My younger son, D., had an appointment at the dentist's today. I decided to turn the day into a special outing and go out for lunch and then to the movies (G-Force. I still do not like rodents).
When the movie was over, he announced that he had to go to the bathroom. As I wrapped up a phone call with my spouse and went to open the bathroom door, a man stepped towards me and said, "I think he's way too old to go in there with you. He looks like he's at least four years old."
I thought he was kidding. I smiled and said, "He's six."
"Six! You really shouldn't be going in there."
He was serious. And outraged (I'll bust some stereotypes and tell you that he was young - no older than early 30s). As I stepped around him and gently pushed my son through the door, I heard him say, "I'm going to talk to the manager."
I was flabbergasted.
D. was quite upset as he has been really reluctant to go into the women's washroom for the last year or so (although lately he's gone in with me when we are out alone without complaining).
He was mortified.
I am not an overly protective parent nor am I prone to paranoia. I also know all that so many more children are harmed by adults they know than ones they meet in the bathroom at the movie theatre.
He can barely reach the taps in public washrooms, let alone the soap dispenser.
He often can't get the stall door to close.
Sometimes, he can't get it open.
Despite his protestations, he's afraid to be by himself in an unfamiliar place.
He's six years old. And it is still several years before I am going to let him out of my sight in any public place.
When I was six years old, a stranger exposed himself to me.
I let my 11 year old go into the men's room by himself. Once, when D. had a friend with him at the movies, I let both boys go in together and stood outside with my heart in my mouth until they re-appeared (I asked if they had washed their hands. My son said, "Yes!" His friend said, "No, you didn't!").
I think the answer to "When is your child old enough to [fill in the blank]?" depends very much on the individual child and on the parents' comfort level (I often say that it's really good that my boys have two parents, otherwise they would never be allowed to do anything). I am, however, very comfortable asserting that my six year old will be coming into the women's washroom with me for a while yet.
And what's the big deal, anyway? Women's washrooms have stalls. It's not as though D. is peeking under the doors. When I went to university, at least one of the residences had only co-ed bathrooms. Now that was weird - brushing my teeth in the morning and having some guy walk by in a little towel.
How do you handle the bathroom situation when out with your kids? How do you feel when you see a child of the opposite sex in a public washroom?
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