admit that that was a tad extreme, but I wasn’t worried about anything happening to her at the restaurant and I do think she tried to time her toilet breaks a bit better after that.

  27. When my sons were 5 and 2 my husband went to Iraq for a year with his Reserve unit. My family lived about 400 miles away from our home and I used to take the boys to visit quite regularly. The first time we went without Daddy, they didn’t want to go in the ladies’ room with me, “Because we’re MEN, mommy!” So I let them go. They’ve been visiting the men’s room by themselves ever since (almost 10 years now). Nothing bad ever happened to them. The older one helped the younger one, and occasionally another guy would help one or the other of them reach the soap or the paper towels. But after that trip they started going to the park in our neighborhood by themselves, and it was all downhill from there…now they ride bikes all over our town and cook their own mac and cheese or ramen for snack. They made me dinner for Mothers’ Day while Dad was at work.

  28. OK … genuine Costco horror story. Just as I walked into the women’s restroom some loud screaming started.

    No kidnappers in sight.

    The problem was that a boy had somehow partly fallen out of the small stroller he was stuffed into and busted his head open on the tile floor or the stalls and was bleeding all over the place.

    The screaming was from the mother, who had no idea what to do in these instances so she was flapping her hands and shrieking the child’s name. Her panic spread to the child, who began screaming too. Lying on the floor, tangled in a stroller, bleeding all over everything.

    Here’s what happens when screaming comes from a retail establishment restroom: In the few moments it took me to retrieve my gloves*, put them on and grab something from the stroller to use to stop the bleeding, someone dashed in to see what the shrieking was about, saw the blood and said, “I’ll call 9-1-1 and get the manager”. (I was holding pressure on a bleeding head wound on a squirming panicked child – no hands free yet for 9-1-1 – and the mother was still freaked out) Seconds later we had manager on scene with a proper first aid kit and EMTs on the way.

    Had the screaming been because of an assault or kidnapping, the criminal would have had me, plus several cashiers and stock clerks between the restrooms and the exits.

    If a child doesn’t fit into a stroller, it’s a clear sign that the child should be walking. Or use the cart’s child seat.

    And, take a first aid class. If you have a baby, you will need those skills sometime in the next 20 years.

    * Yes, I carry medical gloves, all the time, just for occasions like this.

  29. When did public bathrooms become such scary places (cleanliness notwithstanding)?

    I’d really like to see some stats on predator/kidnapping/molesting incidents in bathrooms. Is it on par with true stranger kidnapping (extremely rare)? You’d think we’d hear bathroom stories on the news every single day the way some parents act about sending their child into one.

  30. @Beth, you beat me to asking about statistics on incidents in public bathrooms. I was curious about that myself. I also imagine that they are pretty rare, which is why they are sensationalized.

    My son has been going into public bathrooms by himself since he was about 4 or 5. When my husband wasn’t around, I would sometimes ask a man going in to keep an eye on my son and see if he needed help reaching the soap or paper towels. At first I would wait outside the bathroom door for him except if we were in a familiar place (e.g. a restaurant where we often ate and where he knew the bathroom was and the way back to where I was). Now if we’re somewhere unfamiliar, I’ll wait in the vicinity of the bathroom (but not right outside the door) and my son will do the same for me when I’m in the women’s bathroom. From the time my son started using the men’s bathroom, he refused to go into a women’s one. In Germany it is very common to see children in public bathrooms without their parents.

    Here is a link to an old post on Circle of (Paranoid Helicopter) Moms about when a boy is too old to accompany his mother into the women’s bathroom. I can’t believe that some mothers take 10-year-old boys into the bathroom with them because “there are so many weirdos out there.”

  31. My 7 year old son has been successfully going to the men’s room alone since he turned 4. Recently, I was waiting outside for him at the zoo. He started screaming! “HELP ME!!! MOMMY HELP ME!!! HELP!!” Naturally, I charged in like an angry rhino, ready to take someone down…or to call my sweet boy to the UNlocked door on the opposite side of the restroom. He thought he was locked in, and instead of hunting down another door, he freaked out (unusual for him, but he’s a little boy. Sometimes in a moment of panic, we all forget to act calmly). As soon as my heart started beating again, I praised him for doing exactly what he should do if he has a real problem in a public bathroom.

  32. “I can’t believe that some mothers take 10-year-old boys into the bathroom with them because “there are so many weirdos out there.”

    Oh, dang, now I have to go get my irony meter fixed.

  33. We were at our favorite Thai place for dinner with my mom the other night, and my 6 1/2 year old daughter had to go. I sent her off without a care; we’re there all the time after all. My mother tried to scold me about it and when I pointed out that we were the only people in the restaurant, she proceeded to tell me I should be worried about the staff.

    Then I had an older co-worker tell me that I should never ever under any circumstances let my kids go to the bathroom by themselves. Her son, a Chicago police officer, to her that “they are molesting kids in the Lincoln Park Zoo bathroom and they arrest people all the time.” I just smiled and said thanks for the info.

  34. Wish there was a like button because Pentamom’s,

    I can’t believe that some mothers take 10-year-old boys into the bathroom with them because “there are so many weirdos out there.”

    Oh, dang, now I have to go get my irony meter fixed.

    Just made my day! 🙂

  35. I take my 4 y/o daughter to swimming lessons at the Y. For the last two years, she’s been coming with me through the men’s locker room. But after her last lesson this weekend, she asked to go through the women’s by herself. I was a bit nervous (not that she would be kidnapped, but that she would get scared) but one women entering the room said she’d make sure she was OK. And then she realized she and my daughter had the same name, so they were instant friends. She came out the other side just fine and grinning like a baboon. I was very proud and told her that she can go through the women’s from now on all by herself.

  36. This seems to happen all the time to us–my kids at home (who are four and five) are fine throughout the whole store and then when I’m in a line waiting to pay for our stuff is when they suddenly need to go. I think they secretly relish in the freedom they get when I let them run over to the restroom by themselves. I’ve gotten a lot of looks from other parents when I let them go over to the bathroom alone, but if they need to go, they need to go.

  37. My 6 and 8 year old girls have being doing this for a while now at Costco especially since my husband usually takes them there on Saturdays and he doesn’t need to take them in the men’s room at that age.

    Someone mentioned using the bathroom unattended at church. Our church doesn’t really like that and that bugs me. Last year when my daughter was 7, the parents and child had a meeting in the room right next to the bathroom but they told us if the child had to use the bathroom that we had to go with them. I thought that was pretty silly.

  38. At my son’s kindergarten (preschool), even the 3-year-olds had to use the bathroom by themselves. They were never accompanied by a teacher except at the beginning of the school year, when a teacher showed them where the bathroom was. Sometimes an older child (age 5-6) would show a younger or new child where the bathroom was. Whenever a child had to use the toilet, he would simply tell a teacher and then go by himself. Parents were told to dress kids in clothing that was easy to take off to make it easier to use the toilet by themselves (e.g. pants instead of overalls). Kids even had to wipe their own butts, whether or not they had a sense of “quality control” about it.

  39. The comments on that Circle of Moms post are scary. Except for the few who said “depends on maturity level blah blah blah”, everyone else was on the very same bandwagon. Not a single commenter, that I saw, said “10 is too old for a boy to be in the girls restroom”, or “where are you getting your information that public restrooms are full of weirdos”, or any other comment that didn’t support the prevailing mood.

    I wonder if, on these sites, people write what they really really believe, or do they get swept up on the groupthink and follow along with what everyone else says.

  40. Beth, I just got a small flock of quail for my backyard. I also have three bantam hen chicks. They are all about consensus. Within seconds, if anyone strays, they’ve arranged things so that they are all doing the same thing the same way in the same place.

    I believe humans are hard-wired the same way, even if the “flock”- style consensus is slightly, and I do mean slightly, less obvious.

  41. […] Hi Readers! Youd think that, after a certain point, I would be inured to cultural confoundedness. (Or  at least know how to write a sentence in English.) But in fact it is still amazing to me how wild the public imagination has become and how eager it is to imagine the most extremely unlikely, horrifying … Read more: […]

  42. […] Hi Readers! Youd think that, after a certain point, I would be inured to cultural confoundedness. (Or  at least know how to write a sentence in English.) But in fact it is still amazing to me how wild the public imagination has become and how eager it is to imagine the most extremely unlikely, horrifying … Read more: […]

  43. […] Hi Readers! Youd think that, after a certain point, I would be inured to cultural confoundedness. (Or  at least know how to write a sentence in English.) But in fact it is still amazing to me how wild the public imagination has become and how eager it is to imagine the most extremely unlikely, horrifying … Read more: […]

  44. […] Hi Readers! Youd think that, after a certain point, I would be inured to cultural confoundedness. (Or  at least know how to write a sentence in English.) But in fact it is still amazing to me how wild the public imagination has become and how eager it is to imagine the most extremely unlikely, horrifying … Read more: […]

  45. At my church, 2 adults escort children to the bathroom during class to protect the adults. If a parent makes an accusation (say little Daphne fell and bruised her labia on playground equipment & Mom is SURE that it was molestation) there’s a second adult to speak for the accused.

  46. Wow. The worst comment in that Circle of Moms thread of the ones I read (not many) was the one from the mother who still takes her nine year old into the ladies. She admits that she knows that he is embarrassed and thinks loudly blaming her somehow eases that embarrassment. But at least he’s safe.

    How can you justify knowingly and intentionally embarrassing your child in this manner?

  47. OK, y’all are being unfair about the CoM boys-in-the-ladies’-room thread: there WAS at least one commenter swimming against the tide. I know that because it was me. Actually there were a few others, too — but admittedly you’d need to look fairly hard to spot us amidst the panicked-wildebeest-herd of people going “OMG men’s rooms are FULL of child molesters OMG don’t you care about kids’ safety OMG how selfish can you be OMG”.

    There’s another one going on right now where a mom who’s considering letting her 9- and 5-year-old kids wait 10 minutes on their own for the school bus IN FRONT OF THEIR HOUSE on a semi-rural schoolbus route in Vermont, because there are no near neighbours or relatives and she HAS TO GO TO WORK, is being beaten around the head with guilt-bats and called a terrible parent. I mean, obviously the correct thing to do is just go to work late, right? O_O A few of us are trying to inject some sanity into the conversation, and we’re being accused, predictably, of “not caring about [our] kids” as a result.

    I post on that site only because I want there to be those voices of reason and reassurance when someone needs them … but it’s bad for my blood pressure :S

  48. […] or changing room; please don't spread paranoia. A recent relevant post with many opinions:…ass-psychosis/ Reply With Quote + Reply to Thread « Summer Schemes – […]

  49. An interesting note, there is a second question on Circle of Moms about girls in the men’s room with daddy. Very few moms replied but the general consensus is that it is okay when the girl is very young, but definitely not passed 7 or 8 (the very outer limit that I saw anyone suggest would be okay). The moms were very open to the daughter going into the ladies room alone at young ages. Nobody is insisting that girls need to go with their dads until puberty. Nobody was horrified by preschool girls in the bathroom alone.

  50. I don’t mean to seem insensitive, and maybe this is one of those “you’ll understand when you’re a mom” things. But why does the submitter of the original post care so much what her mom’s co-workers think? I notice a lot of parents talking about things like that on the internet. They do something with their child that they think is fine, but someone they don’t even know gives them a dirty look or makes a comment and they question it so much that they take to the internet to find out, was RandomGroceryLady right, or am I?

    In my life without child, people judge me all the time. Some random guy in line behind of me at a coffee shop once rebuked me to “ALWAYS TAKE THE RECEIPT” when I told the girl I didn’t need one. My neighbor still doesn’t understand that I do my hedges with hand clippers because I like doing it, and often comments how badly she feels for me, and how I can borrow her no-fun electric shrub thingy anytime I want. People have commented in Blockbuster that the movie I’m holding sucked, and given me the judgy eyes when I bought a bunch of junk food at the grocery store.

    But I DON’T CARE. They’re random people in the world who aren’t affected by my choices and are maybe even sincerely trying to help (the receipt guy said something about thieves). I bet that the original submitter (and others like her online, don’t mean to pick on her) would also be fairly immune to criticism on these topics. Why does she care about losing this week’s Minor Parenting Decision Workplace Straw Poll?

  51. @Library Diva

    Probably because said RandomGroceryLady could decide you are abusing/neglecting your child and call the police and get family services involved which makes your life a living hell. It keeps parents second guessing just about everything they do in terms of what other people think of it. It’s hard to break out of that.

  52. @Library Diva

    And also, it is one thing to have one accuse you of having bad taste in movies or gardening tools, but quite another to have someone accuse you of being a bad parent and insinuate that you set your kids up to fail in life. It still shouldn’t really matter when it comes from some random stranger – apart from the CPS threat then – but it does become quite a bit harder to just shrug off. I can get very emotional and outraged about someone criticising my parenting even though I am working on ignoring it. That love you feel for your kids can give you great strength but sometimes does tend to make you more vulnerable too, I suppose.

  53. And the stakes are so much higher if you do screw up with your kids. If you pick a bad movie, the worst that happens is a wasted couple hours and dollars. Not a big deal. If I make a bad decision with my kid causing her to get seriously injured or killed or molested, our lives as we know them now are over. If I make a series of seriously bad decisions, her future could be derailed. Because the stakes are so high, there tends to be some insecurity surrounding parenting decisions, even in the most secure person. Others criticising something that you already have some level of insecurity about is hard. So you go to like-minded people to assure you that your decision is not horrible and your child is unlikely to be on a clock tower one day shooting people while screaming “my mother let me go to the bathroom alone at Costco when I was 5.”

  54. After some more thinking on this, I think the biggest issue is probably not even being accused of ‘mere’ bad parenting. It is the insinuation that you don’t care about your child enough to protect their lives. And as corny as it sounds, only a parent can understand how deep that love for their child is and for that to be questioned can be quite earth shattering.

  55. Not to disagree with linvo’s take, because there’s a lot of truth there as well, but I think Donna really nailed it. Even those of us who are pretty confident about our parenting have this level of insecurity, just because the stakes are so high. And the effect of someone questioning your parenting, unless your hide is unusually tough (and I’m not completely certain that’s a good thing) is to make you question yourself — gee, SHOULD I be doing this? Even if you pretty quickly come back with a firmly confident, “Yes,” it’s just another withdrawal from the emotional bank. And over time, having it happen repeatedly, just gets to you.

    And the clock tower comment was brilliant, BTW. 🙂

  56. Yes, I give my daughter who is 4 a lot of freedom and autonomy (she attends Montessori school which even promotes autonomy and independence ). She cooks, uses sharp knives, real sewing needles, etc. I’ve had the habit of occasionally letting her use a public bathroom by herself if it the door was in plain sight. However, I am saddened to relay this story. We were at a restaurant on Saturday for lunch and at the end of the meal, my 4 year old needed to go to the bathroom. My husband and father went to fetch the car and my daughter walked off to the bathroom ( with me and my mom about 30 paces behind but still within viewing range ). She passed the mens room and went down the hallway toward the women’s room ( since she can read the signs ) and as she headed that way, a man from the bar got up, crossed the restaurant and followed her and stood right behind her as she went to open the door ( yeah, nothing at the end of that hall other than the women’s bathroom ). She froze and didn’t open the door, looked at the sign, looked at the man. I then quickly but calmy walked over and put my body between hers and his and said, “Yes, that *is* the women’s room… it is for women only.” and glared at the man who looked like he still wasn’t going to stop until he also saw my mom and another woman walk up and he mumbled and skulked off. You just never know. I have had 3 family members abused/raped… all unsuspecting and in a split second ( near another car at a mall in the evening, broken in via a cracked window in the summertime, etc.) and we live in well-off areas.

    So, you may be smug that your child didn’t get abducted when she went to the bathroom by herself while you were in the checkout line. The dozen times I’ve let my 4 year old go before, nothing happened either. However, if had been distracted even for a minute, that guy would have snuck into that bathroom… I have no doubt by his body language that his intentions were not good.

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