Saturday, April 17, 2010

Little Boys and Bathrooms

A serious question: At what age is it no longer appropriate for me to take my sons into a "ladies" restroom?

Before I was a Mama to little boys, I thought it was strange that clearly potty trained boys would still come into the ladies restroom, but now...my perspective has shifted.

When my husband is with us we always split on gender lines. There are many times he is not around, someone has to go and there is not a family/companion restroom option. So, I am wondering what you other boy Moms do.

As P & R are turning 6 next month, I feel like it might be time--but I am scared. I know I can stand outside and wait, but the thought of a predator lurking makes me crazy. Last week I sent one of the boys into a restroom I consider somewhat 'safe' at the gymnastics gym. There is no outer door, so I could clearly hear in case there was anything amiss. As he entered I heard an almost-too-friendly adult male voice say, "Hello there, buddy" and it was all I could do to not follow him in.
I cleared my throat and called out, "R? Mom is right out here if you need me."
It was very frightening to think that he was vulnerable and out of my sight. This experience, even though it wound up being harmless, did more to frighten me than to reassure.

No one has stared at me funny yet, but I know that day is imminent. So, what is the age limit for crossing gender boundaries in the restroom? Any good tips?

38 comments:

Just Another Ordinary Miracle said...

They still go with me.

Christian @ Modobject at Home said...

As the mother of a 7.5 year old this is something I struggle with... he doesn't want to go in the ladies' room, I don't want him going alone into the men's room. Quite honestly, I don't have a single great answer just a few tips...

1) Go to the bathroom before leaving home/school.
2) If possible make use of "family" bathrooms that many stores are now incorporating -- even if you send your son(s) in alone and wait outside the door, at least it's not the men's room.
3) Another mom recommended keeping a pair of Walkabout walkie-talkies, fully charged, in your purse or car that that your son(s) can carry one into the men's room and maintain communication with you, just in case.

I would love to hear some insights on this from other moms of boys.

Mountain Girl said...

I don't have any kids, but personally, I do not think having 6 y/o boys go into the ladies room with Mom is an unwise thing in this day and age. You could send both boys in together - safety in numbers. I love the walkie talkie idea. I would wait until about 8 or so before allowing them to go into the men's alone. Just use your gut and depends on where you are, etc.

Kodi said...

My child is still a baby, but honestly I think they are too young. Safety trumps feeling silly or even if they don't like it.

Daree said...

All I kept thinking as I read this post was...I am so glad I have girls. Not sure what you should do. If I were you, I too would be asking advice!

Peter and Nancy said...

My 7-year-old still comes in with me, especially if we're at a place that's unfamiliar or has a LOT of traffic. I will send both my boys (7 and 9) into a men's room together, after giving them "buddy system" instructions: stay together, wait for each other, look out for each other. I still wait right outside the door for them, so I can listen for trouble.

They've been told about strangers and how not everyone out there is a good person -- but I'm still squeamish about it.

My friend's 12-year-old son was in the men's room at our city's biggest mall, and a man looked over the bathroom stall and watched him. Just last month, a man from a different state pretended he was a store detective and assaulted a 13-year-old girl outside the Target at that mall. That scared me, because you think of these older ages as safer . . .

That said, I think you are totally right to bring your 6-year-old sons with you!
Nancy

The one girl said...

I love that you have brought this up! Nearly all of our family's volunteer efforts are with local child abuse prevention & response organizations and we are passionate about educating adults on how to keep kids safe. This is an adult's job!

Before having kids, I would never have been bothered by a school-aged boy coming into the restroom with his mother. As a mom, I welcome it! I often follow little girls who are sent into public restrooms unaccompanied because SOMEONE needs to take the right steps to keep them safe.

At age 10, one of my male relatives was sent into a McD's restroom by himself. After five minutes, he returned to the table and acted like nothing was wrong. Years later he shared with his parents that he'd been raped in that restroom and the rapist threatened to kill his family if he told. FIVE MINUTES. AGE TEN. And the child didn't tell. His life after that day was consumed by what happened in that restroom.

My oldest son will be 7 in Sept. and he easily passes for an 8 year old. I will NEVER hesitate to take him into a women's restroom with me. Heck, we have stalls with doors --- what's the kid going to see? Taking girls into a men's room is much trickier, but I know a lot of families that do it --- just cover her eyes and apologize as you rush her into a stall. Kids safety has got to come far ahead of an adults comfort.

Check out this website for great ways to protect children... Download the 7 Steps! http://www.darkness2light.org/

Chad said...

That was me (Suzanne) by the way...not Chad:). Don't think anyone would be offended by him taking the boys to the restroom!

beck'sthree said...

I still take my 7.5 year-old in the women's restroom with me.

I do make exceptions. Obviously, if there is a family restroom without stalls, he (and my almost 6 y/o) can go in alone. (Or if it's any restroom with just one door/toilet.)

Also, if it's a public restroom in a not-very-busy place (the movie theater at a matinee, Burger King), I let them peek in to see if there is anyone else in there. They report right back (5 seconds) to me, and if there is ANYONE else in there, they have to go in the ladies' room with me. If it is completely empty, they are allowed to pee while I stand at the door and wait for them.

Not to be graphic, but this rule applies only to peeing-only restroom trips. If they are doing more (which takes longer), I don't let them use the "no one else in there" approach since I obviously can't stop someone else from entering the restroom after them.

fortyb4forty said...

I have 3 sons (9,7 & 3). They are not allowed in any bathrooms without an adult(parent, or close family friend), even two of them. When the oldest is 10 and the middle is 8 we will consider letting them go together if my husband is not with us. This rule even applies at our church.

Kathy said...

I have girls but I would say keep them with you! I heard about a story in our area where a father took his kids to the movies and sent his young daughter into the restroom alone and she was assaulted. The world is a crazy place and I would rather deal with another woman who might be uncomfortable with the situation (if it ever came up) than take any chances.
You would always feel some stress or anxiety about trying it anyway. We have enough stress from other things. :-P
All the best.

R said...

thank you for asking this question! as soon as we learned our third was a boy in utero (he's 11 mos. now), i've been fearful of this same thing and wondering what i would do.

i just asked my husband, and it was a great discussion! it's much more his arena than mine. :0) we didn't come to any conclusions, other than we'll try our best to find family bathrooms. and we figured what's the hurt in little boys coming to the women's restroom--it's not like they're going to see anything!

davec777 said...

I still take my 5 year old son with me in the women's restroom. If he doesn't want to be in the stall with me, I have him stand right in front of the stall so I can see his feet. I have older boys also, and I can't remember how old they were when I started letting them go to the bathroom by themselves, but I do remember not being shy about opening the men's restroom door a bit and calling to them to make sure they were okay. I would err on the side of protecting your kids.

Kelly @ Love Well said...

We actually just discussed this with a local police officer; she came to our MOPS group to give us some advice about how to address good touch/bad touch with young kids.

Basically, she recommended taking your boys with you into the women's restroom until they are nearing adolescence. She did says molestations in public restrooms are extremely rare. But since there's no harm having them go into a ladies restroom with you, why take the chance? In her words, she would much rather deal with a few disapproving looks from older women than risk her son's future.

Personally, I'm glad more and more stores and restaurants are installing family restrooms. That is such a great solution.

Bridgett said...

As a mom of three boys ages 8, 6 1/5 and 5 that never has her husband with on excursions because he passed away (cancer), this is something we face on a regular basis. If there isn't a family restroom available, they still go in the ladies' room with me. We don't go in one stall all together especially since my oldest has reached the point of modesty, but we do stand in front of the door so whichever one of us is in the stall can see our feet. While they complain about this more and more, they know it's the rule for safety.

JMom said...

THANK YOU for the comments. I am so glad no one expects me to start sending them in solo anytime soon!!!

Bailey's Leaf said...

Thankfully, family bathrooms are cropping up more and more places. I would have a stroke if I had a single boy that I needed to send into the bathroom. However, you are blessed with two boys. If sending them in, I would send them both in, even if only one needs to go. Tell them that it is the buddy system. Do as you still do and stand outside the door. Yell in as you did if you need. If you are running with just one boy, take them into the ladies bathroom with you.

So sad that we have to worry about these things, isn't it?

Sammy said...

This is an incredibly good question. My son is only 1 and a half, so I won't have to deal with this issue for a while, but it is something I have thought about before. I can't say as a mom what I will do, but I can say that whenever I am in the ladies' room and see a mom with her son, I don't even bat an eye. I just think of it as normal.

Tonya Ingram said...

Being a single mom, this thought has crossed my mind many times. I want them to be 'big boys' but it depends on where we are of which bathroom I let them go in. My boys are almost 6 and 7 and they still go to the bathroom with me. I don't care who looks at me funny. It's not like everyone's out in the open or have all the doors open for my little boy eyes to see, and so they won't see anything either! And then after there was an incident at our local Walmart where there was a predator in the bathroom that tried to get a 10 year old boy, I refuse to let them go into a big bathroom by themselves. If it happens to be a single bathroom and I can stand outside the entire time, then ok, but otherwise it ain't happening with me!

Michele said...

My little boy still goes with me and he's almost 7!

A-and-Z's Mom said...

I think, it isn't a single rule that applies to all situations.
For us, we recognize safety issues- I hear plenty about molestations and assaults at work- I am a psychiatrist, after all. On the other hand, we have to train our 6 year old boy to grow up, to become independent, and it is a process. It isn't that I never let him go to a bathroom on his own, and it isn't I always insist that he goes with me.
It depends on where we are, what he is up to...etc. We also regularly discuss this: Your body is your body. It is for the doctor to look at when we go see the doctor, it is for you, and occasionally, for Mommy and Daddy to wipe you. No one touches your penis. No one touches your butt. If someone does, you need to scream.
If we are in a restaurant, one that I am ultra familiar with, with no backdoor out, and just one room for the bathroom, we let him go by himself to wash hands and pee. (He doesn't like to have BMs in public, who does?! And that solves the long wait thing.
If we are in a busy place, I just make the kids go when I go, and thus, it isn't something we discuss.

What I am curious about, if you can write about it, is when you will stop being nude in front of your kids, or have you stopped already?

HW said...

Follow your instincts. Six is too young. Do not send them into a mens room alone. If they push the issue say "you are too precious to me to allow you to go in there alone." My kids still remember me using the "you are too precious to me..."' line on them for things that were unsafe.

My son was about 8 when HE started balking at entering a ladies room with me. I would ask a male store employee to check the mens room and see if it was occupied. If so we'd wait or go to the ladies room. If not, I'd send him in and stand guard at the door. He was always out quickly enough that there were never issues. Thankfully my son had an iron bladder and we didn't have any close calls. I do love the walkie talkie idea, though. Brilliant.

My friend with twin sons (now adults) made her boys sing very loudly while they were in a public restroom. She said if they stopped singing, she was coming in. And she did.

Remember, we have to keep this same issue in mind when our daughters are on outings with daddy. Taking a young girl into a mens room is pretty difficult; although it's probably safer to send her into a ladies room alone than the scenario you write about. On the few occasions my husband faced this (at about age 4 with our girl), he would pick our daughter up and press her face into his shoulder (so she couldn't see anybody), carry her into a stall and remain in the stall with her - facing away from her. He would exit the same way - not even stopping to wash hands. Rinsing in a drinking fountain was better than spending extra time near a urinal with a young daughter. My brother did this same thing with his daughter when she was little.

This is a very important issue with our children. You are entering a 'tween phase with your kids and it can be challenging but I would suggest always erring on the side of TOO protective.

Great comments and suggestions to go with another great post.

Tari said...

I'd wait until 8, and then I'd still make them go together.

MEGAN said...

Better for the boys to be slightly embarrassed than ...any alternative! Also, if they go in together, that seems better. What does your husband think?

Liz said...

I love the responses you've gotten here. I'm with all of them. My son was about 8 before I ever let him go into a public bathroom alone & I told him "You've got 2 minutes before I come in after you!" and he knew I'd do it, too!

Once we were in Chili's and I was waiting for him outside the bathroom door. A man came out giggling soon after Samuel went in. He looked at me & nodded toward the bathroom & said "Your son?". I said yes and he grinned & said "Good job mama....he walked in there, looked at me & said "Don't touch me. My mom's right outside the door."" I LOL'd right there for that one. Glad to know they do hear us once in a while! :)

Heather said...

Even now, at the age of 11, I am VERY watchful when my son goes to a public restroom. As in, I stand outside, check to see if anyone is in there, hold him out until it is empty, crack open the door and call in there if someone enters after him. I don't really care what anyone else thinks, he's mine and I will do all I can to protect him. I also have three girls (13, 8, 6) who I do allow to go together, alone. But they must stay together at all times.

... said...

I am very surprised at all the fear I hear in these comments. There are plenty of things that can happen in this world, but it is actually much safer than it used to be when no one talked to their children about being cautious and not talking to strangers.
It is maybe an opportunity to show our children with our acts and not just our words that we trust in God. Please, Moms, let your boys grow and go...

Collins Characters said...

I have two sons (7 1/2 and 4). We just returned from a trip and I had them go in the restroom with me. My youngest announced as he walked in the restroom, "Sorry, there's a boy in the girls restroom!". Everyone cracked up at his announcement. As we waited in the line, many ladies commented they wouldn't send their boys in a men's restroom alone!

Mickie McGee said...

I raised two sons and took them in with me until they were about your boy's ages, maybe a little older. Women's restrooms typically have stalls so there is nothing in there that should be inappropriate for the boys to see. The men's rooms, however, scare me. Open urinals, to me, are extremely inappropriate. My boys would never use the restroom at high school because of that reason (and the unclean conditions). They would instead call my father, who lived a block away, and he would come get them, let them "do their business" and take them back. I've never understood why men should not be afforded their privacy, just like women.

Kt said...

I certainly sympathize with your plight and agree that the times we live in require extra vigilance on the part of parents of young children.

As a woman using the restroom, I'd prefer more privacy than is afforded when young boys are brought in with their moms.

Obviously, if someone you trust is available to take them to the men's room that's best; followed by making good use of family/companion facilities when available.

However, given that it's likely you WILL need to bring them into the ladies' room for some time yet - I'd request that they be taught appropriate behaviors (not that you haven't addressed this already with them): that they respect privacy; not run around; stay with you or where you designate while waiting; etc. Good manners and consideration can make an uncomfortable experience easier for all concerned.

Debbie said...

My son is 10 and I am just now letting him go into men's restrooms by himself. He was starting to be embarrased going into women's restrooms although there isn't anything to see of course.

Amber said...

I have no clue but I'm glad you asked... I'm enjoying reading everyone else's answers. I have been wondering that very thing!! What about when your husband takes your daughter out and she needs to go potty? My little girl is 4. Should he take her in the men's room or send her alone into the lady's??

Lari said...

My older 3 boys are 13,11 and 7. When the oldest 2 were younger I would let them go together with the rules of...stay together, go in a stall, make it quick, don't talk to anyone. I've also been known to open the men's bathroom door and call in to them if I thought they were taking too long. My thoughts are if the establishment has a problem w/ me doing that they can put in a family bathroom. Fortunately now my 7 yo has big brothers to take him...same rules still apply and if he's the only one w/ me we usually still go in the women's together depending on where we are.

lucinda said...

I take Will in with me or If we are in a situation where I can't go with him, I tell him to go in the ladies room & close the door. He only goes into the men's room if his dad is there.I'm paranoid. If P & R were always together, I would be more comfortable with them going into the mens room, but one at a time, I still can't do. A while back, we were at Applebees in our town in the middle of the afternoon and my then 9 year nephew was with us. He went into the Men's restroom & stayed too long for my comfort,so my husband went in. There was a guy in there who was drunk and who had thrown up and then fell out in the floor in front of the door and my nephew was either going to have to step over the guy or step over/in the vomit to get the door open, so he was just standing there waiting on someone else to come in b/c he was not sure how to get the door open. In the end, he was convinced that the guy was really sick and asked if the food made him sick. We settled with, it was probably what he drank b/c It's not my place to go into the details of that, but that did it for me. Will may be going to women's room for an awkwardly long time and I'm ok with that.

rmslil said...

My nephew is 6.5. He always goes to the restroom with me. He has been allowed alone when it is a one person bathroom and I know no one was in there. I do not anticipate this stopping for a long time. Too many crazy people around here. Always follow your instinct as a mother. Safety first.

Ashley said...

I have no children, but some of these stories have really alarmed me! Keep taking them with you as long as you want, I am a female and would rather see children with parents than alone. Blessings, cannot believe the trio is almost 6!

Kimberly said...

I know you've already gotten several comments on this and I didn't read them all so forgive me if I'm repeating advice.

I have two boys, ages 9 and 6. Most of the time that we're out, my husband is with us(we have 4 children total and I do not enjoy running errands or eating out with them by myself. ;).) If I am alone, I will send them together, after looking inside the bathroom myself. I actually open the door a little and ask if there is anyone in there. If there is, I might send them into the ladies room, though they dislike this. If no one is in there, I let them go in and I stand outside the door and will ask at least once or twice how they are doing. I would NOT send them alone, even for a few minutes, even at older ages; but that's just me.

You're a good Mama to ask around. :)

Renee said...

I let my oldest son go in alone at 7. If we were at a park or somewhere suspicious I would ask him to go in and come back and tell me if anyone else was in there. If so, he had to wait. Also, and this sounds crazy, but we kept two way radios with us in the car for this reason. He began to be really embarassed to come in the ladies restroom when I had to take my little girl. So I let him stand outside with the "walkie talkie". This is an issue all of my friends with boys have struggled with. It's a hard one!