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Public Restroom 101

Ahhh! I've become hypermom without wanting or trying.

For a few minutes, a recent shopping trip at Costco turned me helicopterish. The boys had a simple -- quite normal -- request. To go to the bathroom. And so, they went in without me. To be fair, they often go into the men's room while I stand outside. While it often makes me nervous, I usually get over it. After all, I can't bring them into the women's room anymore, can I?

This time, though, the restroom trip took a long time. As men walked in and out, I'd memorize their faces. There's something about that closed door and no noise that makes me worry. Somehow, I don't think the men would appreciate some random mom walking into their restroom to check on two little boys. When a dad walked out with his son, I asked for -- and got -- a status update on the boys.

What's odd is that I've got no problem letting 6-year-old ride his bike out of my sight at the park or on our neighborhood streets. I've even thought that he'd be fine walking the two blocks to school himself in a pinch if he asked to do so. And I've successfully let both the 6-year-old and the 4-year-old wait outside the women's room for me. So far they've stayed put and been just fine.

But this trip, this time, that public restroom worry just took over.

How have you handled public restroom decorum? At what age is it okay to send them in alone? And wait outside for you? Is the age different for boys and girls given the differences in men's and women's restrooms?

By Stacey Garfinkle |  December 3, 2008; 7:00 AM ET  | Category:  Elementary Schoolers , Preschoolers
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Comments


The boys went into the restroom together. Nuns used to travel in pairs for a reason.

"Somehow, I don't think the men would appreciate some random mom walking into their restroom to check on two little boys."

When it comes to my loved ones' safety, I don't give a rat's a$s ... I might look for a male employee for assistance, but I tend go by my gut on these things.

Posted by: jezebel3 | December 3, 2008 7:12 AM | Report abuse

More family restrooms (with changing stations) would be very helpful. My DH has the same concerns with our daughter and public restrooms.

Posted by: ishgebibble | December 3, 2008 7:27 AM | Report abuse

It totally depends on where we are - a quiet restaurant doesn't compare to Sam's Club. But sending children in pairs (with strict instructions to watch each other) is good. Family restrooms are the BEST idea and we should encourage establishments to create them. Abuse DOES happen more often than we'd like to think and because you are surveying your child closely does not make you a helicopter parent or a hypermom. It makes you the mom who doesn't appear on TV begging for her child's release.

Posted by: Stormy1 | December 3, 2008 8:03 AM | Report abuse

Stacey - in that situation, just tell any man heading in (or even in the vicinity if you're that worried) that your two sons are in the men's room and to please tell them to come out or let you know if there's a problem. Ninety-nine point nine nine nine percent of the men in that Costco would help you in the blink of an eye. (Yes, I made that number up but I'm pretty sure the real number's in that ballpark.)

My brother's experience: he was out with his three year old daughter when she had to go. He hustled her into the nearest men's room and was trying to get her into a stall. She saw a man using a urinal and hollered "hey, man! Quit pee-ing in the sink!"

Caused me to adopt a protocol for use in the same situations - "Okay, we're going in to the restroom. I'm going to pick you up and carry you. You bury your eyes in my shoulder and don't look until I tell you it's okay." Yeah, I felt like a prude, but it made things easier for me AND for the other men in there at the time. :-)

Posted by: ArmyBrat1 | December 3, 2008 8:04 AM | Report abuse

I have all girls, so this is usually not an issue. When my oldest was 8 she started asking to use the bathroom by herself when we were out shopping or at dinner. Now she is 10 and I will admit it still makes me nervous if we are in a busy place. Usually, I will ask her to take 7 yr old with her. I think that they are safer together. They walk to school together every morning, but for some reason that's been easier for me.

I remember when I was little and my Dad would occasionally need to take me into the men's room if I had to go. He would cover my eyes and walk behind me until I was in a stall and then he'd wait outside of it. If DH has our girls out he looks for family bathrooms or simply waits outside and sends a pair inside.

Posted by: thosewilsongirls | December 3, 2008 8:25 AM | Report abuse

What do you do, then, if you only have one boy? How long can you keep taking him into the women's room with you?

Posted by: goaway41 | December 3, 2008 8:39 AM | Report abuse

Personally, I would not allow my kids at that age to use the restroom without my supervision, and I think I'm a pretty easygoing person about most parenting issues. I used to make my son go into the women's restroom on the New Jersey turnpike if we were traveling without my husband, until my son was about 11 or 12 years old (at the time he was on the small side for his age).

As someone with a male relative who was molested (not by a stranger), I try not to take that chance. I would guess most times it would be completely safe, but if I have a choice, I exercise it.

Posted by: readerny | December 3, 2008 8:41 AM | Report abuse

Back in the 60's, when I would go out with my dad and need to use the bathroom - he would go in the men's room and make sure there was no one in any of the stalls. Then he would send me in alone, while he stood outside and asked men to wait a minute until I came out. I didn't go to the woman's room alone until I was about 12.

This was before we heard about child molestation/abduction all the time - but my dad worked with kids and so I think he saw the wider spectrum of what happened to children who were unprotected.

Sure, almost every time a child will be safe but there are perverts, etc. and they sit and WAIT for the vulnerable child.

I am likewise as careful - with both my boys and my girls. By age 9 or 10 I let them go to bathrooms on their own - but I don't know about Costco. I'd probably prefer they go out behind a tree in the parking lot than go into a busy, crowded restroom where the door closes. You never know who's in the stall.

Plus - I don't get what the 4 year old is supposed to do if someone grabs the 6 year old? Scream? Go get mom? These ages are too young for them to have that kind of responsbility and the resulting guilt if something goes wrong.

Posted by: Amelia5 | December 3, 2008 8:59 AM | Report abuse

"What do you do, then, if you only have one boy? How long can you keep taking him into the women's room with you?"

Until the other women scream and holler about a teenaged boy being in the women's restroom. If they start threatening to call the cops, or actually call the cops, he's too old.

"I used to make my son go into the women's restroom on the New Jersey turnpike if we were traveling without my husband, until my son was about 11 or 12 years old (at the time he was on the small side for his age)."

Wow - you're really lucky nobody called the cops on you.

Seriously, for the women out there: You go into a women's restroom. There's a boy you don't know waiting by a sink; somebody who may be his mother is in a stall. How old can he be before you get upset? Is a 6 year old okay? How about a 10 year old? A 14 year old? An 18 year old?

(Does it change if, at the instant you walk in, there's obviously a boy in a stall who from appearances/sounds seems to be 10? 14? 18?)

My wife had to confront this issue. She went in to the facilities at Rogers Centre - the baseball stadium in Toronto, formerly SkyDome - and there was a 16 year old boy waiting by the sinks, just looking around. My wife and a couple of other women summoned security, who were confronted by the boy's very angry mother when she came out of the stall. Her son wasn't safe without her; how dare they even question her for bringing in with her? What was she supposed to do - go use the men's room?

Posted by: m2j5c2 | December 3, 2008 9:04 AM | Report abuse

Just make sure you inform the boys that playing footsies under the stall could get them arrested!

And that would be the end of their political career to boot!

Posted by: WhackyWeasel | December 3, 2008 9:04 AM | Report abuse

two boys go into the bathroom and a pervert is waiting in the stall.

for anything bad to occur the pervert would have to subdue both boys while avoiding any struggle or word of 'help' to escape either's mouth. and the bathroom would have to be empty other than the perv and the two boys. (obviously, the presence of any other man would result in a bad day for the perv)

and then the perv would have to do his bad stuff while still keeping both boys quiet.

i guess he could knock both boys unconscious and then molest.

my point is that living with that kind of fear (the fear that the unbelievably unlikely will occur) must be crippling.

Posted by: interestingidea1234 | December 3, 2008 9:14 AM | Report abuse

Sorry, a 16 year old boy should NOT be in a women's restroom! Talk about a serious momma's boy - she has pretty much ruined him.
Slightly off topic but still concerning restrooms - could you parents of small ones PLEASE clean up after them when they use public facilities?? PLEASE???

Posted by: Catwhowalked | December 3, 2008 9:23 AM | Report abuse

"two boys go into the bathroom and a pervert is waiting in the stall...."

Aw heck, I was hoping this post would end with a punch line.

Posted by: WhackyWeasel | December 3, 2008 9:25 AM | Report abuse

we all get nervous about the security of our children. you've just got to hold back the crazy.

Posted by: interestingidea1234 | December 3, 2008 9:32 AM | Report abuse

fr m2j5c2:

>...Her son wasn't safe without her; how dare they even question her for bringing in with her? What was she supposed to do - go use the men's room?

Age 6, no problem. But 16??? Heck, I'd more afraid of him! Mommy needs to cut the apron strings, and NOW.

Posted by: Alex511 | December 3, 2008 9:45 AM | Report abuse

As a dad of young kids, I can say that I have absolutely no problem at all with a worried mom coming into the men's room to check on her sons. Their safety is more important than my privacy.

Of course, simply asking someone to check on them is probably a better choice in most situations.

Posted by: foobar417 | December 3, 2008 9:55 AM | Report abuse

I don't worry at all about sending my daughter into the women's bathroom alone. She's been doing that since she was old enough to reliably reach the soap and paper towels (about 5), and she
has only encountered friendly and helpful women.

The men's bathroom is unfortunately a different scene altogether, and given the potential hazards, I'd continue to take a 6-year-old and 4-year-old boy into the women's bathroom with me. I honestly can't imagine a woman complaining about this: all of the personal business is done behind closed doors, anyway. A locker room at a gym/pool is a much more complicated situation, with women changing out in the open.

Posted by: glovpk77 | December 3, 2008 10:00 AM | Report abuse

I'd probably do what Stacey did -- hover outside and ask some men to check for me if things were taking too long. And I'd be a lot more comfortable in a big, busy bathroom than a smaller one -- it just seems to make more sense that someone on the lookout for a kid to abuse would be looking for a more private place, where there weren't 10 other men around to beat the crap out of him.

But ditto glovpk77's comment about locker rooms. At my old gym, there was one mom who insisted on bringing her son into the women's locker room -- even though they also had a family locker room. He was probably 7-8 years old, and was basically chest-high on me. Ah-hem. Hello, mom?

As far as I'm concerned, when they're old enough to really understand what they're seeing, they're too old to be seeing it.

Posted by: laura33 | December 3, 2008 10:15 AM | Report abuse

A serious request for suggestions - I'm a single-mother-to-be, and not sure if my child will be a boy or girl. And I drive 350 miles several times a year to see my family. Assuming I have a son, at what age do I leave him standing right outside the ladies room to wait for me (at a rest stop anywhere on I-95), and then wait for him, vs. bringing him in with me? Do I find another family and ask them to keep an eye on the boy so that mommy can go to the bathroom? Because of course there is often a line at the ladies room. And while some of the larger reststops do have a family restroom (or a lesser known and utlized upstairs restroom, where you won't piss off as many people), many of the smaller stops are just bathroom facilities and vending machines. Do you leave your kid waiting outside so you can go? Or do you pull off the highway to a fast food restaurant, where there won't be much of a line, and maybe you feel safer letting your kid go in alone? And how do you find the line between being an active, smart, caring parent, and being a paranoid parent?

Posted by: JHBVA | December 3, 2008 10:27 AM | Report abuse

Do the same rules apply to the locker room at the gym? I saw a guy a couple of weeks ago with girls roughly 4 and 6 in the changing area with lots of guys getting out of the shower and just walking around without a towel. Someone finally suggested that he use the family locker room, the existence of which was a total shock to him.

Absent a family locker room or changing area, what are the rules for this regarding when a child is too old to be in the opposite gender facility?

Posted by: skipper7 | December 3, 2008 10:32 AM | Report abuse

She went in to the facilities at Rogers Centre - the baseball stadium in Toronto, formerly SkyDome - and there was a 16 year old boy waiting by the sinks, just looking around. My wife and a couple of other women summoned security, who were confronted by the boy's very angry mother when she came out of the stall.

Posted by: m2j5c2 | December 3, 2008 9:04 AM | Report abuse

The 16 year old could be a college student.....

Posted by: jezebel3 | December 3, 2008 10:39 AM | Report abuse

Our gym has signs posted that kids 6 and older need to go into the correct gendered locker room or the family room.

Funny story, though: A mom friend had her 5-year-old son in the locker room with her. Another mother in the locker room commented that boys his age aren't allowed and that he was making her daughter nervous. Friend tells mom that her son is not too old to be in the locker room. Other mother doesn't believe her. At the time, friend was totally forgetting that her son is tall for his age and the other mother was assuming he was a couple of years older than his actual age. Friend realized it later in the day upon reflection.

Posted by: Stacey Garfinkle | December 3, 2008 10:56 AM | Report abuse

JHBVA - what you do is go to the fast-food restaurant. There's less of a line; it's better controlled; you can stay outside the restroom while he's in there; he's safer standing outside the ladies' room. In many cases, fast food restrooms are "one holers" so you can take him in with you.

Laura/skipper7: our local YMCA mandates "school aged children" use the proper gender locker room. You could probably bring in a 5 or 6 year old if you were really that concerned, but it's not generally worth it. It's unlikely, given how busy the locker rooms are, that anything would happen in there.

Posted by: ArmyBrat1 | December 3, 2008 10:58 AM | Report abuse

I had no idea that I even had to be concerned about letting my stepson use the men's room by himself. He is 6. If a family room is available, we use that together but otherwise he goes to the men's bathroom by himself. He has no desire to use the girl's bathroom. That is for girls.

And I am sorry but if a 16 year old can't stand outside by himself there is an issue!

Posted by: Billie_R | December 3, 2008 11:15 AM | Report abuse

JHBVA:

Ditto the fast food restaurant restroom situation. My girls are 7 and 9 and go in the restroom by themselves now (of course, I can go check if they take too long), but I cannot imagine letting them out of my site at a rest stop.

Just keep in mind that restaurants assume that if no one is at the table that you have left the restaurant. When my older daughter was 4 she and I were in a local restaurant and she needed to go just after we had ordered and the drinks had been delivered. We went in together, didn't stay long, and when we got back out, our table had been cleared.

Posted by: janedoe5 | December 3, 2008 11:40 AM | Report abuse

"what age do I leave him standing right outside the ladies room to wait for me..."

Considering that parents can get arrested for neglect by leaving their 12 year alone in the safety of their own house, and then assessing the danger of leaving a child alone at a public place such as a roadstop, if there was a law about it, I hope it would be a minimum of 12.

or you would have to pick: getting arrested for child endangerment, or get arrested for some sort of violation of gender law.

Considering special circumstances, needs of your child, and of course, safety,
I would put the cutoff at 16. Any older than that, I think other arrangements should be made to avoid getting separated from your child in a public place.

Posted by: WhackyWeasel | December 3, 2008 11:41 AM | Report abuse

I used to have no problem letting my 6 year old go into the restroom by himself while I stood outside. There was one time though that I waited outside for him (this was in a grocery store) when a gentleman approached me. He asked me if I was waiting for a young son and when I said yes, he said that he couldn't go in and walked away. I'm not sure if he was a sex offender and not allowed by law to go in or just not comfortable with the situation. I appreciated his honesty, but now I'm uncomfortable letting my son go in there by himself. What if that guy had been in there before my son went in?

I think he's still ok going in the ladies room with me, but if he puts up a fight about it ("Mom, that's the girl's room!"), I'll crack the men's room door and say "Mom alert, anyone in here?". If there's no response, I peek in and let him go in. If there's a response, I wait until they come out and ask if anyone else is in there. I wait outside still, but I make sure to tell anyone else going in that I'm waiting on my son.

Posted by: MEALmama | December 3, 2008 11:49 AM | Report abuse

My wife has the same concern with my 9 year old son. What she does is the following: When the boy goes into the restroom she stands at the door with it open just a crack and talks (shouts) to her son asking questions about the restroom such as what colors are the walls, is there music etc.? Since she is not in the restroom she is not invading the privacy of adult males in the restroom but it certainly makes it a lot more difficult for an adult male to perpetuate some sort of act that we are all worried about in the first place.

Our son enjoys answering back to the questions, its kind of a game to him.

Hope this idea helps!

Posted by: toddswartz | December 3, 2008 11:51 AM | Report abuse

I'm more careful places like highway rest stops because the downsides are so big. But at a mall or store I think hovering around waiting for your kid, and then parking them there to wait for you (handcuffed to a table?) is sufficient.

A single Mom might try getting off the highway and finding a McDonald's where there aren't so many people.

Since women's restrooms usually have all stalls dragging a slightly older boy into the women's room is pretty acceptable.

Posted by: RedBird27 | December 3, 2008 12:28 PM | Report abuse

I have a nine year old boy who no longer wants to go into the ladies room with me. I do feel anxious whenever his Dad is not with us to escort him to the men's bathroom. I also stand outside the door in order to see "as much as possible" what's going on in there. I wouldn't hesitate to go in if I felt he was taking too long or ask a man to do it for me. His safety comes first over any embarassment this may cause someone.

Posted by: wilsonkp | December 3, 2008 12:28 PM | Report abuse

My son is 11 now and he has been using the men's room by himself probably since about 9. Started with restaurants, smaller and easier to keep an eye on. I still don't like restrooms with 2 exits - like at a public pool, airport or highway reststop. In those cases, I hover right by the door, and possibly yell questions to him if it's taking a while.

If I'm really uncomfortable, I will have him use the women's room. But, that hasn't happened in a while and I don't know how his current age would play in with my comfort level. For example, if it were just my son and me at say, Disney World, or some other crazy crowded place, I don't think I'd let him go into the men's room alone. But they have family restrooms now, so that's an option.

Posted by: BlueBird4 | December 3, 2008 12:54 PM | Report abuse

I must admit that I get offended when I see a boy older than a toddler in the women's room, so I've always assumed that men feel the same way about girls in the men's room. If the kid is out of diapers but not old enough to use the bathroom on his/her own, a family bathroom is the perfect solution. But if the kid IS old enough to use the bathrooom independently, I don't want him watching me, and that goes double for gym locker rooms. I was in a locker room once when a mom brought in her son, then she insisted that people shouldn't get undressed in the open because her little boy was there.

Posted by: beachy1 | December 3, 2008 12:56 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for the comments. A few extra minutes to pull off the highway and find a McDonald's is fine with me. Priorities and all that. I also liked the "mom alert", and calling/answering questions. I realize all of this is still a few years away - for the near future my issue will be getting into the bathroom to relieve myself without waking the baby getting in and out of the car. The "drive while the baby sleeps" mantra doesn't easily allow for single-parent bathroom breaks.

Posted by: JHBVA | December 3, 2008 12:57 PM | Report abuse

Oh - and a 16-year old in the women's restroom? If the kid had obvious developmental issues, maybe. MAYBE. But generally speaking, if your 16 year old isn't old enough to stay in his seat for a game/concert/etc while you go to the bathroom, then you're one heck of a bad parent. And I would have asked for security also.

Posted by: JHBVA | December 3, 2008 12:59 PM | Report abuse

A couple of years ago I saw a Hooters restaurant waitress take a little girl (about 5 maybe) who was with her dad to the bathroom. I though that was a good solution, assuming the waitress had time.

Posted by: TashaMike | December 3, 2008 1:13 PM | Report abuse

"my issue will be getting into the bathroom
to relieve myself without waking the baby getting in and out of the car"

JHBVA, the real issue will be if you have the nerves to leave your baby in a car all by himself while you are gone. In some cases, 8 year olds are not to be trusted left alone in a car all by themselves and for that matter, some 70 year olds should never be left alone either.

Posted by: WhackyWeasel | December 3, 2008 1:33 PM | Report abuse

When our boys were competent at wiping themselves after number 2, that's when they could go to restrooms without a parent accompanying them. I don't remember exactly what ages that was for each of them.

I do remember that younger son was six and sometimes went into the men's room without me, and sometimes still used the women's room. We were in an attorney's office (special ed consultation about older son) and younger son needed to use the restroom. The directions to the facilities in this old building were pretty complicated, so I walked him to the door. He refused to use the women's room anymore that day, but for some reason he wanted me to come inside the men's room with him. So, since he was 'dancing' and refusing to go in without me, I opened the door a little and called out. Nobody was in there, and we walked in together. Then a minute later an older gentleman (later turned out to be our attorney's senior partner) walked in, and the poor guy about had a heart attack from meeting a woman in *his* restroom. I explained and apologized, and apologized!

On the way back through the maze to the attorney offices, I explained to younger son that his clinginess had caused both me and another person a whole bunch of discomfort and embarassment, and that I thought he was old enough to go into the men's room by himself. But if he felt he wasn't old enough, then from now on he could go into the women's room with me, or he could ask his dad to take him.

Hindsight is 20-20 of course, and it would have been simpler to have his dad escort him, but neither of us expected that he'd be so difficult - it was the first time he'd ever objected to using the women's room.

Oh, and *OFF TOPIC*, that attorney consultation didn't lead to a lawsuit against the school, but it did prepare us very, very well for our next IEP meeting, so there was no suit because it wasn't necessary.

Posted by: SueMc | December 3, 2008 2:06 PM | Report abuse

I suggest parents should start reading the book "The Gift of Fear". Also, teach your kids to scream like hell if someone ever inappropriately touches or threatens them in a restroom or public place. We sometimes make our kids yell at the top of their lungs and then say "that's how loudly you scream for help if you ever need it". The way our children are raised today like hothouse flowers, I'll bet some of them have never really belted it out for fear of getting in trouble.

Posted by: WorkingMomX | December 3, 2008 2:24 PM | Report abuse

My son is almost 8 and I still generally take him to the ladies room with me. I frankly don't care if mothers brought older boys in there. Its not like the men's room where you are exposed. I always think about that boy who was killed in the mens room at the camp ground in CA several years back while his mother waited outside. Sending my son into a room when grown men who are strangers have their penises out and presumably my son would too, is like asking for trouble. I don't know the exact right age, but 8 isn't it and sending a 6 and 4 yr. old is inconceivable to me. Oh, and daughter goes with dad to men's room stall if he has her w/o me. Most places have family bathrooms anymore anyway. Its not a big deal if you don't make it one.

Posted by: moxiemom1 | December 3, 2008 2:26 PM | Report abuse

Also, teach your kids to scream like hell if someone ever inappropriately touches or threatens them in a restroom or public place.

Posted by: WorkingMomX | December 3, 2008 2:24 PM |

Scream "Fire" like hell to attrack the most attention.

Posted by: jezebel3 | December 3, 2008 2:38 PM | Report abuse

Correction:

Scream "Fire" like hell to attract the most attention.

Posted by: jezebel3 | December 3, 2008 2:40 PM | Report abuse

Ugh, moxie, you're right, that poor child never had the chance to scream. Maybe we should arm our children? (JUST KIDDING.)

Posted by: WorkingMomX | December 3, 2008 3:00 PM | Report abuse

JHBVA: Some restaurants have only single restrooms (no stalls, just one toilet). I know that Quizno's and Starbucks typically have these kinds of restrooms, as do small, independently-owned coffee shops and sandwich shops. You and your son may be more comfortable there because he will be the only one who can be in there and there's no risk of pervs getting in until he comes out.

Posted by: Monagatuna | December 3, 2008 3:00 PM | Report abuse

fr TashaMike:

>A couple of years ago I saw a Hooters restaurant waitress take a little girl (about 5 maybe) who was with her dad to the bathroom...

A 5 year old girl has absolutely NO business being at a dive like "hooters". Obviously "daddy" was teaching her that he's totally oblivious to what could happen to her. "hooters" teaches boys that it's ok to ogle and leer at women, and possibly leading to RAPE later on. I pity that little girl, immensely.

Posted by: Alex511 | December 3, 2008 3:29 PM | Report abuse

"hooters" teaches boys that it's ok to ogle and leer at women, and possibly leading to RAPE later on. I pity that little girl, immensely"

You were turned down for employment at hooters because you were fat weren't you.............

Posted by: pwaa | December 3, 2008 3:47 PM | Report abuse

Carm down, y'all, the Hooters thing was almost certainly a joke.

Posted by: WorkingMomX | December 3, 2008 3:51 PM | Report abuse

Carm down, y'all, the Hooters thing was almost certainly a joke.

Posted by: WorkingMomX | December 3, 2008 3:51 PM

I agree - I think someone's sarcasm meter needs adjusting!!
And - Hooters leads to rape??? Methinks someone flunked Logic 101....

Posted by: Catwhowalked | December 3, 2008 3:57 PM | Report abuse

I agree - I think someone's sarcasm meter needs adjusting!!
And - Hooters leads to rape??? Methinks someone flunked Logic 101....

Posted by: Catwhowalked | December 3, 2008 3:57 PM | Report abuse


AND "hooters" teaches boys that it's ok to ogle and leer at women" LOL!!!

Posted by: jezebel3 | December 3, 2008 4:13 PM | Report abuse

I think what depresses me the most about this entire discussion is the assumption that most men are perverts, and women are just fine to be trusted at all times.

Seriously. To be that paranoid of a men's room means you're assuming that a majority of men are pedophiles. Looks at the percentages you're talking about here and you'll see the likelihood of your kid being molested in a public restroom is too small to waste your life on that kind of fear.

My son is three, and like the previous poster, when he's pretty competent in cleaning up after himself, and I can trust him to actually GO TO THE RESTROOM, and not dawdle and talk to people on the way there, he will probably be allowed to go by himself in restaurants and such. Ball parks and the like, maybe a bit later as it can be hard to find your way back to your seat. But he'll probably still go into the men's room alone, and I'd wait for him.

Posted by: Mazarin | December 3, 2008 4:37 PM | Report abuse

You may be right. I may be crazy. But, I think I'm right.

Posted by: WorkingMomX | December 3, 2008 4:38 PM | Report abuse

Mazarin -- The thing is, statistics prove that men are much much much more likely to be the ones who sexually (and physically) assault children. So it's a reasonable assumption, insofar as saying women are assumed safer than men when it comes to children somewhere alone. In fact, we teach our children not to look for a police officer if lost (because security guards look like cops), but to find a woman, preferably a woman with children.

That said, my husband has often stated what a sad world we live in when a male coach or teacher can't comfort a crying child with a hug or any show of affection. So I get where you're coming from, I admit it's sad, but it is what it is.

Posted by: WorkingMomX | December 3, 2008 4:46 PM | Report abuse

WorkingMomX, we're just going to have to disagree on this one. We taught all of our kids to look for police officers if they were lost. (The fact that we have several police officers in the extended family probably biased us. :-)

It's also wise to remember that in the VAST majority of child molestation cases the victim knows the perpetrator - in only something like 10% of the cases is the perp a stranger. While it's good to teach your children what to do in situations where strangers are trying to do things to them, it's also wise to remind them that friends and family aren't to touch them inappropriately, either.

And IMNSHO an 8 year old boy is too old to be in women's restroom/locker room unless there are EXTREMELY extenuating circumstances (such as, there are severe developmental issues; or he's so sick or injured that he can't take care of himself).

Like I said, we're just going to have to agree to disagree here.

Posted by: ArmyBrat1 | December 3, 2008 4:56 PM | Report abuse

ArmyBrat, I used to tell my kids that as well, about the police officers. Then I read the book I referred to earlier today, "The Gift of Fear". It changed my mind. Regarding finding a woman instead of a cop, I promise you that if a child ever comes to me, lost, I will not leave that kid's side until I am certain he/she is back with the appropriate parent or guardian, or with the police in safe hands. I've spoken to a lot of women about this, and every single one said the same thing.

Also, apparently a disproportionate number of security guards are serial killers, rapists, child molesters. Again, read the book. It's written by an extremely well-informed guy whose got the credentials to back up what he's saying (and what I'm repeating here).

Posted by: WorkingMomX | December 3, 2008 5:04 PM | Report abuse

I agree with WorkingMomX - most men are not pedophiles, but most pedophiles are men. I get not having older boys in locker rooms, but in the restroom? Armybrat, dunno if you've ever been in a ladies room, but its totally rated G stuff in there. No show. Your kid would see more at Hooters. Seriously.

Posted by: moxiemom1 | December 3, 2008 5:15 PM | Report abuse

"two boys go into the bathroom and a pervert is waiting in the stall.

for anything bad to occur the pervert would have to subdue both boys while avoiding any struggle or word of 'help' to escape either's mouth. and the bathroom would have to be empty other than the perv and the two boys. (obviously, the presence of any other man would result in a bad day for the perv)"

Actually - no. My office once represented a child molester in Fairfax who molested children at a store that sold electronics and VIDEOTAPED it and the parents could be seen in the video. How could that happen? Because, pedophiles are sneaky and clever. The store had set up a video where the children could see themselves on a moniter and the pervert was standing nearby - while the parents turned to look at equip or to talk to another salesmand, the pervert liften their skirt or rubbed their crotch while he also rubbed his crotch - but he was touching the children in a playful - poke at them way "hey, look you're on tv!" and most of the children DID NOT EVEN notice or understand what was going on. And some of them were certainly 6 years old.

His wife found the videos and turned him in.

So - sending the 4 and 6 year old children in the bathroom might result in their being molested and not understanding or being able to communicate it. Child molestation is often not violent or the same as kidnapping - and a young child often doesn't know how to report it.

Imagine, a man in the bathroom offering to turn on the sink for the child - and grabbing him by the crotch?

Posted by: Amelia5 | December 3, 2008 5:55 PM | Report abuse

Is this *really* such a big concern - perverts lurking in public restrooms waiting for unaccompanied children to molest? It seems so blown out of proportion to reality, to me.

Worrying about significant dangers, like safely crossing busy city streets, or or always wearing seatbelts in case of a car accident, seems to make a whole lot more sense. Why go looking for (and making life more difficult for oneself and one's children) ways to prevent 1 in 100,000,000 risks from happening? It's just borrowing trouble and stressing over practically nothing.

I have real worries about my kids, but I don't waste my time and energy - or scare my boys unnecessarily - with risks that are vanishingly small or mostly imaginary. This just seems like crying wolf.

Posted by: SueMc | December 3, 2008 6:38 PM | Report abuse

suemc-

I really wish you were right, but I think we all know of people who have had this experience. The fact is that public bathrooms are enclosed spaces that are largely soundproofed and difficult to escape from (rather like elevators, actually). Unfortunately, child molestation is not a 1 in 100,000,000 prospect, as you say.

I will second the recommendation of "the gift of fear" and the sequal, "protecting the gift." The author has a lot of good advice about trusting your instincts and recognizing and getting out of risky situations.

Posted by: floof | December 3, 2008 9:48 PM | Report abuse

For those teaching their children to scream - I used to help teach a "stranger danger" class for kids at my tae kwon do studio. We always taught kids to scream - at the top of their lungs - "not my mommy, not my daddy".

If you're in the park, at a ball game, etc., every parent, grandparent, former babysitter, or other responsible adult in the area will recognize that as a sign that something bad is happening.

Posted by: JHBVA | December 4, 2008 8:48 AM | Report abuse

I think having rooms separated by sex is silly to start with, but I know that's not going to change.

Posted by: EmeraldEAD | December 8, 2008 4:17 PM | Report abuse

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