November 18, 2008

A Bathroom Question

I have a long and sordid history with men's rooms. Those of you who've been paying attention know that I've had enough encounters to fill a book which, honestly, I don't object to writing yet I'm sure no publisher would believe me. I've had encounters with teeth-brushing, stall-sitting banana eaters, I've been busted talking to myself, visited by elves and clowns, assaulted by angry blind men and even been serenaded by the queen of soul. All whilst in the bathroom. In fact, doing a quick search of my site, I've written about bathrooms a whopping 80 times.

Men do terrible things in bathrooms. I mean, sure, I realize women probably do too but men just take foul to a whole new level. And locker rooms? There's a whole new level of horror. For some reason men who wouldn't otherwise be caught without clothing decide that this is the place to show off their hairy asses.

Every Saturday, Mia and I head to the local community center for swimming classes. Suits under our clothes, getting ready once we're there is easy. But changing afterward is a different story. The individual family locker rooms are usually full and I hate to expose her to the horror that is the men's locker room. So we usually end up in a bathroom somewhere. This weekend, we ran into a similar problem when we saw the musical up at my old high school. I broke down and took her into an empty men's room where we luckily found ourselves alone.

So, given all these things - my proclivity for attracting freaks in bathrooms, the inherent horrible nature of men's rooms and the fact that Mia is no longer a very little girl, when does it become inappropriate to take her into a public restroom with me? And worse, what if, by some strange happenstance, Mia inherited my bathroom freak magnet gene?

Posted by Chris at November 18, 2008 6:35 AM

I quit taking the boys into the public restrooms with me when they were 4ish. Now I send the oldest one into the mens room as a scout...if there's someone in there we wait until they come out. Then the kids go in and do their thing while I hover outside the door, giving the evil-eye to any man who dares enter while my babies are in there alone.

But I'm a weirdo.

Posted by: Alissa at November 18, 2008 8:09 AM

You may have to either make sure Beth is always with you or look for one of those family friendly bathrooms or whatever they're called when it's just the two of you!
Mens rooms are grossss...and public womens rooms sometimes aren't much better.

Posted by: NancyJak at November 18, 2008 8:10 AM

Hmm, never thought of this... I mean the locker room scene in the woman's locker can get a little freaky as well. I guess you have to do what you have to do when the little ones have to go, right!? Or you are damned if you do, damned if you don't!

Posted by: Christina at November 18, 2008 9:05 AM

I think you take her until she can go by herself with confidence to the women's restroom. My girl just turned 5 and although at home she never needs help (even with the deuce), I don't think she's ready for public women's restrooms. I take her with me.

That being said, when Jen is around, she does it because women's restrooms have far less shit and piss on the walls and floors.

Posted by: Brad at November 18, 2008 9:21 AM

I'm thinking that this is a completely different problem for you than it was for me because I'm a woman. Our restrooms are typically not offensive even if they are dirty and women are always taking their kids into the bathroom with them. But, here's what I did with the things. They came with me until they started complaining about it. When they were old enough to understand that there were two different bathrooms and old enough to feel weird about going into the wrong one I started to consider a change. But then I only let them go into the men's room when it was a place I felt comfortable with. I stood sentry outside the door and they were on the total buddy system. They went in together and came out together.

Now, I just hope they don't take a dump in MY bathroom.

Ah, how times have changed.

Posted by: SassyPants at November 18, 2008 9:38 AM


I'm going to say that after she gets her driver's license it's probably time for her to stop accompanying you into the men's room.

Posted by: You can call me, 'Sir' at November 18, 2008 9:38 AM

NO experience. What a quandry. I'm going to have to watch the responses myself.

Posted by: k8 at November 18, 2008 10:03 AM

I gotta tell ya, this is the part I am dreading. Men's bathrooms are just gross.

Posted by: DC Urban Dad at November 18, 2008 10:39 AM

When I was a single parent I struggled with this a lot. Fortunately I lived in a smallish town at the time and knew practically everyone so it wasn't too hard to find her an escort when near home. Then it was only troublesome when we traveled, then I always tried to find the family friendly bathrooms. Yeah, I haven't really answered your question, but then I don't live in an area with more freaks per capita than a loony bin.

Posted by: Jeff A at November 18, 2008 11:15 AM

Well it's different with women I think. We keep the boys with us as long as they'll allow us to take them in there. Once Zac got to about 5 he said, "Mom I want to go into the MENS bathroom". I gulped and freaked the hell out inside, but reluctantly agreed.

I stood there with a pit in my stomach the WHOLE time he was in there watching the door and scoping out every guy that went in and out of there. Committing every detail to memory ... just in case I had to identify them in a line up - haha.

He's now almost 14 years old and I STILL don't like him going in there. My heart skips a beat and I bite my tongue as I now watch the door from afar ... as discreetly as humanly possible.

:: eyes darting back and forth to the door ::

Posted by: Kristy - Where's My Damn Answer at November 18, 2008 11:16 AM

Yes, BUT! What if Mia's little girl sweetness-and-light acts in opposition to your internal freak magnet, and thus actually REPELS the weirdos?

Problem solved, my friend, problem solved.

Posted by: Caitlin at November 18, 2008 11:21 AM

i'm going to try to assume that Sir meant that in the least creepy way possible. :) but anyway, good luck because that is a tough one!

Posted by: kati at November 18, 2008 11:25 AM

This thing came up one day when we were at lunch at work. My friend Steve took his girlfriend and her two neices to a show. So they both decided each would be responsible for a child, so if they wanted something to eat etc. So at one point the girlfriend was gone with the one neice and as he's sitting there he starts having a panick attack about what if the neice he has had to go to the bathroom what was he going to do. LOL

This is quite a dilemma and it's too bad that they don't have more "family" bathrooms around for this very reason. Sorry I have no solutions. Aren't you so glad I commented. LOL

Posted by: Deirdre at November 18, 2008 11:31 AM

I would just suck it up and keep taking her in till you felt comfortable letting her go alone. That's just me.

Posted by: That Girl at November 18, 2008 1:11 PM

One word about your bathroom book - micropublishing.

As a single mom of two little boys, and as a woman who often did things alone with her dad, I encountered this situation alot.

My dad took me into the men's restroom at boxing matches until I was around 4. He would cover my eyes, lead me in and announce "LITTLE GIRL COMING IN!" and direct me to a stall, where I would lock myself in and do my thing while he stood at the door. My 6 year old still, to this day, will go with me into the womens' restroom at concerts and hockey games. There are two exits in the bathroom - and I won't send him in there alone.

Posted by: Mindy at November 18, 2008 3:31 PM

I'm thinking 13 would be inappropriate...

Definitely. ;)

On the cruise ship I watched an 8 year old boy strip down to change in front of a crowded pool. I must have let out a noise of shock, because the chappy-ass beside me felt the need to point out that the kid was "obviously" European and should be forgiven for his flashing.

Posted by: Tink at November 18, 2008 3:59 PM

Since my mom worked nights and some weekends, my dad took me just about everywhere I needed to go and took care of my entertainment most of the time. That means that he did most of the bathroom duty with me, too. It also meant that "too old" was dependent on the circumstances. By the time I could manage my clothes myself, he didn't have a problem waiting outside of a restroom at a clean and safe store/restaurant. When we went to big places like the ballpark (Go Brewers!) or stadium (Go Badgers!) or anywhere with a big crowd he continued to take me in the mens room with him for quite a while. The rule was hold my hand, keep your head down and head straight to a stall. I was safer that way and, since he was so matter of fact about it, it never hit me as being a big deal.

Posted by: Melissa at November 18, 2008 4:03 PM

well assuming your wife isn't with you or no other adult female then what else are you to do? I did find this and it works great!!!

Posted by: Zissy at November 18, 2008 5:42 PM

I've always wondered about that of the tough parenting questions ;)

Posted by: Heather at November 18, 2008 7:18 PM

"Men do terrible things in bathrooms. I mean, sure, I realize women probably do too but men just take foul to a whole new level."

TRUST ME when I tell you that women's bathrooms take the cake. I promise.

Posted by: C at November 18, 2008 8:55 PM

Being parenting advice deficient I'll opt out of the question and just say that I sincerely hope that she (or Owen, but I'm guessing being a boy he's naturally more prone) doesn't inherit your bathroom freak gene - cause that would be bad!

Posted by: Mandy Lou at November 18, 2008 9:56 PM

When my son got old enough that he no longer wanted to go into the women's restroom with me, I used this technique to ensure his safety in the men's room alone:

I would stand right outside the door. Once he stepped inside the door, he would begin counting. As long as I heard him counting, I knew he was OK. I told him that if he ever stopped counting, I was coming in. I don't care who else is in there.

Luckily, I never had to bust up in a men's room to save my son from danger. If I had, I'm sure I would've found you in there, b/c that's just the kind of bathroom story you'd tell on your blog, about the crazed mom who followed you into the men's restroom.

Posted by: kalisa at November 18, 2008 10:08 PM

Dude, if she inherited your gene? Then you might as well take you in with her as long as you can (i.e., until she's old enough to go by herself) so she can get used to the weirdness.

Posted by: Dawn at November 19, 2008 3:59 PM

OMG! Seriously.
Our town here has a HUGE retirement community. I mean a large portion of our population is old & decrepit.
My boy have swimming lessons on saturdays and immediately following their lessons is a "Silver Dolphins" swim time.
So the old guys either show up 15 minutes early and creep around the pool hanging their saggy legs in here and there.
OR, the get naked and hang out IN THE SHOWER until all the children have (showered) and left.

WTF? Noah is WAIST high. And completely mortified by the creepy naked men he has to walk past to get to his clothes (you HAVE to walk through the change rooms to get out...Chris meets him at the entrance from the pool)
I used to take him through the women's change room but sometime they are WORSE.


Posted by: Pamalamadingdong at November 28, 2008 7:56 AM