“I Let My 3-year-old Use the Bathroom Alone at Target”

This morning I was on Irish radio to talk about Maddie McCann, the 3-year-old stolen from her hotel room in Portugal seven years ago. The point I tried to make was actually one that a reader once put so eloquently here: “Can we stop acting as though the most unlikely thing is the most LIKELY thing?” To remind us of what’s LIKELY, here’s a happy little Free-Range story from Alicia Noack, a writer and mom living in Austin. She blogs at aliciafinnnoack.com.

Dear Free-Range Kids:  All my friends who read that recent Atlantic article keep saying “I want to build a junk yard playground for my kids. Too bad we can’t.” So, here’s a quick “good news” thing that happened to us yesterday.

I let my 3 year old son use the bathroom alone at Target.

Fine, he’s almost four. But: Target, not in the best neighborhood (it is OUR neighborhood), at night. It took him forever and he forgot to wash his hands, so I had to send him back. Other men went in and used the facilities while he was in there. When he did finally come out, he complained that the hand dryer was too loud. And he had made up an awesome story about superheroes.  I also left him alone in the toy department while I checked out clearance party supplies.

 In case it’s not clear: everything turned out just fine and I’ll be doing the same thing again. He’s just 3, but he’s pretty resourceful and self-sufficient and he loves to do things all by himself.

 Keeping the faith, Alicia

Lenore here: Sometimes you just need a little message from the front lines that this whole Free-Range idea is not wild. It’s just rejecting the idea that obsessing about death is the only responsible way to parent. To reinforce that message, here’s another lovely blog post I just got from a mom who’s been Free-Ranging for six years:

When my kids were little I’m embarrassed to admit I was a helicopter Mom. I thought this I was being a ‘good Mom’ because that’s what everything I heard told me I was supposed to do. I was SUPPOSED to always be there and hover over my kids to protect them. After coming across Lenore’s blog when my kids were about age 6 and 8 I changed my parenting style…and let me tell you it FREAKED ME OUT!

Read the rest of this heartening piece, by Misty, here. I love to hear these stories! – L 

Is a kid safe on her own for a few minutes at Target?

Is a kid safe on his own for a few minutes at Target?


, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

52 Responses to “I Let My 3-year-old Use the Bathroom Alone at Target”

  1. Will May 7, 2014 at 11:50 am #

    I’ve started letting my 5 year old son go to the bathroom on his own. His older sisters already do so, together (because, girls?). I have no worries. However, I think I need to educate him on the vast array of available sink fixtures, because at Walgreen’s yesterday, he said the sink broke (which I interpreted as, I’m about to find a men’s room an inch deep in water because my son broke something). It was just that the faucet had some over-zealous auto-shutoff valves (the kind you press and it lets the water run for 15 seconds or so) that were shutting off the moment he let go of it, so he couldn’t figure out how to wash his hands. So, we sorted that out, and I asked him to, in future, tell me that he was having trouble with the sink, not that it was broken.

  2. anonymous mom May 7, 2014 at 12:09 pm #

    I was once scolded by a security guard at our local library for letting my then-7-year-old son use the bathroom alone, while I was standing right outside the door. Didn’t I know what could happen?

    My main concern with my children using public bathrooms unattended is that they’ll bother other people or turn on every sink and then not turn them off.

  3. Jill May 7, 2014 at 12:16 pm #

    Like anonymous mom, I’m more worried about MY KID being the problem in a restroom. Like getting curious and peeking under other stalls or making comments out loud about someone passing gas or their odor. Or just wasting soap or paper towels or forgetting to flush for the next person. That worries me more than other people being in there when my kid is.

  4. Alison May 7, 2014 at 12:25 pm #

    My kids are about-to-be-six and 4, and my main concern with public washrooms is whether they can reach the soap and faucets! I wish more bathrooms had stools, like our library does.

  5. lollipoplover May 7, 2014 at 12:27 pm #

    I’d like to say it’s remarkable when young children are independent to do things like this vs. the mom dragging the 10 year-old boy in the ladies room. But it isn’t. It’s normal.

    I grew up watching shows like Little Rascals, where children rarely had parents around watching their every move and 4 year-old Spanky babysat the babies with entertaining stories.

  6. Anne May 7, 2014 at 12:32 pm #

    Good for you, Alicia! (and other parents who are doing the same) My son just turned 6. He’s been using the men’s bathroom, alone, since he was able to take care of things on his own. If I am not serving any practical purpose, I don’t see the need for me to be right next to him. And of the many times he’s gone in unharmed, he’s come out the same way. EVERY time.

    We also are both very comfortable with him looking at toys while I shop a few sections away. He knows to stay where he is until I come back for him. He knows he can talk to people if he feels like it. He knows he should not go anywhere with them. He also knows to scream and make a fuss if anyone ever tried to take him or hurt him. We’ve worked this system for a few years now and guess what, all is well! Every time.

  7. BL May 7, 2014 at 12:36 pm #

    @anonymous mom
    “I was once scolded by a security guard at our local library for letting my then-7-year-old son use the bathroom alone, while I was standing right outside the door.”

    If there are ‘security guards’ at any local library around here, I’ve never seen them. Hmmm.

    “Didn’t I know what could happen?”

    Uh, he could ‘take care of business’, wash his hands, and come back out? Happens all the time.

  8. becky May 7, 2014 at 1:03 pm #

    I was at our small children’s zoo and there was a boy that was easily 10 or 11 who was waiting in the womens restroom while his mom and little sister were using the restroom. The poor boy looked as embarrassed to be in there as it made me uncomfortable for having a pre-pubecent boy in the ladies room.

    All the while my 7 year old was sitting outside the restrooms on a bench waiting for me.

  9. Sarah May 7, 2014 at 1:12 pm #

    I remember my son doing those things at that age. Apparently he would jibber jabber with whoever was standing at the next urinal. I would stand outside the door and grown men would come out with tears in their eyes from laughing so hard.

  10. erin May 7, 2014 at 1:13 pm #

    If someone is ok with letting their kid go to the bathroom alone what is the big deal. She must have felt that her kid could handle it. I let my 5 1/2 year old go in a small restaurant where I could see the bathroom and another mother was truly upset that I could do such a thing.

  11. gap.runner May 7, 2014 at 1:17 pm #

    My son refused to go into women’s bathrooms from about age 4 or 5. When he was young, and we were in a familiar place (e.g. a restaurant that we frequented often), I would send him to the bathroom on his own. In unfamiliar places I would stand near the door. If my husband or another man was not with us, I would ask a man going in to keep an eye on my son and help him to reach the sink if necessary (what was I thinking, trusting my child to a male stranger!). One time we were in a McDonald’s when nature called. The particular McDonald’s was part of a busy Autobahn rest stop. I stood outside the door waiting for my son to come out. It seemed to take a while, so I peeked in the door. A man was holding my son up to the sink so he could reach the faucets and wash his hands. Did I think that the man was a pervert? No, I was happy that my 4-year-old remembered to wash his hands after using the toilet.

    Do I know what can happen in a public WC? Yes. Men can take care of business, wash their hands, and sometimes help little boys to reach the faucets so they can wash their hands too.

  12. Jenn May 7, 2014 at 1:36 pm #

    Been doing this since the kids were in the 3.5 year age range. Makes me uncomfortable as a woman to see young men (pre-pubescent boys) in the women’s room when I’m doing my business……is it ok for me to ask them to stand outside?

  13. MichaelF May 7, 2014 at 2:15 pm #

    I’ve been trying to get my son to go alone to the bathroom for awhile, but he hasn’t yet and I am not sure if its for scary stories or other reasons or he just is not ready yet. Still I made a great leap, we did a campout at a baseball stadium with the Boy Scouts last weekend, around lights out he had to go. So I said, fine go, threw him a flashlight and said have fun while I hunkered in my sleeping bag. I figured he was trying to get out to play with some of the other kids, but he did go and then I found out the next morning he got lost. He was coming back with a few kids, but their tents were closer to the bathroom so he ended up a little nervous but wandered around for awhile until he came across our tent.

    I told him I was extremely proud of him, due to his independence and getting lost (in a constrained area) but then finding his way on his own. A proud Dad moment to be sure. Was I worried about any of this, especially since it was Boy Scouts? No way! It was great, and it was his best day ever, for getting an autographed baseball during the game.

  14. Havva May 7, 2014 at 2:21 pm #

    I recently helped a girl (5-6 years old) who was arguing with her father that she wanted to use the lady’s room. I assured dad that the room had a stool, and they both thanked me and she got her wish. The world really could use more restrooms with stools.

    My 3 year old recently made her first solo trek into a public restroom. My husband spilled an over sized cup of tea and we were trying to sop up the mess with insufficient supplies. When I looked up little one was gone. I found her coming out of the restroom with a big stack of paper towels. Unfortunately she won’t be able to reach sinks for a while longer.

  15. Beth Holmes May 7, 2014 at 2:44 pm #

    Good for you! I get so annoyed when there’s a line for the ladies room and in that line are boys who are totally old enough to use the men’s room alone — I’m talking 8-11 year olds. So all of us women have to wait even longer to use the rest rooms. It’s also can’t be comfortable for the boys themselves at that age.
    When the roles are reversed and the child is young it can be an big of a problem. I had to laugh because when my husband was a stay-at-home Dad and our daughter was 0-3 he pretty much carried her around everywhere in the backpack and she’s seen the inside of many men’s rooms from the vantage point of that backpack — lord knows what that’s done to her psyhce!! (kidding). It was an issue though when he needed to change diapers and there was no family restroom — he couldn’t go in the ladies room and men’s rooms never have changing tables. Sexist really.

  16. Rachel Hoffman May 7, 2014 at 2:47 pm #

    My son has been using the men’s room solo since he turned 4. My favorite incident was at 4 1/2 he went alone at the park and was meeting me at the car. A scary looking black man with chains, knives and gold teeth comes out and asked me if it was my son in the bathroom. Tells me that he was great to see an independent kid, and that he couldn’t reach the sink so he had helped him out. Then goes over and tells his girlfriend about the gang fight he was in up in Oakland.

    Even bad guys have standards.

  17. anonymous mom May 7, 2014 at 2:48 pm #

    @Beth, the idea that kids shouldn’t be unattended in restrooms makes it really hard for dads with daughters, I think. It’s easier for moms with boys, because for the most part people don’t get freaked out about a boy being in a women’s bathroom with his mom. But, a man taking his daughter into a men’s room in many cases will raise eyebrows (and, if an overzealous person is watching, perhaps raise alarms), while he also can’t just walk into the women’s room with her.

  18. anonymous this time May 7, 2014 at 2:51 pm #

    Go Misty and her kids! I’m envious. I wish I had my kids with me all the time so I could impart my values to them more consistently.

    As it is, they go over to their other parent’s home and much of what I’m attempting gets subverted. It’s maddening.

    Between the cultural messages and the enforcements of seeing children as helpless at the other home, I’m not always feeling like I have much impact.

    On my son’s baseball team, which is made up of 11 -13 year old boys, he is the only one expected to get himself to practices. Most kids come from an average of a few blocks away from the field, never more than 2 miles. The parents just assume they must accompany, and my son rails against me for insisting he ride his bike. “It’s like we’re POOR or something!”

    I want to die sometimes, it’s so tragic.

  19. SKL May 7, 2014 at 3:01 pm #

    I used to get so much guff for letting my preschoolers take themselves to the restroom when we were out and about. Their nanny would not even let them go into separate stalls at the rec center. She caused one to wet herself (after swimming they both really had to go) because she felt 3yo was not old enough to be in a separate stall “alone”! What!? And the other day my sister was telling me that she has the same rule, for her 4.5yo! Help me! I did ask her, “why don’t you let her go into the other stall” and she said, “oh, I never thought of that.” Really?

    I hope society backs off of this craziness before they start requiring adult hand-holding and butt-wiping in the elementary school restrooms….

  20. Pophouse May 7, 2014 at 3:08 pm #

    I think my twin girls wouldn’t have been able to handle it without some sort of ruckus at 3. But from four on they have been using the restroom by themselves, and now that they are five I even have the courage to tell their mother that they have been visiting restrooms by themselves. She still shoots me a bit of a look when we are out to dinner and one of them (and therefore both of them) announces she needs to use the restroom and I merely point to where it is.

  21. Pophouse May 7, 2014 at 3:14 pm #

    This is for Beth Holmes’ comment. Men’s rooms almost always have changing tables like the women’s rooms. I used to tell my wife the same lie about their scarcity. I hope the truth doesn’t make you as perturbed as my wife got when (after the girls were out of diapers) she found out that was the case.

  22. Emily May 7, 2014 at 3:14 pm #

    @Anonymous This Time–Just curious, how far is the baseball diamond from your house?

    As for the story in general, good for the letter writer. Independence and bathroom privacy (or privacy by gender segregation in public bathrooms) are both things that kids should learn at an early age. My biggest pet peeve was seeing school-aged boys in the female change room at the YMCA, and at university gyms. When I complained, I was always brushed off, but I just don’t think it’s appropriate for kids to go into the other gender’s bathroom beyond the age of five or so. I say five, because that’s kindergarten age, and by kindergarten, most kids can use the bathroom alone, tie their shoes, and do several other simple self-care tasks independently–washing their hands, brushing their teeth, making a PBJ, changing into gym clothes for P.E. classes at school, putting on and taking off a paint smock so they don’t ruin their clothing during art, et cetera. They can also follow simple instructions like, “If someone tries to get you to go with them, run away and/or scream really loudly for help.” Obviously, the age cut-off would be higher (or nonexistent) for a mentally handicapped child, or a physically disabled child who physically couldn’t handle the task him-or-herself, but for an able-bodied, neurotypical child, five is a good benchmark, I think.

  23. SKL May 7, 2014 at 3:32 pm #

    I can’t remember if my kids were 2 or 3 when I first let them go to a public bathroom alone. It was a “family restroom” at a park we had been to many times, so I knew the setup (that it was clean / my kids could reach etc.). There was a window through which I could check to see if they were fooling around. 😉 I guess someone could have called the cops on me for peeping, but nobody did. If I were a dad, I would have been afraid to try that trick.

  24. Melissa May 7, 2014 at 4:08 pm #

    On Sunday we went to Niagara Falls. We walked quite a long ways and stopped for ice cream at Table Rock plaza (a VERY busy tourist destination, even in this off season time). My mom went to the bathroom, and of course, two minutes later my 4.5yo son realized he DESPERATELY needed to pee. Two year still eating ice cream, two adults’ belongings spread over the table, coats and sweaters hanging over chairs. I could see the bathroom door. I sent him over and told him to call for his Nana if he needed help.

    Two people (and my mom!) near me were horrified. He did fine, peed, washed his hands, and escaped unscathed, and the two year old was able to finish her ice cream.

  25. Melissa May 7, 2014 at 4:16 pm #

    Auto-flush toilets, however, terrify my boy, and if there is one, I have to cover it with my hand so he doesn’t pee all over himself jumping away from the toilet when it goes off. I hate those things

  26. Havva May 7, 2014 at 4:38 pm #

    I comprehend not letting younger kids go to the bathroom alone. But not letting an ordinary kid into an ordinary stall alone just baffles.

    My daughter has wanted privacy in the stall from prety early in potty training. She also likes to wait outside the stall when I am in. She couldn’t always get on the toilet and often has to ask for help, I think she even fell in once. No big deal. The only big rule is that she isn’t allowed to latch it if I can’t undo the latch from outside, or close it all the way if I can’t get under the door. But under those circumstances, how much trouble could even a toddler get into? Not letting a kid pee in a stall in privacy couldn’t be a predator fear, it sounds like a complete lack of faith in kids, and smothering.

    My daughter hates the auto flush toilets too. I heard another mom here recommend using post-it-notes. But my daughter has learned to drape toilet paper or a coat over most sensors. I personally haven’t run into enough that couldn’t be draped to start carrying post-its.

  27. SKL May 7, 2014 at 5:08 pm #

    About those automatic toilets (I hate them too, they always go off too early!), my kids learned how to put some toilet paper over them before using the toilet. It involved some ingenuity sometimes, but that’s better than getting swooshed on unexpectedly!

  28. Michelle May 7, 2014 at 5:49 pm #

    I agree that the *real* concerns with little kids alone in the restroom have to do with them causing trouble or being unable to reach the sink. When my youngest son was about 3, I had to constantly remind him not to take off his clothes until he was actually in the stall. 😛

    It really aggravates me that the people who design, own, and maintain public restrooms never seem to consider that small children will need to wash their hands. Even if I’m in the bathroom with them, it’s ridiculous that I should have to lift them up to the sink — especially since my arms are usually occupied by a baby — when a plastic step-stool is like $10.

    “This is for Beth Holmes’ comment. Men’s rooms almost always have changing tables like the women’s rooms. I used to tell my wife the same lie about their scarcity. I hope the truth doesn’t make you as perturbed as my wife got when (after the girls were out of diapers) she found out that was the case.”

    I bet it depends on where you live. I can’t imagine any motive whatsoever for a stay-at-home-dad who is routinely out alone with his daughter (and therefore is going to have to be the one to change her diaper, whether he does it in a men’s room, or in the car, or what) to falsely claim that men’s rooms don’t have diaper changing tables.

    FTR, my husband says it’s not unusual for men’s rooms here to have changing tables, but he knows he won’t have the change the diaper anyway. 😛

  29. Cynthia812 May 7, 2014 at 6:32 pm #

    Melissa, I’ve heard you can stick a post-it over the sensor to keep it from flushing too early.

  30. Kimberly Herbert May 7, 2014 at 7:19 pm #

    I guess my nephew was 3 or 4, when we (I follow my Sister’s lead they are her kids) started giving him a choice. The deciding factor for him – he would pull on the door to see if he could open it by himself. Why are public restroom doors so heavy and how is that not a violation of ADA.

    About the same age we started letting niece and nephew go by themselves to the bathroom in familiar places, like restaurants, the zoo, the museums.

    Honestly – 99% of the time someone says something it is a complement about the kids behavior.

    In the negative column
    1. One time at the zoo I asked my nephew if he had washed his hands. He pointed to the man behind him and said I asked that grown up for help. Only goes in the negative column because I think the man 1/2 expected me to go off on him, he looked scared. I simply thanked him, asked if nephew had minded his manners. The man relaxed and said nephew was very nice.

    2. Also at the zoo, a woman got mad because niece was “lurking” out side the men’s. Reason door was too heavy for nephew. (I was in line to pay to feed the giraffes bathroom was in my line of sight) It took both niece and nephew to open the door. She was waiting for him to shout that he was ready to get out. (Kind of get this one being heavy – it opens to the outside. Probably has to meet hurricane safety standards.

    3. Museum We sent cousin 1 (8yo), Cousin 2 (6 yo), Nephew (4yo), Cousin 3 (3 yo) into the boys together after admonishing them to mind their manners. A boy saw them going in and protested having to go into the ladies bathroom with him Mom. She declared their parents don’t care if some creep in there rapes them nodding to the men walking out. A Dad coming out got mad. He went and complained that he had just seen a boy 10 or of older going into the ladies, while he was waiting for his daughter to come out. Security went in and told the boy and his mother he could not be there. The boy was joyful as he marched into the men’s room. The Mom was fuming. My cousins (parents/grandparents of the boys) and I were trying so hard not to laugh.

  31. Lynn May 7, 2014 at 7:39 pm #

    I think the worst is at the swimming pool when moms bring their sons into the ladies changing room…. it’s embarrassing to be standing there with your boobs hanging out and some 9 year old kid staring at you. Seriously, do you dress your 9 year old at home?? you trying to tell me he can’t get himself dressed at the pool???? My boys dressed themselves at the pool from 4 yo on. Sometimes I’d be sitting out there for what seemed like forever, fairly certain that they were probably hogging the shower heads.

  32. hineata May 7, 2014 at 8:21 pm #

    @Kimberly Herbert – laughing so hard at that last one! Score one for the dad, and the boy who got emancipated from Mum…

    For the first time ever I saw a boy of about 8 or 9 coming out of the women’s at the airport the other day. It just tends to be expected here that kids over five (usually younger, but that would be the cut-off) will use their own restrooms. I hope that trend isn’t changing!

    I confess I kept Midge in the stall with me until she was at least 3.5, because I couldn’t trust the little minx not to crawl under other people’s doors. And I wished she’d been with me at Monte Cassino when they had to knock the door down to get her out of a stall, but she was ten at the time, and that would have been overkill :-)

  33. Kelly D. May 7, 2014 at 9:34 pm #

    I’m so glad to read this. As the mom of twins who are potty trained but still too short to get on public potties alone, someone asked me what I do when they both have to pee in public. When I explained, “Well, I put one on the toilet in one stall and put the other on the toilet in the next stall,” every single mom in the room gasped like I said I was lining them up in front of a firing line. They were SHOCKED that I would leave one in a stall alone. For the life of me, I couldn’t figure out why this was a big deal. I’m still not sure, but I’m guessing it’s either a “they might touch something” or “you’re not watching them with your own two eyes within touching distance.” Either way, who freaking cares? They just have to pee!

  34. Steve May 7, 2014 at 11:43 pm #

    Did anyone read the terrific “Atlantic” article linked at the beginning. What a great Junkyard Playground. Allowing young kids to play with fire is a wonderful learning experience all by itself. It’s also a good way to keep kids occupied for hours … burning things, watching the forms change, learning what you can and can’t do safely.

    We had a small pile of bricks in our backyard where our kids could build their own little fireplace so they could burn sticks and leaves, and roast hot dogs, etc.

  35. Lance Mitaro May 8, 2014 at 1:03 am #

    Anytime I’m using the public bathroom and a small child saunters in, I get the hell out. Especially when there is nobody else in there at the time for a witness. Then when I leave, the mother or father is always by the door to give me a disapproving and suspicious glare as I exit. You can just see the anxiety building in their faces. Sad and typical.

  36. BL May 8, 2014 at 4:09 am #

    @Kelly D.
    “They were SHOCKED that I would leave one in a stall alone.”

    But the alligators in the sewers! Alligators could come up through the toilet!

  37. brian May 8, 2014 at 9:12 am #

    I admit that I have used the “mens’ rooms don’t have changing tables” line too. :-). It sometimes works.

    One time was at a Yankee game and I made my poor wife go change the diaper by claiming I didn’t think the men’s room would have a changing station. Same ploy has worked at restaurants and rest areas.

    Yeah, we all are lazy sometimes and let’s be honest, its never fun to change a diaper in a public restroom!

  38. Taradlion May 8, 2014 at 10:01 am #

    After swimming, I had to go into the women’s changing room to help my daughter when she was 9, 10, even 11 years old…BECAUSE I HAD TO HOLD UP A TOWEL BECAUSE SHE WAS MORTIFIED THAT 5, 6, 7, and 8 year old boys were in there. Sometimes changing, sometimes standing there waiting for their sister to change because they had to stay with mom. Meanwhile, her younger brother was in the men’s locker room (starting at 4) by himself.

  39. Emily May 8, 2014 at 10:10 am #

    You know what’s funny? If you Google “Kids and public bathrooms,” then you’ll find a whole bunch of threads that are basically a sanctimommy chorus of “I’d never allow it,” or “Not until the age of X,” and X is anywhere from 10 years old to 18. If anyone disagrees, or says that they’re bothered by school-aged kids of the opposite gender in their bathroom (or disabled people bothered by non-disabled people monopolizing the accessible bathroom, and using it as a family bathroom), it’s “MY child’s safety comes FIRST!!!” Really? “Safety” comes before personal modesty, or fostering a child’s (or preteen’s, or teen’s in some cases) sense of independence, or respecting the other patrons of the store, or teaching kids that disabled people have rights too? Also, “MY child” kind of reminds me of…..who here remembers the “MY SANDWICH?!?!?!?!” episode of Friends, where Monica makes Ross a special homemade turkey sandwich, and then Ross freaks out when another professor at work eats it out of the communal refrigerator? Anyway, it just seems a bit narcissistic. Besides, there’s nothing “unsafe” about allowing a child some age-appropriate independence. I can’t help but think that “My child’s safety comes first” is really a code phrase for “My paranoia comes first.” There’s always some REASON why these parents won’t allow their (older) kids to go alone, but some of them are pretty dubious, like, “I read a news story about someone getting molested in a public bathroom ten years ago.” Umm, what about all the stories before and since, that DIDN’T make the news, about people using public bathrooms (or changing in the correct change room at the gym/pool/community centre/YMCA) without incident?

  40. SKL May 8, 2014 at 10:54 am #

    Yeah, I’ve been on one of those “MY CHILD’S Safety first” threads, and I was all but run out on a rail, LOL. They think I’m a pervert because I think school-aged boys might “look.”

  41. CrazyCatLady May 8, 2014 at 10:57 am #

    I think that I need to get outraged at boys in the women’s room unless the are there because they actually need help. (WA allows opposite sex in the rest room for that reason.)

    I was so angry with a FB post last week (one of those ones I could see but not reply to) about a mother who left her 6 year old and infant in the food court while she went with 3 year old to the bathroom. Good for her – except that she told the boy to scream if someone tried to take him.

    But the really infuriating part was that only one person said that it is a pain to take all the kids to the bathroom. The other people were saying that she should never have had kids, and that they should be taken away. Oh, and the first person felt put upon to watch the kids even though when the mom was telling the kid to scream she was looking at that man.

    And I couldn’t say a thing. Maddening!

  42. SKL May 8, 2014 at 1:15 pm #

    I know – how can you say “I care more than you about your kids” out of one side of your mouth, and “why should I have to watch these people’s kids” out of the other side – both in response to a mom NOT asking ANYONE to watch her kids but letting them do something independently? But I’ve seen that a lot as well.

    And the whole “if you are too lazy to take all your kids in with you every time, no matter the circumstances, then you shouldn’t have kids.” Better are the people who think said kids would be better off being taken from their mother and placed with a stranger who would watch them like a hawk 24/7. :/

  43. John May 8, 2014 at 2:30 pm #

    I would DEFINITELY be a free-range parent if I was a parent BUT I think that 3-years-old might be a bit too young to allow use of a public restroom unattended. Not so much that he might be molested but I’d be afraid that he’d pee all over himself and since most 3-year-olds are vertically challenged, he might have problems reaching the sink and the towel dispenser or even the urinal. But I don’t think 7 is too young and to the anonymous mom who was scolded by the security guard for allowing her 7-year-old son to use the restroom unattended, what was she supposed to do? Go into the men’s restroom with him? Or take him into the ladies restroom? I think 7-years-old is way too old to take into an opposite sex restroom or lockeroom!

  44. EB May 8, 2014 at 3:05 pm #

    Yes, absolutely, to letting your child go in the washroom alone. But, not so much to leaving her/him in one department of a big store while you go to another. For 2 reasons: young children don’t have a great sense of direction, and in trying to go where they think you are, they make mistakes. More important: 2) it’s hard on the store staff. They are supposed to try to take lone children either to the store manager or help the child find a parent. Big drag for them.

  45. Papilio May 8, 2014 at 3:17 pm #

    @Anonymous this time: “my son rails against me for insisting he ride his bike. “It’s like we’re POOR or something!””
    Hahaha! If a bicycle is good enough for our royal family, it’s also good enough for your son…!

  46. Donna May 8, 2014 at 4:26 pm #

    “They think I’m a pervert because I think school-aged boys might ‘look.'”

    But then they want to charge another 6 year old with sexual harassment for kissing theirs in school.

  47. Amanda H. May 8, 2014 at 4:48 pm #

    I let my 3-year-old go potty by himself all the time. Sometimes, at busy places, I wait by the door so he can find me after. Other times, (like when we’re seated at a fast food place) I just tell him to go. He manages to find his way there, go potty, wash hands, and find his way back. Sometimes he even wipes his bum! (but not always). I also – gasp! – make him wait in the car if I have to pop into places like the gas station, the post office, or CVS.

  48. ifsogirl May 8, 2014 at 11:58 pm #

    We had Fan Expo here over the Easter long weekend. (Geeky sci-fi stuff) I brought my two daughters ages nine and six. We chose to go on the Friday as it was going to be possibly one of the quieter days.

    Before leaving I made little signs for each of them out of paper and packing tape and attached them to lanyards, just in case. They said “If we are lost please call mom at (cell #) Thanks for helping”. Told them if they did get lost to go to any booth, push to the front and they would call security or me.

    For two hours I let my daughters roam at the convention. They got to see lots of people in costume, discover things they got to show me later and spent a ton of time at the Lego booth, even getting to build a tile each for their large display sign.

    The most exciting things that happened all night. I got to meet two of my idols. One is the man who wrote The Last Unicorn, I shook his hand and went all fan girl on this poor old man. Second, my daughters and I got to meet Robert Englund (Freddy Kreuger for those who remember 80’s teen horror) Both of these men were wonderful and took time to speak to my daughters.

    At the end of the night my six year old started to melt down, we had been at the convention for five hours at that point and I had run out of snacks. Suddenly this very large man in a Dark Sith costume (Star Wars thing from the new episodes) It is quite a scary costume, but he gently reached down and took my daughters hand and lifted her to standing, then he put his hand out and she gave him her prized David Tennant crochet doll. He did the same with my older daughter and her Matt Smith doll. Then suddenly he runs away giggling beneath his mask around a pole with my now laughing six year old giving chase with her sister. When the “caught” him I looked him where I thought his eyeholes were, smiled and gave him a sincere thank you.

    I hope my girls learned that strangers are just people we haven’t met yet and not something to be afraid of.

  49. JM May 9, 2014 at 1:35 am #

    At daycare kids use the bathroom completely independently from about 2.5 or 3 but for some reason when their parents come to pick them up they feel the need to follow their 4 year old into the children’s bathroom and shut the door which prevents any other children from being able to use the bathroom (the room has no stalls just 2 toilets side by side.) What to the parents think their kid is doing all day at school or do they think I leave all the other children alone to follow each child into the bathroom I once have a mother who expected me to follow her 4 year old into the bathroom check what he did and wipe him instead of teaching him to do it. (I only go in when someone is having an emergency). I have full confidence that the kids are able to use the bathroom and come back to class and so far nobody has disappointed me. Also can’t stand when the moms take their 5 year old boys into the the adult bathroom with them while they use it when they could have waited with the other children. Its funny to think that like 100 years ago some of these 5 and 6 year olds would have been down coal mines or in factories but now are not believed capable of using the bathroom without an escort.

  50. Diane S May 9, 2014 at 7:29 pm #

    @BL – alligators coming up through the toilet? Maybe when I was a child…I recall frogs coming up through a toilet at a beach-side motel we were staying at in Florida..but that was 66.

    I’ve been in bathrooms with small children, that are trying to reach the sink/paper towels. I don’t know why people freak out when you hold up their small child so they can reach the sink, or get out some paper towels for them. More stools in the bathrooms for the sinks would be great though!

  51. Maria May 9, 2014 at 11:12 pm #

    We live in Buffalo and I think businesses could learn a lot from our Wegmans grocery store. They have these flip down Stepnwash steps in their bathrooms so children can reach the sink on their own. I can’t believe how many places we go to that claim to be family friendly and yet when we go to the bathroom I have to lift my children up, lean them against the sink and they end up with water all over the front of their shirt. I am trying so hard to teach my children to be independent and that washing their hands is important but it’s almost impossible to do if they can’t reach the sink by themselves!

  52. Lindsay May 10, 2014 at 11:11 am #

    The “bathroom issue” has been a tough one for me. My son has mild autism (not obvious to a casual observer), and like many kids on the spectrum he struggled with toilet training and dressing himself. Let him use a men’s room on his own at 3? He wasn’t even fully toilet trained at that age, and could not pull up his own pants. He just did not have the motor skills. He is 7 now and uses the men’s room on his own 99% of the time–but because of his tendency to forget about the outside world, I have had to physically retrieve him from a men’s room as he sat on the floor, played with a hand dryer or watched the water swirl down the drain for 15 minutes. We’re working on helping him to make “appropriate” boundaries but he rarely closes the bathroom stall door if he’s having a sit down. I am dreading the trips to the public pool this summer, knowing he will have to navigate the entire men’s locker room area on his own. Last year, when he was 6, I still had him come with me but now at 7, I know it’s time to let him navigate on his own. I know there are over-protective helicopter parents out there, but I ask that next time you see a mom taking a 10 year old into a bathroom just take a moment to ask yourself what you would do if you had a child with a hidden disability–a child who had no clear understanding of boundaries (my son licked strangers until last year) or difficulty performing simple tasks like toileting.