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Boys in the men’s room

Jen Klein is a New England-based technical writer and mother of three. When she isn't asking her kids to stop bickering, "caramelizing" the dinner or actively ignoring the dust bunnies under the couch, she enjoys knitting, gardening, pho...

Anxiety at the ballpark

A few nights ago, I had the opportunity to take Woody to see our region's major league baseball team. There were just two tickets and since Alfs had the opportunity to see a playoff game in the fall, it definitely was Woody's turn.

Anxiety at the ballpark
I was looking forward to a night out with Woody, and I was not disappointed. We bought hot dogs, sodas and talked about our favorite players. We stopped by the team store and selected a shirt for him to remember this evening. Woody also insisted we bring things back for his siblings, so a set of baseball cards for this year's team and some pink team wristbands came home with us, too.

After our excursion to the store, we stopped for ice cream. While in line, Woody said the dreaded words to me: "Mom, I have to go to the bathroom." An area of a public place where I can't see him and it involves removing clothing and inebriated fans and, oh my goodness, I couldn't think about it anymore. I had to try hard not to let Woody see my gut reaction.

When you gotta go, you gotta go

I knew we'd probably encounter this scenario at some point in the evening but had tried not to think about it. Letting him out of my sight like that goes against all my parenting instincts! Woody is too old to go into the women's room with me, and I think too young to go into the men's room by himself, but there wasn't a choice. It certainly wouldn't be appropriate for me to walk in with him.

After panicking briefly, I looked around. There was a men's room in sight of the ice cream line. I took a deep breath. Then Woody and I quickly went over safety rules we've previously discussed.

Me: "You remember what to do to be safe?"

Woody: "Yes."

Me: "Sure?"

Woody: "Yes."

Me: "Be very aware of your surroundings, make sure the stall door closes completely, if anyone makes you uncomfortable, come right back – "

Woody: "Mom, yes!"

Me: "And it anyone bothers you, just start screaming at the top of your lungs?"

Woody: "YES! Can I go now, Mom?"

Me: "Okay. I am going to be right here, watching. Go quickly."

Woody walks away from me.

Me, calling after him: "Don't dawdle!"

And in an instant, my baby boy disappeared into the men's room of sporting arena in large American city.

Seconds feel like minutes, and minutes like hours

I watched that men's room like a hawk, mentally making notes about the appearances of the men walking in and out of the same restroom. The seconds ticked slowly by. The ice cream line inched forward.

I spied another woman who must have been doing the exact same thing. Two nervous mothers, anxiously waiting, counting seconds, then minutes.

It seemed like an eternity, but it probably was only a couple of minutes later when Woody emerged. I was so relieved. He was fine. He rejoined me in line. I asked whether he had washed his hands. He had.

I spied the other mother again. Her son also had emerged. We looked at each other with relief. Phew, phew, and phew.

No reason to let my guard down

Just because this instance was fine doesn't mean I can let my guard down any less. The process of teaching our kids about body safety and keeping them safe while slowly letting go and giving them tidbits of freedom is a slow one. Letting him out of my sight like that was a momentous thing, really.

Woody and I made it to the front of the ice cream line a few minutes later and went back to our seats to watch the rest of the game, like the restroom was no big deal. I suppose that is the way it should feel to Woody.

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