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Should Older Boys Be Allowed in Women’s Restrooms?

What’s HE doing in here??

I cringed as I felt the hostility directed toward my son and me.  As our turn came up and I directed my children into the now vacant stalls, I wondered if I should address the middle-aged sourpuss whose only fault was perhaps saying her thoughts out loud.  It was a split second decision and I chickened out went about our business and left without trying to enlighten her in any way.

I resented that lady’s comment and her tone – and how without thinking she embarrassed my son and irritated me – at the same time, I get her point.  It is a bit unnerving to see older boys (past the age of 5, let’s say) in the women’s restroom.  Little boys seem oblivious to it all, but older ones appear out of place. There is a bit of awkwardness that we all experience and I understand why that woman felt an intruder had entered her private domain.

At the same time, where else did she think he could go?  We were in Ghirardelli Square, a hot spot in San Francisco, visited by millions of tourists (and locals like us) each year.  The sun was actually shining (for the most part) which felt like a rarity after these past cold and wet winter months.  Others had the same idea we did – to crawl out of dark caves and enjoy some fresh air in and around the big city.  And what would a fun, outdoor activity be like if my 5 year old daughter didn’t have to use the restroom at least once while we were out and about?!  There in lies the dilemma:  with my husband not with us this time, what the heck do I do with my 8-year old son?

As is often the case, the line for the women’s restroom extended out the door.  The area around the restrooms was crowded as well, with an abundant amount of people going in and out and causally waiting around.  Was I just going to have him hang out there and wait for us?  You have got to be kidding me!  I made him come with me (much to his dismay).  He had no particular need to use the restroom or any desire to wait in that long line of women with us.  But where else could he go?  Send him in one of the surrounding shops?  It is not a storekeeper’s job to supervise my child – and what if a multitude of parents did that?  No, my only solution was to have him tag along.

I wonder if that lady understands what it is like to have young children today.  I was able to walk to and from school – alone.  I could play outside on our street or in the park unsupervised.  We didn’t have Amber Alerts back then.  I suppose she doesn’t know of the goose bumps parents of young children today get whenever we hear of a child being approached by a stranger at the local bookstore (whose parent is nearby but not close enough to see the stranger touch the child in inappropriate way).   I guess she doesn’t read the stories in the newspapers where children are forcefully plucked from bus stops and thrown in the back of cars and then have shivers run up and down her spine because although it wasn’t her child, she know in so many of these cases it could be (“There but for the grace of God…” and all that.)

When do you know that it is okay to leave your son outside alone as you wait in the endless bathroom line inside?  Perhaps it is when you feel your son is big enough to fight off any type of person with an evil intention, or old enough not to politely help someone find their “missing dog” or naïve enough to think someone really does have a Babe Ruth baseball card to show you.  Until then, better safe than sorry – even if it does mean evil-eyed glares from time to time, or some muttered comment by a fellow tribe member lacking sensitivity and compassion.   It is not her job to keep my son safe – it’s mine.  I guess this Zen Mama Wannabe just felt that out of all people, other WOMEN would understand that.

(This was originally published on the Silicon Valley Moms Blog).

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2 Responses to “Should Older Boys Be Allowed in Women’s Restrooms?”

  1. Nancy Brown Says:
    June 15th, 2010 at 8:03 am

    You do whatever it takes to protect your children..period. You will never see that glaring woman again and even if you do, who cares. Better safe than sorry always.
    That said, I also think he might be safe, at his age, waiting just at the door to the ladies restroom, not inside the actual restroom, but just at the door jamb, letting the surrounding ladies know you’re taking your little girl to the bathroom and leaving your son within easy earshot. Son needs to know that ANYone approaching him for anything in that situation, he needs to ignore them and if need be yell, “mom!” If you’re not comfortable with that, then don’t do that. Bottom line, your son’s long term safety will always come before some lady’s momentary and unenlightened discomfort.

  2. callieandbatido Says:
    June 15th, 2010 at 12:38 pm

    I agree with Nancy. You need to do whatever you think is necessary to make sure both you and your son feel safe. The world is full of glaring, judgmental people, many who we will never set eyes on again.

    What age is to old or to young? At some point I would imagine your son would rather die than be stuck in a ladies restroom. Most likely he will give you the cue when he is ready to wait right outside. Until then do what you think is best.

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