My bathroom door needs a deadbolt

Mar 12, 2008 at 3:00 a.m. ET

We're a pretty open family. There are few closed doors. While we exercise appropriate modesty, we aren't ashamed of our bodies. It's another one of those fine lines we walk as parents and a family.

When the kids were small – potty-training age – we left the door open when we were in the bathroom. This was part of encouraging use of the potty, and it worked fairly well. But as the kids have gotten older – as so many things evolve as the kids get older – we've set up a few more boundary points. The bathroom door is supposed to be one of them. The kids, after all, don't need lessons on how to manage the menstrual cycle of a middle-aged woman. The boys, because of their relative ages and developmental stages, understand this. Sunshine, not so much.

A few days ago, I didn't get to exercising until late in the afternoon so hopped in the shower just before dinner. The kids were downstairs, suitably occupied, or so I thought. I thought I had a few minutes for myself and looked forward to quiet. I'd been feeling fairly overwhelmed by some of the details of life, so I sat on the floor of the shower and let the water wash over me, hoping to wash away some of my stress.

Suddenly there was movement outside the shower curtain. I heard, "Hi, Mommy! What are you doing?"

I opened my eyes and sighed. Sunshine had opened the shower curtain and was looking at me with a grin on her face. So much for my moments of peace.

Then I said, perhaps too sharply, "Sunshine, please leave Mommy alone!" Sunshine is quick to tears anyway, and she left the bathroom crying. I just wanted some time alone, and now I felt even worse.

Sunshine meant no harm. She just wanted to see me, check in with me. She wanted to be close. Unfortunately, her desire to be close collided with my need to be alone.

We moms spend so much time giving to others that our time to ourselves often is infrequent and insufficient. For many of my mom friends, the bathroom is one of the very few places of refuge. How sad that times of personal hygiene are our only escapes from demand after demand! It's wrong on many levels, but if that is all I have, I am not going to give it up.

Of course, to Sunshine, I'm mom and not a separate entity. She's just still at that developmental age – she's still only three! The boys were once in this place, too. It will take regular and frequent reinforcement for her to not burst into the bathroom on whim, and sometime after that she'll start to understand alone time.

Someday she'll be a mom and will surely complain to me that the only place she gets to be alone is the bathroom, and sometimes not even then. "I know, Sunshine," I'll say, "I know."

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