Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Potty all the time

After accidentally walking in on an 8 year old boy in the ladies restroom at the airport, I began questioning whether or not it was appropriate for him to be in there. Getting back in line, I paid close attention to see if the boy entered the bathroom on his own without a parent’s knowledge, something a humorous or devious boy would certainly be capable of, and potentially even get a good laugh or enjoy an interruption from a stranger. He exited the stall and took the sink next to his mother to wash his hands and they exited together chatting, breaking my theory dirty little boy sneaking into the bathroom theory. This incident poses the following question: at what age does it become inappropriate for a boy to be in the women’s bathroom?

Every child is different, so it is not fair to declare a blanket age when a boy should no longer be in the women’s bathroom. It is important to develop criteria that take into account the physical and emotional development of the child in question. For those who are unable to develop their own litmus test for determining if they should accompany their child into a public restroom, I would like to offer the following guidelines for determining if it is okay to bring a child into an opposite sex public rest room:

  • Does your child need help wiping themselves?: This goes without saying, if your child is unable to successfully wipe themselves without making a complete mess of their hands, clothes, toilet, body, etc., then a parent can accompany them into the bathroom.

  • Can your child reach the seat?: If your child is likely to make a mess on the floor or seat due to their inability to reach, then it is appropriate to give them a boost.

  • Will your child fall in?: A no brainer; no one wants to see a child drown in a public toilet.

  • Is your child likely to flush?: This is a gray area for a variety of reasons, with the primary reason being inconsistency; not many children remember to flush 100% of the time. If your child remembers to flush more then 50% of the time, then it is okay for them to go to the bathroom themselves. Many adults in public restrooms forget, so it is certainly forgivable when a child forgets.

  • Will your child remember to wash their hands?: A non-issue, every parent carries anti-bacterial soap and wipes these days, they can wash their hands after they leave the bathroom.

  • Will your child lock themselves in the stall?: A child locking themselves in the stall could be a very traumatic event in their lives. If they do not possess the dexterity to adequately maneuver the locking mechanism, then they need help in a public restroom. If they are purposely locking themselves in the restroom as a joke or a way to torment adults, then they should be punished accordingly for being a snot-nosed brat.

  • Will your child stop up the sink and flood the bathroom?: May I suggest military school?

  • Am I taking my child into the bathroom for my convenience?: If the only reason to take a child into the bathroom is to make life easier, then it is time to cut the cord and let them live a little. How can a child learn to be independent if they are not allowed to do their business on their own? If you are worried about kidnappers and pedophiles then designate an amount of time that is appropriate and then call into the bathroom, or ask an old man (or lady) to keep an eye out for you. The whole world is not evil and this is part of it taking a village to raise a child.

  • Does your boy become physically aroused at the site of women?: If they can get their kicks peeking under the stalls at other women, then they should not be given the opportunity to do so.

  • Would a little girl of the same age in the men’s room be appropriate?: A double standard exists when it comes to children in the restroom of the opposite sex. Sure, there is more for a little girl to witness at the urinal wall in a men’s room, but this double standard certainly poses issues with single Dads of little girls and fathers being out and about with their children, sans Mom. If every woman asked “How would I feel if my daughter went into the Men’s room at this age,” we would most certainly have fewer boys inappropriately in the ladies room, and children gaining the skills necessary to truly declare they are potty trained.


Husband said...

I agree that there can't be a hard-set date for when it's time to let a child go to a public bathroom by themselves, but I think age 5 is a good rule of thumb.
Obviously in this case the child did everything by themselves, it just happened to be in the women's room. Anyway, over age 5 I think there needs to be a compelling reason to have your child join you in the restroom.

Anonymous said...

As a mother of a 5 year old boy - let me say this: he is old enough to go to the bathroom be himself (and prefers to).
However, when we are at an airport or some other place with really large, public restrooms, I feel nervous about having him go by himself. There are so many weird people out there and I would like to keep my eye on him. Just imagine - Christopher goes to the mens bathroom. He is gone for more than 10 minutes. I am standing outside wondering whether he is okay or not.
Usually, it is not a problem because his dad is there if we are in a place with large, public restrooms.