The Mom, Her Junior High Son & The Ladies’ Bathroom

Hi Readers — Mothers bringing their older sons into the ladies room seems to be more common these days, unless maybe I’m just more aware of it because of this blog and my own take on things. Is it on the rise, in tandem with worst-first thinking? Really like to hear your take on it. –  L. 

Dear Free-Range Kids: I recently visited New York City for the first time during the holidays. I lived downtown Chicago for 8 years so I am used to participating in cautious and seeing cautious behavior but this one was new — something I have NEVER seen before.

We were in the mall area under Rockefeller Center and I needed to take my 4 year old daughter to the bathroom. She still isn’t a pro at doing the whole bathroom thing by herself but she is well on her way.

Anyway, as we waited in line a woman had her JUNIOR HIGH age son in line for the Women’s with her. He had pulled his coat up over his head (no hood so it was obvious he was hiding — either hiding the fact that he wasn’t a girl or hiding from embarrassment of his MOMMY making him use the Women’s I have no idea).

A female security guard approached them and the mother just lit into her about how she was doing this and how “these are the times in which we live.” At this point even my 4-year-old was blown away by seeing a boy that old in the women’s bathroom — she sees little ones all the time, obviously.

As the mother was yelling at the security guard another mother with a junior high aged son came out of the bathroom basically in agreement and full of support for the first mother. The security guard rolls her eyes and walks away.

What really took the cake was when the mother in line and her son made their way into the bathroom and he goes into his own stall she was yelling in a panicked voice “You’ll be okay, Jordan, I’m right here!” Did she seriously expect to share a stall with him?

So my mind was officially blown. I see the stories like this on this site but had never actually witnessed it.

After we left the bathroom, I did the real “classy” thing and told my junior-high-aged niece who was waiting for us all about it and warned her that the future MEN of her era were being raised in this manner and I really felt for her when the time came for her to date or get married. But it all boils down to the same thing — not trusting men, all men are bad, suspicious and going to molest your sons in the bathroom. There is no one trustworthy in a bathroom that has 10+ stalls, no one who would help your son in a worst case scenario, and worst of all your son has no common sense to help himself. Because, lady, that is how you’re raising him.

REALLY????!!!! – A Stunned & Slightly Sickened Mom

Lenore here again: As some of you may know, I did a reality TV show with Discovery/TLC International last year called “World’s Worst Mom,” (‘Bubble Wrap Kids” in Canada) wherein I visited a one very overprotective family each week. I was like the Supernanny, except instead of imposing discipline (not my forte!), I took the kids away from the parents for four afternoons in a row and had them do things like play in the woods, or run a paper route, or — a couple of times — actually go into the bathroom BY THEMSELVES. I’m talking about kids aged 9 and up.

Well one mom had never let her 13-year-old son go to the men’s room. She always took him into the ladies room, and he was mortified. So that was an activity I had him do: Okay, you’re at the rollerskating rink — go to the john. And after I showed the mom a video of him going through the men’s room door and then coming out again — un-raped! Un-murdered! Head still attached to his neck! — it was like she came out of a trance. Instead of being angry with me, she was almost bewildered: Had she really ever thought it was such a big deal? She could not even REMEMBER why she’d been so afraid.

That’s why what I urge everyone to do (and what I’ve just starting to give workshops on, even) is this: Take the leap. LET your kids do something they know they’re ready for that, in your heart of hearts, you suspect they’re ready for, too. When you gather the courage to let go JUST ONCE, the results can change you forever — because your child changes forever. Fear is replaced by pride and joy. Pretty heady! (And that’s not just a bathroom pun.) – L. 


What age should moms stop dragging their boys into the ladies' room?

What age should moms stop dragging their boys into the ladies’ room?


220 Responses to The Mom, Her Junior High Son & The Ladies’ Bathroom

  1. Sarah O February 4, 2013 at 8:31 am #

    My daughter is almost 4, and we’re working on going to the bathroom by herself in public. Unfortunately, at home she tends to de-pants enroute, and when I told her she could head to the restroom by herself at the frozen yoghurt place, she dropped her pants and started waddling her bare backside down the hall to the bathroom.

    Next time, I think I will remind her to keep her pants up until she’s in the bathroom.

    She’s my oldest, my son is almost potty training age, and we have another on the way. I can’t imagine herding three kids in a busy place like New York without their father, but I can tell you that as soon as my son is old enough to take his pants down, go, wipe, flush, pants up, and wash (and not make a crazy mess)- he’s on his own.

    If we’re someplace crowded, or that I think would be an issue, sure, I might hang out outside the men’s room door, or tell him to wait for me by the ladies room when he’s finished.

  2. derpdedoo February 4, 2013 at 8:34 am #

    Where I live I see signs taped to washroom and changeroom (moreso) doors that say children older than some age (usually 6-8) are required to use the wash/changeroom of their own sex and to not accompany parents into the opposite room.

    Family washrooms are also common at the rec centers and there are usually signs there that say children over the age of 6-8 aren’t even allowed in the room — they’re intended for parents with younger children.

  3. katrin February 4, 2013 at 8:37 am #

    I don’t understand- Should the rest of us be willing to risk an adolescent male in the women’s room where there are likely to be young girls? Maybe we should protest and tell her that her son is likely to be a rapist and may start groping the women while he is waiting for her.

  4. TRS February 4, 2013 at 8:38 am #

    How mortifying for that poor boy. I have 12 yo daughters and I know they would be mortified to see one of their male classmates in the bathroom or shower room. That is 7th grade!

  5. Annette February 4, 2013 at 8:41 am #

    I have four sons. My oldest is just about to turn 9 but as soon as he exhibited wanting some privacy and we started being more private about our bodies (about age 6 or 7) we sent him to the men’s restroom alone. My husband has had to take our little girl into the men’s when she was 3 but no older. Any older than that and he would either send her alone into the ladies or ask a complete stranger (gasp) to help her while she was in the ladies.

  6. pentamom February 4, 2013 at 8:41 am #

    Is it just me, or is it a bit daft to have an argument with a SECURITY GUARD over whether it’s safe enough to let your kid do something?

    I mean, the guard is THERE — so wouldn’t that be at least as good as the kid going in with Mommy?

    (Not that security guards are infallible, but it means there IS a person there actually being paid to watch out for trouble.)

  7. pentamom February 4, 2013 at 8:44 am #

    ” Maybe we should protest and tell her that her son is likely to be a rapist and may start groping the women while he is waiting for her.”

    One WOULD think that sauce for the goose would be sauce for the gander, but this is her precious little snowflake we’re talking about. Every other person on the planet is a potential rape suspect, but not HER little angel.

  8. Becky February 4, 2013 at 8:46 am #

    *rolleyes* please. i don’t even take my 8-ish son to the bathroom with me. and if he is the one that has to go? he goes in the men’s room and i wait outside.

  9. LisaS February 4, 2013 at 8:50 am #

    My son would have rather wet his pants … starting at about age 6. When exactly does she plan to allow him to grow up?

    And yes, I would be mortified, and my daughter (11) would refuse to go in.

  10. Selby February 4, 2013 at 8:51 am #

    EWWWWWW!!! I don’t want your teenage son in the ladies’ room! If you’re so protective, why don’t YOU go into the MEN’s room with him?!?!?

  11. Nicole February 4, 2013 at 8:56 am #

    I feel really bad for that kid.

  12. Hittman February 4, 2013 at 8:56 am #

    A couple of weeks ago I heard a mother at a supermarket arguing with her kid outside the bathrooms at a supermarket. He was about seven, and wanted to go to the men’s room himself – she was insisting that he accompany her to the ladies room. She told him, “If you go in there alone someone will take you.” Not, someone MIGHT take you-someone WILL take you.

    I was tempted to say something, but I’m a large and hairy guy. I figured it would probably just increase her paranoia, so I kept my mouth shut.

  13. Aimee February 4, 2013 at 9:02 am #

    My son is 4, and I recently started letting him go to the men’s room alone, especially if I don’t have to go and can wait outside the whole time. If I have to go, he comes with me, but generally uses his own stall now. My gym has a locker room that only allows boys 4 and under in, and while I understand that locker rooms have a lot more nudity than your average public restroom, I thought 4 was a good time to start giving him a little independence in this area.

    Of course, I know a lot of kids his age who are not fully potty trained yet (even my son needs reminders) so some parents really aren’t ready for this at 4.

  14. Warren February 4, 2013 at 9:04 am #

    At that age, 12, if he was on his own, and attempted to intentionally enter the women’s restroom, could he not be charged criminally? I am curious if left to a police officer’s, a DA’s, or judge’s intertpretation of laws concerning members of the opposite sex attempting to view individuals in the restroom, that the 12 year old could be arrested?

    I raised two girls, and the use or public bathrooms was a given up until they were in Junior Kindergarten. Once they were in JK, it was ok off you go. Before then, out of respect for other men, and for my girls, I would seek out the bathrooms like those at a coffee shop, that once you entered, you were the only one in there.

    Scenario, I have a 6 year old in the women’s by herself, and that 12 year old was going in, I would stop him, mother or not, and refuse to allow him access to the women’s restroom.

  15. gap.runner February 4, 2013 at 9:04 am #

    My son insisted on going into the men’s bathroom alone when he was around 5. I guess I would be shunned by the helicopter parenting crowd because when I was alone with my son in a pubic place, and he had to use the bathroom, I would ask a man going in (usually one with a kid) to keep an eye on him. When he was first going into men’s bathrooms I would stand by the door. One time I happened to be looking in and a man was lifting my son up to help him reach the soap. My first thought was, “I taught the kid right because he’s washing his hands.”

    Anyway, if I were a child molester, I would not pick a public bathroom as a place to molest a kid. There are too many potential witnesses. Molestation is usually done in a private place. Child molesters also take time to groom their victims. They are not going to be thinking ,”I was in the middle of peeing, but I think I’ll stop and molest this kid in front of everyone else in this bathroom.”

    Now think about if this bathroom situation were reversed. How many fathers do you see taking their 12-year-old daughters into a men’s bathroom? Aren’t fathers worried about lesbians in the women’s bathroom molesting their daughters?

  16. Irina February 4, 2013 at 9:08 am #

    My husband let our daughters go on their own when they were in kindergarten, age 4. After all, they went on their own at school, so why not in the department store? If they needed to be lifted to reach the tap, there was usually a helpful woman around that they could ask. (Don’t have any sons, but I suppose I’d have done the same the other way round.)

  17. Laura D February 4, 2013 at 9:13 am #

    My son just turned 7 and he has been going in the mens’ room by himself for at least a year! My 4 and 5 year old daughters goes in the ladies’ room together as well.

  18. Andrew February 4, 2013 at 9:16 am #

    Okay dads, bring your middle school aged daughter into the men’s room and see what happens.

  19. Daven February 4, 2013 at 9:19 am #

    I encourage my 10 y/o to use the men’s room. He’s tall; he might look even older than 10. He has autism (but few mannerisms that would suggest a difference; he just looks like some kid standing there) and high anxiety and irrational fears and is terrified of the flushing sounds and usually refuses. Sometimes I find a kind-looking man to enter the men’s room with him. (A stranger, yes!) Usually I just bring him into the women’s room with me, because he simply will not enter the men’s room. I advise him not to stare at people; maybe this makes it look like he’s embarrassed?

    I wish he would use a public restroom on his own. He has mastered smaller places like churches and coffee shops and small libraries; bigger places like shopping malls and museums and large libraries are still a bust.

    We are trying. He has improved much already, but it takes patience. Sorry to offend. Please don’t roll your eyes at me, or worse, at him.

  20. Maria February 4, 2013 at 9:19 am #

    How humiliating for that poor kid.

    I first started letting my son use the men’s room by himself when he was around 7. I’d stand outside and wait. Before that, if there was a family restroom or a one-person restroom I let him go by himself from the time I knew he could handle everything on his own – 6, maybe?

    I used to make him wait for me close to the entrance to the ladies room, which he found humiliating at 7 or 8. I was more concerned with the highly likely risk of him wandering off than potential kidnappers. Now he’s 12 and I can’t imagine following him to the bathroom, or worse yet, making him come with me. How horrible.

  21. Maria February 4, 2013 at 9:24 am #

    Daven, while I was typing, I was thinking about the possibility of a special needs child, but didn’t add it to my post. Of course that’s different than a 12 year old not allowed to go potty by himself because his mother is afraid of molesters. The kid in the story sounds like he was trying to hide.

    Have you tried finding the family restrooms in larger places? Most of them have them. Maybe he’d feel more comfortable if he were alone?

  22. Lola February 4, 2013 at 9:28 am #

    There was this mum with her 5yo-ish girl, waiting in line to pay their groceries. Just when it was going to be their turn, the inevitable:
    “Mum, I gotta go!”
    “Can’t you just hold it a bit?”
    So I asked Mum if it was okay with her if my 8 yo daughter took her. I could see it was going to be her first “solo” trip to a public restroom, but the girl was quite eager to go, so off they went.
    Nobody had to wait unnecessarily, my girl felt all grown up (she even made sure the little one washed her hands), the little one was giddy about going somewhere “on her own”, and I hope Mum kept this in mind for future occasions.

  23. Kara Nutt February 4, 2013 at 9:30 am #

    Had this story been about a father and his 12 year old daughter, the police would have been called and charges would have been filed. So why is it okay and just another over protective mom simply because it’s a mom and son verses a father and daughter?

  24. Elizabeth February 4, 2013 at 9:31 am #

    Six years until adulthood and he’s not allowed to use the men’s room yet? What is his mother going to do if he chooses to go to college?

  25. Karen February 4, 2013 at 9:32 am #

    To Daven – great response as often people don’t think of children with special needs when they are judging or shaming other parents with their dagger looks eye rolls. My typically functioning 7 year old has been using the men’s room on his own for about a year. My autistic 4 year old also feels nervous about flushing toilets and hand dryers so it may take some time to get him into the men’s room on his own. That doesn’t mean we won’t keep trying and he’s not with me because the men’s restroom is crawling with predators. The mother’s response to the guard didn’t sound like this was the case but she may not have wanted to call out the kid’s issues in front of him and embarrass him further. We try not to make it an excuse or talk about our son as if he wasn’t there to explain what is going on. It’s really not anyone else’s business.

  26. Amber February 4, 2013 at 9:32 am #

    We must be the worse parents ever…because we already let our 5 year olds go to the bathroom by themselves. I don’t remember exactly when, probably right as they turned 5, I just started asking them “Do you want to go in the Girls’ bathroom with Mommy or the boys’ by yourself?” And I let them lead with their own comfort level. In the beginning, it was sometimes girls’ and sometimes boys’, usually depending on the crowd and where we were. But they are 5 and a half now, and it is most definitely always men now. I do usually stand by the door, and if it is taking too long, I do crack it open and call to see if he is okay. But my concern is more that he is playing in the sink then anything. :)

  27. Gina February 4, 2013 at 9:32 am #

    @Daven–on the contrary, I would ASSUME any 12-year-old in the Women’s room with his mom had special needs. On the other hand, good for you encouraging him to overcome his anxieties. I know it’s not easy with others staring and judging…if only we would all live and let live.

  28. Lisa February 4, 2013 at 9:50 am #

    Ugh…poor kid. My son is 2.5, so I’m still working on potty training, but I swear he will not be going to the bathroom with me once he’s in kindergarten!

    So I have a bit of a twist on this scenario, from something I witnessed this weekend.

    I was at a major sporting event in an arena on Saturday afternoon. Tons of families, tons of hockey fans. During an intermission, while I was in (the very long) line for the women’s restroom, a man walked up with a visibly upset boy (probably about 10yo) and asked the women at the front of the line to see if a “Tina” was in the restroom. Apparently the boy had lost his mother in the crowded chaos and had started to cry. The man didn’t know the boy, from what I could tell, but realized he needed help and acted.

    The boy was confused and scared. And after looking for the boy’s mom in the restroom I was near, the man realized that the boy was saying his mom might be at another restroom. The man was really calm with the kid and explained that he would continue to help him find his mom. They decided to go to the refreshment counter and ask the staff for help. When I came out of the restroom, I saw that a few arena employees with walkie talkies were with them, and the boy asked the man to stay with him while they went to the missing persons area. The man agreed.

    I immediately thought of this blog/community as I witnessed this because it’s exactly what SHOULD happen and exactly what I would hope my son would experience if we got separated at a large, crowded event. The kid was brave enough to ask for help, and an adult helped him. And none of the women who witnessed the situation felt the need to go over and “save” the boy from the man (though I did have to suppress the urge to run up and give both of them a hug!). I am quite sure the boy found his mom, and I hope that after the stress and panic of the situation settles down, they can both come through this learning experience with new-found confidence.

    I would expect that if you talk to people who work at large sporting events, you would find that this sort of thing happens more than once per event. And yet you don’t hear daily stories of kids getting attacked or kidnapped from these sporting events (and you KNOW we would if it were happening!). Which is just to say that all-in-all, people really are good.

  29. Heather February 4, 2013 at 9:51 am #

    Wasn’t there an article a while back with a comment from a guy who took his daughter into the men’s room with him, which is possibly even worse?

    My son has been agitating to go to the men’s bathroom by himself since he was three (he just turned 4). He certainly has his own stall in the ladies, and queues properly. I’m mostly there to help him with high sinks in public places now.

    Weirdly, at home he insists on company when he goes to the loo. It’s only when we are out that he wants to fly solo.

    I’ve let him go into the mens with a passing dad already, and I pretty much planned to let him go alone as soon as he could reach the sink and soap. It’s not as though men talk or look at each other in the men’s room, from what I understand that’s a complete no-no.


  30. Jaime February 4, 2013 at 9:57 am #

    I still bring my 5 year old’s to the bathroom but that is to help with soap, water and paper towels (they are tiny for their ages). I never go into the stall with them – I think that stopped when they were about 3. My 7 and 9 year olds are on their own. Regarding the letter…. I would worry about the psychological damage that might be done to my 9 year old son if he was forced into the ladies room in such a loud and public manner.

  31. lollipoplover February 4, 2013 at 9:58 am #

    Daven, I’m with Gina. An older child (of either sex) with an adult present shows that the child still needs assistance, which in Lenore’s case, this young man clearly does not. He was embarrassed and prevented from toileting himself because his mom has irrational fears.

    Of all things that are therapy-inducing, this must be up there pretty high. I’d guess even as high as a traumatic men’s bathroom event. Forcibly taking someone into an opposite sex bathroom repeatedly because it makes the mom feel better is not only cruel, it’s psychotic.

  32. SteveRSOonline February 4, 2013 at 9:58 am #

    In this day and age it’s amazing that the boys haven’t been arrested and prosecuted for a sex crime.

  33. Jake February 4, 2013 at 9:58 am #

    There is probably no essential reason why we need separate restrooms for males and females. Men con’t presently walk around a men’s room with my junk displayed. Do women?

  34. Emily February 4, 2013 at 10:01 am #

    I used to belong to another board, where this issue came up a few times too, and a lot of people there thought I was crazy by saying that kindergarten should be the cut-off for using opposite-gender facilities, but I’m glad that people agree with me here. Kindergarten makes sense, because that’s the age that kids start going to the bathroom by themselves at school, tying their own shoes, putting on their own snow suits (if they live someplace with snow), changing clothes for gym class/school swimming lessons independently, and doing a lot of other things on their own that they didn’t before. So, why would anyone want to encourage these kids to be independent at school, but treat them like incompetent babies the rest of the time?

  35. Amanda Matthews February 4, 2013 at 10:11 am #

    I don’t think it’s right for a mother to be going into the restroom with a kid over about 5 (though sadly, I know that nowadays many kids aren’t even potty trained at 5), but I don’t get the big deal about other genders going into the same bathroom. If you don’t think your son is going to be molested by a man in the men’s bathroom, there’s no reason to think a male going into the women’s restroom is going to molest someone there, either. Sure in the men’s bathroom they may whip out their junk in the open to use a urinal, but that doesn’t happen in the women’s restroom, and anyone that doesn’t want to be seen can use a stall. So I don’t get the embarrassment, nor the need for separate restrooms. I would not freak out if a teenage male went into the restroom if my daughter was in there (I might wonder about it, figure the men’s bathroom must be gross or have no toilet paper or something, or maybe even it is a female that looks like a male, but I would not stop them nor worry about my daughter). In non-public restrooms, everyone uses the same restroom.

    I also don’t think it’s right to limit ages in family restrooms. I can’t let one of my older kids accompany the younger to the FAMILY restroom? At what age are they okay to go in again; what about teen parents? Are people that LOOK young required to show ID (I often get asked if I am the mom or the teenage sister or babysitter)?

    But despite all that, I do think it is right for kids to use the bathroom on their own. Obviously this is not an issue with teenagers, but I wish public restrooms were better equipped for children, and/or people that are helping toddlers actually use the toilet and wash their hands.

  36. Stacey February 4, 2013 at 10:15 am #

    I have seven children. Maybe that causes me to be a bit more relaxed, but I have to say, even 17 years ago, when I only had one and she was 3, I was a free range type of parent. She played on the playground several doors down from my townhouse. It was out the back sliding glass door of the kitchen and she’d play while I prepared a meal, peeking out periodically to check on her. She is now a well adjusted young wife, about to become a mother herself (her husband was raised by a member of the secret service who was paranoid about everything, so we shall see how that plays out….). Currently, my six year old goes to the mens room alone. Has for about a year now. If I have my 12 year old boys with me, I will send one to go check on him if he’s taking too long. But that’s more because I suspect he’s in there playing. Not that I think he’s being raped. Every once in a while, my internal gut will start speaking to me, and I will not allow him to go in alone, or I will stand outside the door and even pop the door open an inch so I can hear what’s going on, but that’s fairly rare. Because it’s rare, I tend to listen to it because as laid back as I am, if I feel that, there must be a reason.

    Kids are bubble wrapped these days and I fear for the kind of adults we are going to have in the next 10-20 years.

  37. JJ February 4, 2013 at 10:15 am #

    Last week right before our son’s basketball game my husband used the men’s room and inside was one of the players from the other team as well as his dad, who waited for him by the sinks. This is a small gym facility (not at a school). The boys are 12. I don’t think it was about child predators, but because our son’s team is the only team in our league that is inside the city and we were playing (at home) against one of the suburban teams. Unfortunately, a lot of suburbanites around here are afraid of the city and apparently that includes its bathrooms.

  38. LisaS February 4, 2013 at 10:17 am #

    Jake, in some places – the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and in some European countries – there are unisex, multi-stall restrooms. However, the prudishness of our society is built into our building codes, which specify numbers of fixtures by gender. Many women will not enter a unisex restroom, even if it’s a single toilet, and I’m told some men feel the same although I’ve never witnessed it.

  39. Christina February 4, 2013 at 10:24 am #

    My guess is they were tourists. That being said, I am sad to say a number of my NYC friends take their boys into the women’s room past what I consider an acceptable age of 5 or 6. They, in turn, think I am crazy for sending my 5 years old boys into the men’s room alone. Honestly, my biggest fear is that the boys will get distracted and start abusing the hand dryers. I know when it is happening, b/c men come out of the facilities chuckling, and I can hear the yells as the door opens. Worst thing that has ever happened to my kids in the men’s room? I sent a stranger back in to tell them their mom was waiting outside.

  40. Joslyn Gray February 4, 2013 at 10:24 am #

    I’d just like to point out that we do NOT know the back story on this kid and his family. He could have crippling anxiety. He could be autistic. We don’t know, and it’s completely unfair to be judging this mother in this fashion.

    My son, who has Asperger Syndrome, is seven years old. He is in NO WAY capable of going to the bathroom by himself at home, let alone in a public restroom.

    Whenever possible, we use “family restrooms,” but not every place has those.

    Not all disabilities are visually apparent. PLEASE think twice before judging parents when you don’t know what’s going on. My son may be autistic, but he can certainly hear and understand people make crappy comments people make around him.

    My son is working really, really hard on developing more self-help skills and independence. He knows that he’s delayed on things like this, and he’s embarrassed by it. He’s trying so hard to be able to do things on his own. We’re getting there, and I am immensely proud of him. Some things just take him a little longer than they would for typically developing kids.

    Please, please be kind when you see kids that are “too old” to be doing something. They may actually be functioning “just right” under the circumstances.

    Joslyn Gray
    Mom of four (two with autism)

  41. Jemma February 4, 2013 at 10:29 am #

    Joslyn, thanks for your post and the reminder that we should not be so quick to judge because of course you are right, we do not know the whole story. I am sure we all tell our kids that all the time but we need to do it ourselves too.

  42. Violet February 4, 2013 at 10:35 am #

    Is it the age, or the circumstances that are at issue? The VAST majority of restrooms are safe. But, I might be afraid to send a pre-teen by himself into a bathroom at, say, the subway station in a bad neighborhood at nine in the evening. I’d probably tell him to hold it, or go in the ladies room. Other than a circumstance where there actually are homeless people and druggies around, this is absolutely insane.

  43. Amanda Matthews February 4, 2013 at 10:37 am #

    @Joslyn while that may be true, the mom acting anxiously (which she did by talking in a panicked voice) is only going to make his anxieties worse.

    My youngest is 3 and autistic, and if my husband or I mention one of our own anxieties, it sticks with my youngest forever. If we react anxiously to one of his anxieties, that confirms that it is something to be anxious about, and makes his anxieties worse. Even if what we are SAYING is “it’s going to be okay,” he hears the anxiety in our voices.

    By the time the kid is a teenager, the mom should have learned to talk in such situations without anxiety in her voice; even if she IS feeling anxiety or nervousness at the time.

  44. joanne February 4, 2013 at 10:47 am #

    Jake, I’m with you. We women have stalls, who cares. I once went into the women’s bathroom at a zoo. It was a miserable day so the zoo was all but abandoned. Inside were a dad, his wife and their 4 daughters, who were all wet from the rain. He was mortified and kept apologizing and offering to leave.I told him it was fine and that he should keep helping his wife as I went into a stall to do my business. It really wasn’t a big deal.

  45. Annika February 4, 2013 at 10:48 am #

    My son is six, and I give him the choice of going to the men’s room alone or accompanying me to the ladies’ room. I’d say he goes alone about half the time. (If it’s single occupancy, I send him in alone unless I have to go too! When I have to use the toilet, I usually bring him with me.)

    I have only been able to send him in alone for about six months, as prior to that he had a tendency to do things like lock the stall door and crawl out under it! Obviously I did not want to risk his making the stall inaccessible for the next guy. Interestingly, he stopped doing that around the same time he started consistently washing his hands.

  46. TaraK February 4, 2013 at 10:54 am #

    If the child is old enough to handle all of his or her own bathroom duties they are likely old enough to handle going to the bathroom alone. Our job is to work ourselves out of a job. Who does she think accompanies him to the bathroom at school??? The bathroom in junior high is probably FAR scarier than any other public bathroom!!!

  47. tesyaa February 4, 2013 at 10:58 am #

    I let my 10-year old son (who looks and acts much younger) use the men’s bathroom alone at the Port Authority bus terminal in NYC, but I did wait right near the entrance and was a little nervous until he emerged. It’s kind of a seedy place.

  48. pentamom February 4, 2013 at 11:02 am #

    Whether or not we “should” have separated restrooms is fairly irrelevant. In our culture, we do, and people have an expectation of privacy from members of the opposite sex beyond toddlerhood. Whether you happen to think there’s a reason they should care is also beside the point — there are men’s and women’s rooms, so people should respect that. Outlier cases of special needs would be the exception, but not the basis for the rules.

  49. pentamom February 4, 2013 at 11:06 am #

    The “maybe he had special needs” defense only goes so far. If he did, she was lying about her motivation, so that’s a completely different problem, but still makes her not-a-great-parent, teaching her kid by example to lie about his issues. (I’m not saying it’s wrong in that situation to be discreet about his issues, but substituting made-up garbage like “the times in which we live” for the truth goes beyond discretion.)

    So it seems like those who would defend her from the charge of being overprotective are trying to make her look better by saying she’s being dishonest in an ignorant way. It really doesn’t help the situation much.

  50. Amy O February 4, 2013 at 11:07 am #


    While I appreciate your point, I don’t think it applies here. If it did, when the security guard, approached, mom could have said as much. Instead, she said it’s because of the times we live in.

    There is no way I would have been able to keep my mouth shut. This is beyond ridiculous.

  51. Jenny February 4, 2013 at 11:12 am #

    We have this problem at the pool where my daughter is on the swim team–moms taking their much too old sons into the women’s changing room. The changing room is full of naked girls and women–how embarrassing for these poor boys who are totally capable of changing by themselves in the boy’s room. The other day a boy from her 4th grade class was taken into the women’s changing room while she was changing in there. SO embarrassing for both of them!

  52. pentamom February 4, 2013 at 11:24 am #

    Not that I’d do this, but it’s kind of fun to imagine:

    Woman in ladies’ room sees the boys, and on exiting, tells the security guard, “There’s a young man in the ladies’ room!”

    On investigating, find out it’s the 12 year old. Now the mom has to try to explain, in front of her son, that he’s actually not a young man, he’s just a little boy. Twelve year old boys LOVE hearing that.

    Or, she could have just let him act his age.

  53. Lisa February 4, 2013 at 11:30 am #

    I have two boys. I think at age 5 we will allow them to use the mens room by themselves, assuming they are comfortable.

    Another thought… probably an unpopular opinion… maybe if we didn’t raise our children to be such wusses, we would all feel more comfortable with them being independent and using the bathroom by themselves. These days our children are generally proficient at video games and doing homework and not a lot else. They often have no real responsibilities or skills and are generally lacking in street smarts and common sense. I know there are exceptions out there, and I do think children are smarter than we give them credit for, but with the way parents treat and teach their children these days, you’d think they were incapable of anything beyond pushing play on the remote.

  54. Bridget February 4, 2013 at 11:31 am #

    I cannot find the words….there are just no words.

    If I had told my EIGHT year-old DAUGHTER that I would be walking her to the bathroom and standing outside the stall…..I have no idea what she would have done. I cannot imagine forcing a son of that age to go in the women’s bathroom WITH his mother.

    How defeated must that young man must feel.

  55. Heather February 4, 2013 at 11:35 am #

    gap.runner typed “pubic place.” Hee. My maturity level is showing.

    Our gym also has a locker room where boys are not supposed to go in after age 4. My oldest boy just turned 5, so I’m grappling with this. Not because I’m afraid of what could happen to him in there, but because I’m afraid of what could happen to the poor locker room if he goes in by himself. My other son is 3.5, so this would also involve splitting them up, which brings its own challenges. So, I think I’ll have his male swim teacher give him a tour of the locker room. Then I will hand him his swim-clothes and a bag, tell him to go in, change clothes, bring everything out with him in the bag (there’s no way he would remember what locker he put stuff in), and reverse the process when it’s over. It’s going to be very tricky, because he is at his silliest and giddiest around his swim lesson. But without the audience of me and his brother, I think he might just do what he needs to do and be done with it.

    Any logistical pointers from anyone that has had to send young boys into a locker room alone?

  56. Heath February 4, 2013 at 11:38 am #

    While I get the point about the possibility of this being a special needs kid, I agree with some of the others that these people were probably just paranoid tourists. She probably thinks NYC is the city of the 70s/80s. Never mind that the Rockefeller Center is one the most touristy, heavily “secured” buildings in the city. It doesn’t really seem like a likely target for molesters/abductors/whatever-she’s-afraid-of.

  57. Jenna K. February 4, 2013 at 11:44 am #

    Holy cow! Junior high kids are TEENAGERS! Do these moms not realize that these kids go to the bathroom fine on their own at school? Or any other time they are not with them? Or are they just with them all the time? That is just plain crazy. My kids have been going to the bathroom in separate restrooms alone pretty much since they were potty trained well enough to not need assistance. I remember being at the zoo sending my boys in to the men’s room while I took my daughter into the women’s restroom. My boys were 6, 5, and 3 then and I remember getting looks from parents, but I was not about to take three boys into the women’s restroom with me and I knew they could manage on their own. Crazy, crazy! Junior high age. How embarrassing for those boys.

  58. Renee Anne February 4, 2013 at 12:04 pm #

    Little Man is 2 years old and this is a topic I sort of grapple with. I was fully potty-trained by 3 years old and knew not to take my pants/underwear off while not in the comfort of a bathroom stall so I was allowed to go by myself in certain places (the restaurant that we frequented once a week, for example). Mostly, I just wanted to check out the bathroom.

    I’m thinking that because Little Man is hyperactive (no, it’s not an exaggeration) and tends to have an inability to focus properly, he may be coming along with me until he’s school-aged. We’ll see how he does.

  59. squishymama February 4, 2013 at 12:09 pm #

    My youngest, who will turn 5 in a few days, has been potty trained since she was 2 ½. When she first started going by herself, she got traumatized by the automatic flushers. She was just too tiny for the sensor to see, so they always flushed on her little bare bottom!

    So now it’s often a fight to get her to go in a public bathroom, unless she *knows* it’s not automatic. And if it is, I have to squeeze into the stall with her and cover up the sensor with my hand so she can safely go. (I tried using my purse once, so I didn’t have to bend over, but I accidently hit the button and flushed on her anyway.) This was so much fun at Disney, where EVERY toilet is automatic.

  60. Rae February 4, 2013 at 12:18 pm #

    Both my kids ages 5 and 7 started using public restrooms on thier own around kindergarten. The only issue I’ve ever experienced is they both have a tendency to get ‘stuck’ at the sink, taking forever to wash thier hands, sort of playing in the water. As a woman, I don’t want to walk into the mens room and tell my son to get moving, so I normally have to ask someone to go prod him along. He’s 7 now, and would rather wet his pants than go to the ladies room… that goes double for locker rooms.

    However on the flip side- I’m a single mom with a boy and we frequently go swimming, and there is no family dressing room and at the community center where we go there is a sign that no boys over 3 are allowed in the womens dressing room. For my son (and I think for most boys), 4 was simply too young to get in and out of his suit and reliably put stuff in his locker and not lose anything. We tried a couple times, he could certainly get dressed, but being resposible for his belongings was too much. We just stopped going swimming for a couple years…but it annoyed me- I don’t think a naked 4 year old boy should be that disturbing to women in a public dressing room, and I don’t think it’s realistic to expect the average 4 year old to navigate that situation on his own.

  61. Abby February 4, 2013 at 12:27 pm #

    This is just gross. A boy going through puberty should not have the opportunity to walk by my stall while I am trying to change my tampon. His mom was not comfortable letting him be in the big boy bathroom, but what about my comfort level in the big girl room?

  62. Amanda Matthews February 4, 2013 at 12:30 pm #

    Something to note to everyone that says kids do it by themselves at school: The school bathrooms are actually made for kids to be able to use them. The bathrooms near or in a kindergarten classroom have lower sinks and toilets.

    My kids could be trusted to go to the bathroom on their own quite awhile before they were tall enough to climb onto a public toilet on their own. And while they could probably find someone to help them wash their hands, I would think it rude to ask someone else to lift my kid onto the toilet.

    Of course, again this doesn’t apply to teenagers; but I wouldn’t consider kindergarten the age kids can necessarily use the public restrooms by themselves because of this.

  63. Rae February 4, 2013 at 12:39 pm #

    Agreed Amanda, my kids are both very tall. There are certainly kids in my daughters class that I wouldn’t send to a public restroom solo because they are just too short to navigate the grown up fixtures.

  64. Naomi Mat February 4, 2013 at 12:42 pm #

    Sheesh, my son was about 5 when he announced that big boys go to the men’s room to use the bathroom. No way, no how was he stepping foot in that women’s room. I knew he’d have to do this on his own eventually, but I wasn’t expecting it at 5. If my husband isn’t with us, my son goes in alone. The first time I was nervous. I still get that way but I’m always nearby if he needs help so I’m learning how to roll with it.

  65. lollipoplover February 4, 2013 at 12:43 pm #

    Something else to consider is the psychological fears that this mom is putting into her child about public restrooms. I know a neighborhood mom who is an absolute fanatic about public restrooms and the danger and germs that lurk in there. Her son (who is 10) was so scared of using them that he wouldn’t go at all during school and developed anal fissures and other gastrointestinal complications from holding it in for 7 hours.

  66. Captain America February 4, 2013 at 12:46 pm #

    Wait. Let me get this straight, Lenore. The kid was mortified of having to go into the WOMEN’S bathroom, or the mens?

    At Jr. High School age there’s no way I’d have wanted to use a women’s bathroom. Or be publicly seen having my mama hold my hand so.

  67. Terri February 4, 2013 at 12:47 pm #

    At our local indoor pool, there are signs on both the womens and mens changerooms/washrooms that clearly state that children over age 6 must change in their own sex’s room (or use the single ‘family’ changeroom). I think that age is appropriate. My oldest son started in the men’s room by himself when he was about 51/2; my younger son was only 4 – but he went with his older brother.

    I think my boys were probably both about 6 when they went to the washroom by themselves at restaurants, etc. My daughter is 5 – I still help her because she has trouble getting on/off the toilet and reaching the taps at msot places. It’s not about her not being able to handle it on her own – it’s about her being too short!

    My now-10-year-old would be absolutely mortified if I made him use the ladies room!

  68. Lola February 4, 2013 at 12:53 pm #

    Forget about having that poor kid for a husband. Just imagine having THAT in-law!!
    Seriously, I think that bubble-wrapped or not, if this boy manages someday to have his say on anything over his mother, that would be free-range enough. You know, some kids cross the Pacific on their own, others overthrow tyrannic parents.
    Go, kid!

  69. Warren February 4, 2013 at 12:58 pm #

    While I understand that young adults with special needs, may need adult assistance, I also understand that everyone else has the right to their comfort.

    I am sorry for those that feel I am being cold or insensitive, but your child/teen/young adult with special needs is your responsibility, not the other dozen people in the restroom.

    Personally I think you are wrong for using an open restroom like that, when you can easily find a family one, or use one at a coffee shop, or restaurant, where you can have the room to yourself.

    Yes we as a society need to make allowances for those with special needs, but those with special needs also need to have respect for the rest of us, and realize that though they have special needs, it does not in fact make them special.

  70. Meg February 4, 2013 at 12:59 pm #

    Maybe. But I would reserve judgement. Maybe he has a neurological or physical disorder. Maybe he has a colostomy bag. Who the heck knows?

    I don’t even get why we even have separate gender bathrooms, since everyone goes in a stall anyway. Wall-mounted urinals can just go in stalls, or else just quit having them, because men can stand and pee into a regular toilet, just fine.

    If people are concerned about sex acts being performed in bathrooms if there are both women and men in them, that’s ridiculous, because there are plenty of people who prefer the same sex, and unless hetero people are way less capable of public decorum than gay people, I don’t see cause to fear a massive outbreak of restroom sex happening, if restroom stalls were not in separate rooms for separate genders.

    The assumptions seem to be that adults are looking to prey upon kids in bathrooms. but if that held water, we’d have that happening with kids going into either restroom, because being same or opposite gender is not a protective factor.

  71. Emily February 4, 2013 at 1:06 pm #

    No way, my son was about 6 when he said that he would go to the men’s room to use the bathroom. No way, no how was he stepping in the women’s room.Most awesome website for free classified ads with unlimited photos

  72. Sandy Grant February 4, 2013 at 1:07 pm #

    When my kids are capable to go to the bathroom on their own at home I would let them go in a public restroom alone. That said I usually tell my kids who are gong alone that if they are ever nervous about someone in there they should come right out.

  73. rachel February 4, 2013 at 1:09 pm #

    At what age can a teenage boy end up on the sex offenders list for ‘loitering’ in the ladies’ toilets? There must be a fine line for some cases, possibly even an overlap?

    Helicopter parenting, it can get you coming AND going…

  74. Alicia February 4, 2013 at 1:17 pm #

    I agree with those that have said that child molesters would have to be idiots to try to hurt a kid in a public bathroom, especially if the parent is right outside! My son has been using the men’s room on his own since he was 5 (with only a couple of exceptions), and has been fine. I do reserve the right to run in there if he is distressed over something, but otherwise I know he’s safe in there. I used bathrooms on my own from about age 4 when I was out with my dad, and there was only one time he needed to come in because I was in pain, but the ladies in the bathroom were nice enough to get him, warn others he was coming in, then led him to my stall. (Along the lines of strangers in bathrooms helping out, I once caught a toddler boy who crawled out from under the door while his mom was in there. He was ready to just take off! His mom was so relieved when she made it out.)

  75. Rae February 4, 2013 at 1:17 pm #

    Somewhat off topis, butI also think the ‘gendered’ restrooms are rather silly. I has always bugged me to stand in the long women’s line when there is none for the men’s room. Seems so inefficient. Additionally Warren, while new places tend to have ADA and family restrooms seperated, most places I go have the ADA stall in the ‘gendered’ restroom, and people with disablities as well as thier caregivers have every right to use the facility. In college I cared for a teenage boy with physical challenges and sometimes we had to use the ‘main’ facilites. I took him in the mens room and assisted him in the ADA stall. If at all possible, I’d try to wait for the restroom to empty. Just as someone with special needs isn’t ‘special’ – you are not entitled to privilege just because you are phycially and nuerologically typical. if share public space with someone who is different than you is uncomfortable, I think that’s your problem.

  76. va February 4, 2013 at 1:19 pm #

    My 11-year-old daughter would have been mortified to see a boy her age in the women’s room. Everybody’s comfort level needs to be considered. Me? I could care less if bathrooms were mixed gender, but I’ve been around the block a few times! I chaperoned a 4th grade trip a few years ago and escorted a group of boys to the restroom and waited outside. When I heard the inevitable horsing around, I stuck my head in the door and told them to zip it up and bring it on out or I was coming in—I’ve never seen a group move so fast in my life.

  77. marie February 4, 2013 at 1:21 pm #

    Scenario, I have a 6 year old in the women’s by herself, and that 12 year old was going in, I would stop him, mother or not, and refuse to allow him access to the women’s restroom.

    Oh, for crying out loud. It’s a bathroom. Why does it matter if a boy uses the ladies room or a girl uses the men’s room? People generally think it’s a bigger deal if a little girl goes to the men’s room…but most men would behave properly when they noticed the little girl…as I imagine most men behave properly even without the presence of a little girl.

    If the boy in the original story had no special reason (the mom with the autistic boy, above, is a good example) to stay with his mom, he should have enough backbone to refuse to go with his mom. I can’t imagine my 14 y/o son standing for my insistence that he go with me to the restroom.

    On the other hand, we have no idea why that mom insisted, nor do we have any idea why he pulled his hood up. Letting him use the ladies room should cause no stir whatsoever. What exactly do you think your little girl would see?

    More specifically, what traumatic event do you think could happen to her in there that she could not manage with your help? And why do you think it would happen?

  78. Jemma February 4, 2013 at 1:26 pm #

    Warren, do you really count teens and young adults with special needs not respecting your comfort as a problem in your life? Wow.

  79. Sarah February 4, 2013 at 1:55 pm #

    I have a personal comfort level up to about 7 or 8. After that I would think it’s ridiculous they are in there. However, I have to disagree with posters who are sending their 3, 4, 5 year olds in alone who are not yet capable of handling their own toileting needs, and then asking and expecting someone else to help their child use the restroom and wash their hands. That’s not free range. That’s expecting someone else to do your parenting for you. I think the child needs to be independent in their toileting needs before being set free. They shouldn’t have to need someone else to keep an eye on them or help them wash their hands. Even if they want to go into the proper bathroom, they need to understand they can do so as soon as they can wipe, pull up their pants and reach the sink and are capable of washing their own hands. I personally would find it rude to be asked by a dad to help his little girl go potty when he is more than capable. I would wonder why he just doesn’t take her in the men’s room himself. Is he that afraid of perverts? Same thing if I were a man being asked by a woman. So, yeah, my only requirement would be that they have the independence to go alone. I wouldn’t want to impose on someone else that I am sure has better things to do than wipe my kid or wash their hands.

  80. mollie February 4, 2013 at 2:05 pm #

    Honestly, it was waaaaay more likely that a 12 or 13-year-old boy would be “propositioned” in a men’s room back 30 or 40 years ago than it is today.

    And back then, we all went into sex-segregated washrooms without our parents after age 5.

    They didn’t wring their hands about imagined predator attacks, either. They just harped on hand-washing and how dirty public restrooms are.

    Germs, people, are way more dangerous to your kid than a fellow human in the washroom. Teach them to wash properly, and tune into their “spidey senses” if they think something creepy might be going on, in or out of the washroom!

  81. mollie February 4, 2013 at 2:08 pm #

    And by “waaaaaay more likely” I mean there was an odd chance in the 70s that you might encounter a creep in the men’s room, especially at a bus station… but then compared with today, it would be more likely you’d encounter a hippopotamus. (And hippos are very dangerous!)

  82. mollie February 4, 2013 at 2:10 pm #

    Maybe this all got started after that movie with Harrison Ford… “Witness,” where the little Amish boy (6? 7?) sees a man get his throat slit, and then craftily avoided getting murdered himself, in the men’s room at the train station in NYC.

  83. Abby February 4, 2013 at 2:15 pm #

    The idea that he had special needs occurred to me, as well, but when the security guard stopped the mother, why didn’t she just say so? I know some of you would say that it’s no one’s business, but honestly, in this situation, it would have been the security officer’s business to know that sort of thing, because this is a matter of public modesty and safety, aka her job.

  84. Warren February 4, 2013 at 2:27 pm #

    No I do not put the responsibility on the shoulders of the special needs person.

    I do however put the responsibility of respecting others comfort and privacy, squarely on the shoulders of their caregiver.

    In today’s society far too many people have this sense of entitlement, that we should all just make accomodations for everyone, and everything. Yes you are doing a great thing caring for someone with special needs. You are not doing a great thing, if you are making others uncomfortable, or making them change for your sake.

    A little respect for others, and a little courteousy goes a long way.

    It is no different with my Dad. He had surgery on his shoulders, and for awhile needed help with everyday tasks, such as going to the bathroom. Not once would my mom even think about taking him into a women’s restroom. And I do not think the ladies would like have a 55 yr old man in there. The police wouldn’t like it either. Her solution was restaurants, and coffee shops where they could have the room to themselves. Restaurants and the like are businesses, and as businesses they will accomodate potential customers.

    Sorry if you are offended. Like I said it isn’t the special needs person, it is the caregiver that believes we should all just accept that our comfort isn’t as important as their own. Even just a couteousy call out when entering, to let us know what’s up. Then we have the option of to stay or leave.

  85. Stephanie February 4, 2013 at 2:29 pm #

    I have a friend with a very clearly disabled 12 year old boy and he may never be fully toilet trained. She looks for family bathrooms whenever possible and takes him to the mens room when he needs to go and if she has to take him with her when she needs the toilet she will but no one likes it, least of all him. She has never been given a hard time by either gender since it is obvious he needs supervision and assistance. That said, if this kid had special needs the mother should have said so because people are MUCH more understanding and yelling at the security guard was ridiculous.

  86. hineata February 4, 2013 at 2:55 pm #

    I wish young teens were typically so compliant in class! Seriously…..My usually compliant teen would have had a public tantrum if I’d tried to do that to him, LOL :-).

    @Sarah – the difference, obviously, with taking a little girl into the men’s bathroom is the urinal. Women are not standing around with their equipment hanging out. I know lots of men who would be very uncomfortable having a little girl coming into a male bathroom, so give men a break, and help out when you can. I certainly have/would.

    The only time I have regretted my children doing the normal thing and going to the loos on their own was when Midge got stuck in the toilet at Monte Cassino. No way to crawl under or over, and while tall enough to lever the latch shut, she then couldn’t lever it open. Embarassing – the caretakers, who appeared to find it very exciting, smashed the door completely off its hinges and back into the stall to ‘liberate’ her!

    Unbelievable, really. Her ancestors spent time wandering under the Abbey walls pretending to chew on human bones and making jokes about the tastes of different body parts (the Maori Battalian could frighten the Germans simply by existing!) while involved in the ‘liberation’ of Monte Cassino. They slogged up and down Italy, fought their way into Rome. A couple of them were involved in taking the King of Greece out through Crete during the failed Allied attempt on that island.

    And she couldn’t even get out of the toilet unaided! What has happened to the gene pool?!

  87. Amanda Matthews February 4, 2013 at 2:57 pm #

    Restaurants and such may be an option in some places, but not all. If I’m shopping in my neighborhood, there’s sure to be a small restaurant or cafe nearby, or a store where I am friends with the owners, or even a friend’s house where I could use the restroom… but if I’m in the next city over, or a couple of cities over – both of which I go to often to do my grocery shopping – there are no small businesses, there are no family restrooms. I’d have to load everyone in the car, drive somewhere else, and get the kid that needs to use the toilet out of the car. Which means the person may have to hold it until I’m done shopping. Which I’m not going to encourage… my autistic son has had issues from holding it too long when only port-a-potties were available (too dirty in his mind), the restroom was dirty or the restroom was too busy/noisy.

    So I would say that saying disabled people should find another restroom is going to far, because that can actually cause health problems. The comfort of others doesn’t trump your comfort, but the health of others trumps your comfort.

    If your dad, in addition to the shoulder surgery, had some issue that prevented him from holding it in long enough (or had some issue that made holding it in risky) to get to another restroom, or if those other restrooms weren’t available, I’m pretty sure your mom would do what needs to be done and either take him in the womens’ or go with him into the mens’ restroom.

    Anyway, it’s irrelevant to this situation, because the teen in question was obviously mentally developed enough to be embarrassed, and obviously physically able to go into the stall and use the toilet himself. I don’t think that would be much different than mom standing at the door of the men’s restroom and telling him from there that she will be right there. If that makes him a bit uncomfortable (being a few more feet away from mom), then THAT would be something HE has to deal with – because his comfort doesn’t trump the comfort of others. If, what I suspect was more likely the case, him being a few more feet away from mom makes HER uncomfortable, then that is something she should deal with. But she shouldn’t make him hold it in while she finds/travels to another restroom.

  88. Mike H. February 4, 2013 at 3:01 pm #

    An anecdote I hope will illustrate we’re not all going to hell in a bubble wrapped basket.

    A year or so ago I was at a rest area off an interstate highway. As I entered the men’s room I noticed a women hovering near the entrance. Inside the men’s room was a boy who appeared about 5 or 6 year old. She was obviously traveling alone with the boy and sent him into the bathroom on his own. The boy was a little pokey as he was trying to wash his hands, but was managing otherwise.

    As I exited the bathroom I assured the women he was doing fine. She was obviously quite nervous about the whole situation, and to an extent I understood. But from what I could see she was handling the situation quite well. She let the boy go by himself, but was within earshot of a call for help.

  89. lollipoplover February 4, 2013 at 3:16 pm #

    @Mike H.- Your story reminds me of the quote by Fred Rogers about helpers:

    “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of ‘disaster,’ I remember my mother’s words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world.” — Mister Rogers

  90. tramlover February 4, 2013 at 3:17 pm #

    Just a small request to Lenore can you put in article how old junior high is approximately for all us non American readers. Seems around 12 judging from comments?

    Not sure about the tourist thing I would think as tourist you would do what you do normally and boy less likely to be hiding face if a tourist, and if normally goes on own less likely to be so compliant.

  91. missjanenc February 4, 2013 at 3:25 pm #

    @ Warren, can you imagine the look on the mom’s face if you told her you didn’t want her 12 year-old p***y boy in the same restroom as you kindergarten daughter, thus flipping her baby from a possible victim to a possible sex offender? That’s soooo rich!!

  92. Emily February 4, 2013 at 3:37 pm #

    @Tramlover–I’m Canadian, but junior high (or middle school) generally covers either grades 6-8, or grades 7-8. It’s not a “thing” here, but it is in bigger cities, like Toronto, and I think it makes sense. When I was in public school, it was K-8 (later changed to JK-8), so that meant that thirteen-and-fourteen-year-olds were being held to the same rules as four-and-five-year-olds. For example, at the school I went to from grades 5-8, NOBODY was allowed to leave the school property without a note from their parents, so while it may have been completely safe for a student in grade 8 to walk a few doors down to the variety mart for a slushie, it was STRICTLY NOT ALLOWED. Of course, I did anyway; I’d just get in trouble for it if I was caught. But, I didn’t really have a lot of respect for that school, because it was the kind of place where bullying and stealing often went unchecked, but non-conformity, or questioning authority, or reading ahead in your French book, or wanting to work in the hallway or the library, or in the Resource Room during recess, instead of the noisy classroom, were considered to be a huge problem. The day I graduated from that school was a very good day. :)

  93. Jana February 4, 2013 at 3:38 pm #

    I work at a daycare center. Our three year olds can often go alone, if potty trained. I usually wait outside for the boys and the girls certainly get their own stalls– it’s part of the permission slip parents sign, if it is not signed there’s a fee because it does create extra work to drag kids into bathrooms.

  94. HMG February 4, 2013 at 3:50 pm #

    I have a 7 year old son who has been going alone since he was 4-5. We started at 4 with places with small bathrooms where I could stand outside like McDonald’s and now he’s confident enough to use any bathrooms alone. The one exception is highway rest stops where I do take him in the ladies’ room with me. I also have a 3 year old who goes in the men’s with his brother, but if it’s just the 2 of us he still goes in the ladies’ with me.

    As far as safety I think the main thing is to teach your child to leave immediately if something makes them feel uncomfortable. My older brother was abused by a group of older boys in a public restroom once so it does happen. I don’t think bringing them in the ladies’ room until college is the solution though.

  95. Helena February 4, 2013 at 3:51 pm #

    @ gap.runner I feel as if you are wondering why there is so much concern surrounding the mens room and if there is a real threat wouldn’t it be equal from one genders facilities to the other…

    “Aren’t fathers worried about lesbians in the women’s bathroom molesting their daughters?”

    but just to clarify child molesters and lesbians are far from the same thing!

  96. Amanda Dickens February 4, 2013 at 3:54 pm #

    We live in a quiet part of a quiet country. My son insisted in going by himself when he was 3, it took me a couple of visits to be comfortable with this, but he’s fine and loves the responsibility.

  97. Nicole February 4, 2013 at 3:56 pm #

    squishymama – Mini sticky notes are the key to avoiding unwanted auto-flush! I used to keep a few in my purse when my son was little. Show your daughter how to put one over the sensor before she sits down, and she won’t get splashed any more.

  98. SKL February 4, 2013 at 3:57 pm #

    OK, I could almost understand this if the boy had been actually raped in a men’s room and was now afraid it could happen to him again. Otherwise, the only way it makes sense is if he has a lot of special needs.

    I would like to know where we are to draw the line between:

    1) Safety of nearly-grown boys in a room full of men and
    2) Safety of young girls in a room full of adolescent boys?

    If the standard is to have adolescent boys in the ladies’ room, that makes it all the more difficult for moms to send their independent little girls in there alone. I guess some people would gasp at the mere thought of doing that, though.

  99. Warren February 4, 2013 at 4:18 pm #

    Maybe it is a difference between Dads and Moms.

    If for whatever reason, even when there is no special needs involved, just say a 2 or 3 year old, a Dad takes his daughter into the men’s room, alot of times there is a “Sorry guys, got my daughter in here.” type of shout out. Urinals aside, guys still come out of the stalls doing up their pants and belts.

    Me and the other Dad’s I know, do this out of respect for the men in the restroom. It avoids embarassing situations, and is a matter of respect.

    If a private or single restroom isn’t available, at least have the respect to let other’s know, there is someone of the opposite sex, in the room. Is all I am saying.

  100. Emily February 4, 2013 at 4:26 pm #

    Okay, I digressed in my last post, but back to the topic of public bathrooms, kids, parents, and opposite-gender awkwardness, I’ve actually read stories/anecdotes about parents who’ve forced their potty-trained children to wear Pull-Ups when going out in public with their opposite-gender parent, if they were adamant about not using the opposite-gender bathroom. So, basically, they were giving their kids a choice of being embarrassed by being taken into the “wrong” bathroom, or being embarrassed by being forced to wear diapers in public. Naturally, I think that this is wrong on many levels, and I think it might even be a mild form of child abuse.

  101. Yan Seiner February 4, 2013 at 4:37 pm #

    Here’s a question that keeps going through my head:

    At what point does that young man end up on the sex offender registry? Seems to me that if he went in the women’s bathroom by himself, he would end up in juvenile court.

    What makes this not a crime?

  102. Jodie February 4, 2013 at 4:40 pm #

    I asked someone how old they were when I was reading this article. He said he was nine when he started to go into the men’s room by himself. Now I’m curious and want to ask a few close male friends, lol. I don’t have a boy yet and my daughter is only a year old, so I have not had this experience yet as a mom.

  103. Crystal February 4, 2013 at 5:00 pm #

    My son is 5 and has been going on his own to public restrooms for a while. If he’s taking too long (he loves to play with the dryers), I asked a man going in to tell him to hustle. Works every time.

  104. Warren February 4, 2013 at 5:12 pm #


    LOL, cannot count the number of times a mom has asked me to light a fire under her son, on my way in. Or for an update on my way out.

    Done the same myself, hanging out infront of the women’s room. Come to think of it, lucky I never got arrested for being a perv, hanging out by the ladies room.

  105. hineata February 4, 2013 at 5:23 pm #

    @Amanda Dickens – you’re not Amanda from Greytown, are you?

    That woud be too much of a coincidence – but if you are, big hellos! :-)

  106. marie February 4, 2013 at 5:52 pm #

    What makes this not a crime?

    Common sense?

    Not that common sense ever stopped lawmakers from passing ridiculous laws, of course. I can’t tell from your question if you think it should be considered a crime or if your are making a point about the federalization of crime and of the proliferation of laws making us felons for ordinary behavior.

  107. HMG February 4, 2013 at 6:18 pm #

    I’m amazed at how upset some people are over this issue. Look, I think it’s ridiculous for an older boy to go with his mom in the bathroom too, but to label him a pervert or a criminal is over the top. Although I do find it odd when I saw an older boy in the women’s room with his mom I can’t really say it makes me feel violated or anything. There are still private stalls. A locker room at a pool or gym would be a different story as I do get undressed out in the open there.

  108. Eliza February 4, 2013 at 6:39 pm #

    I believe alot of people have learnt by rote, “Public toilets + Kids = Danger.” and this is reinforced through media’s obsession of using scare tactics as ratings grab. I remember being at my daughters primary school family quizz night. There were about 100 people in the school hall. The toilets were located in the same building, but you needed to walk through another door. All exit doors were locked except the main one, which went straight into the hall, so no-one could arrive or leave without being witnessed. One 8 year boy came up to his mum, who was at the same table as me, telling her he needed to go to the toilet. The Mum then spoke to the dad to escort their son, which ended up in an argument. The Mother was worried about her son’s saftey (her words). I must admit some of the men around her, gave her a dirty look. The part I did find funny was while the parents were arguing, the boy went to the toilet by himself, came back and went on playing with his friends before the argument finished.

  109. GiGiSeattle February 4, 2013 at 6:48 pm #

    I CANNOT believe this! I have never seen this, but I would say something to that mom about how gross it was for ME to have to share a bathroom with her random son. Triple yuck! Us girls like to keep our bathrooms clean too, no teenage boys allowed. :)

  110. Julie February 4, 2013 at 7:06 pm #

    I’ve been letting my son go to the public restroom alone since he was about 5. It’s so great! I highly recommend it. I don’t have to leave my cart of groceries or other unpaid for goods, find the bathroom, cart his little sister in with us, etc. So much better for ME it’s incredible. Love it! I’m pretty sure he started wanting to go alone because he did so at school. (I would imagine 11-year-olds use the public restrooms at school, right?)

    At any rate, we ran into an awkward situation one afternoon while we were having lunch with a friend, whose daughter is the same age as my now 7-year-old son. We were eating in the outdoor seating area of a restaurant and my son told me he needed to go–so I sent him on his way back inside the restaurant. My friend’s daughter stated she also needed to go, and didn’t understand why she wasn’t allowed to go without being accompanied by her mother (and therefore little sister). I could tell my friend wanted me to go back on allowing my kid to go in alone (for her sake as a parent), but eventually just sighed and said, “No, wait. We’ll all go.” And so, as a family they had to leave their lunch to go potty. As she walked in, she said to me, somewhat apologetically, “It’s just different with girls.” To which, I said, “Is it?” (Seems to me that if someone’s a big enough pervert to do something to a young child, gender probably isn’t a restraining factor.)

    It’s funny because she’s a fairly hands-off parent, but not on this particular issue.

  111. Jen February 4, 2013 at 7:33 pm #

    Unfortunately I have seen this situation at least 3 times in the last 6 months this very situation. With 12 or 13 year old boys who are taller than me in a women’s room. The worst was when I was with my girls 11 and 6 and a mother brought her son into the ladies. He did not even have to go and just stood by the sinks he could have clearly waited by the door outside. I was so annoyed I said something to her. My girls were uncomfortable and embarrassed. The boy was clearly embarrassed and normal not special needs.

  112. Donald February 4, 2013 at 8:16 pm #

    I remember that contraband use to be things like cigarettes. Nowadays some parents contraband self esteem. They want to make certain that their children never get any for safety sake.

  113. bmommyx2 February 4, 2013 at 8:48 pm #

    Wow, if I had witnessed this I would have made the assumption that maybe the boy was physically or mentally challenged. My son is six & if he was ready & willing I would let him go alone.

  114. Yan Seiner February 4, 2013 at 8:50 pm #

    @marie: I am making a point about the stupidity of the situation. If a 13 year old sneaks into a women’s bathroom to watch women pee, we’d consider him a pervert. But if a mom brings him in “to keep him safe” we consider it ….?

    On the one hand a 13 year old is a target for pervs, on the other he is a perv. Color me confused.

    The mom is an idiot. Hopefully her son will see through that.

  115. Jenn February 4, 2013 at 9:00 pm #

    My son started using public washrooms solo at age 5 and my daughter was 4 (always trying to keep up to her older brother!). The dilemma we face now is using public change rooms at the local pool. Our town rules are that children 6 and under can be in opposite gender change rooms. My 8 year old refuses to use the men’s change room on his own so we’re stuck in the family change rooms. I hate them! They’re over-crowded with parent/child combos of the same gender or a mother AND father for their 1 or 2 children, or one parent with children clearly under age 6. I wish they would go to the single gender change rooms so those of us who have to use the family change rooms will have stalls available for us because we often have to wait up to 15 minutes, dripping wet, until a stall frees up (and you aren’t allowed to change in the comunal areas since it’s men and women). I really want to send my son in on his own but he doesn’t want to go alone so now I’m stuck in family change room hell.

  116. Youth Pastor February 4, 2013 at 9:00 pm #

    I work as a pastor for children and youth at a medium sized mainline church. Since I get to the church early before Sunday School begins, I allow my six year old son to wonder around and explore the church (he knows the rules for where he can and can’t go and follows them). He also goes to the bathroom by himself. Why not!?!? It’s a church, PLUS, this church has incredibly strict child protection rules (which I am against) which has resulted in over half the congregation having a criminal background check!
    Anyway, I was headed to the men’s restroom one day when I saw the head pastor’s wife coming out of the women’s restroom with her 5 yr old daughter and her 9 yr. old son! And her son is very mature for his age (in terms of his behavior). I couldn’t believe what I was seeing! Why couldn’t she trust her very capable son of going to the men’s restroom by himself in the very church where his father was the pastor, and where most of the congregation had criminal background checks.
    On the positive side, my son’s wanderings around the church have allowed him to develop friendships with many of the older members of the church (and he leaves every day a few quarters richer). I have also received comments from older members thanking me for letting me child talk to them. It seems as though a culture of fear was developing within the church, thanks to the child protection rules, and no one would allow their children to talk to older members of the church.
    Thanks Lenore for what you do. I will keep fighting the “Free Range” fight with you!

  117. Kimberly February 4, 2013 at 9:04 pm #

    My nephew is 5. The biggest problem we have had with him going to the bathroom by himself is
    a – he can’t reach the sinks to wash his hands.
    b – he can’t get out of the bathroom because the door is to heavy.

    A couple of times a man has said “umm I helped him wash his hands” like they expect me to react badly. I’ve always said thank you. One time B panicked when he couldn’t open the door – and started screaming. We were in a small kolache shop with 1 user bathrooms. A man was going into the bathrooms and rescued B. I had heard the screaming, and headed in to get the door open. Poor man looked so stricken and stammered “The door was stuck” I just thanked him and made sure B did to.

    We were at the museum with a group of cousins. The boys (8, 6, 5, 4) all trooped into the men’s room together. A lady turned and asked us you letting them go in there by themselves. The boys looked at her and said “We’re boys” and “there are 4 of us”. Seriously – If someone tried something the boys would rip that person up. My niece nearly broke a woman’s nose once when the woman tried to “rescue” her from the chin up bar (L was trying to do a penny drop)

  118. Tealatwo February 4, 2013 at 9:09 pm #

    My son is four soon to be five. He’s just starting to be ok going by himself to the men’s room. I usually give him a choice to go with me or by himself. He’s still.a little too short for the sinks so that is usually his reason to go in with me. I will wait outside for him but usually he’s in and out in no time. If I have to go too he’ll come in with me and use his own stall. He’s really proud when he goes alone so I try to encourage it.

  119. Caitlin February 4, 2013 at 9:19 pm #

    This is totally off-topic but this is an opportunity to share what my daughter and I go through with a group of parents who I believe will be open-minded. I have to take these opportunities to hopefully make the world a more understanding one for my daughter. My children, two daughters aged 5 and 7, are being raised free-range. However, I do have to go into the bathroom with my 7-year-old because she dresses and presents as a boy. I don’t mean that she is a tomboy. I mean that no one we meet ever knows she is a girl until we tell them so. She is terrified to go into the men’s room or the women’s room by herself for all the various reasons you might imagine. I know our situation is very unique and the woman in the story here made her reasons very clear – but I look forward to a time when we don’t assume we know who someone is by looking at them. The few times my daughter has overheard someone asking why there’s a boy in the ladies room she’s been mortified. It’s only going to become more difficult to escort her as she gets older. Again, something very unusual and completely off-topic but the first thing I thought when I read the description of the boy pulling his coat over his head was “Maybe he’s a girl”. When I realized he was not, then yes, the mother in this story has worked herself into a ridiculous panic.

  120. BPFH February 4, 2013 at 9:39 pm #

    Ye gods! I seem to recall being mortified at age FIVE when my mother was taking me into the women’s room. Being allowed to go into the men’s room by myself was a major milestone.

    Early teens in the women’s room? Oy.

    Needless to say, my son’s been going into the men’s room on his own for a number of years now. (He’ll be 13 in March.)

  121. Warren February 4, 2013 at 9:51 pm #

    I can just see it now, when the boy is 18 yrs old, and gets caught in a women’s restroom………………..”But my Mommy let’s me.”, isn’t gonna cut it with a judge.

  122. Lori February 4, 2013 at 10:06 pm #

    In answer to the “What age…” question on your illustration: generally as soon as they are tall enough to reach to wash their hands alone, and be likely to actually do it. I would of course give a little leeway of a year or two based on unfamiliar/very crowded locations. (I myself have been known to stand right outside a men’s room door, and yelling in “are you about done?” in certain places!) Thanks in no small part to our excellent preschool that fostered independence, my son was adamant about going on his own at about 4 1/2.

  123. Krystle February 4, 2013 at 10:13 pm #

    I have 3 kids, an almost 7yo son, a 5yo daughter and an almost 3yo son. My children a go to the toilet on their own (except 3yo son obviously), my eldest doesn’t like to use the ladies so I usually take my kids to the disabled or parenting toilets as they are cleaner then the mens. When at a swimming pool or McDonalds etc I will let my kids go on their own while I sit with the food. I even let them go play while I order . I live right across the road from my Childrens school, I would be quite happy to let them walk on their own, but at my husbands insistence I walk them there, he doesn’t trust them to look properly when crossing the road.
    we are from western Australia

  124. Hels February 4, 2013 at 10:32 pm #

    You would think this is bad. I recently heard a story about a crazy mother who called her newlywed daughter-in-law to ask her to make sure that her 26-year old son was wiping his butt properly. Needless to say, the crazy mother never understood why her contact with her son’s family was limited to a couple brief visits a year at most and absolutely no unsupervised time with the grandkids…

  125. Inara February 4, 2013 at 10:59 pm #

    “If you go in there alone someone will take you.”

    HOW?! Through the air vents? Most of the washrooms I know have only one exit and the parent can stand outside and watch it.

    Seriously, if they’re capable of going to the washroom alone at school, they can go alone to a public washroom. However I agree with another reader who said that some parents have made their kids so anxious about going to the washroom, either because of molesting/kidnapping or germs, that they refuse to go at school either. Not doing their kids any favours.

  126. Charles February 4, 2013 at 11:21 pm #

    I’m confused. Here’s what I’m reading on this board. 1) nobody should worry about sharing a restroom with men, and 2) the thought of men using the same restroom as women is mortifying for some reason. Does it really matter who poops with whom?

    If women are afraid of molesters in unisex restrooms, isn’t that just as paranoid as these overly protective parents?

  127. Fern February 4, 2013 at 11:27 pm #

    I’ve been trying to encourage my oldest child, age 4, to use public restrooms alone for nearly a year. She uses familiar park restrooms alone now. She will sometimes use a restroom alone in a familiar restaurant as long as I walk to the door of the restroom with her.

    When I was 9, my grandmother took my brother, age 7, and I on a trip to the zoo. We had to pee into a coffee can in the car because of her fear of public bathrooms. A year later, she took us to visit our cousin in another state. While visiting, we all went to the zoo in my cousin’s city. She made all 4 of us (two girls age 10 and one boy age 8 and our grandmother) somehow cram into one non-handcap-accesible bathroom stall to pee. It was humiliating and horrible. We protested and tried to convincer her that we should use the stall one at a time with everyone else waiting right outside that stall’s door, but she wouldn’t consider it. She was very, very afraid that someone would molest or kidnap us in the bathroom.

    Meanwhile, our own father was exposing himself to us and beating us until our backs bled. I have wondered if her irrational fear of strangers in the bathroom was some way to stop worrying about what her own family members were doing to us. If you worry enough about something that will never happen, you might not have the energy to think about wrongs that you should actually do something about.

  128. Donna February 4, 2013 at 11:38 pm #

    I have to agree with Warren here on the special needs issue. I have great empathy for those dealing with special needs but at some age, around puberty, males in the ladies room start making many women uncomfortable, regardless of disability. This is certainly a good reason for more family/single-user restrooms, I don’t think it’s a good argument for making a large proportion of women uncomfortable in the restrooms designated for them.

  129. ifsogirl February 5, 2013 at 12:10 am #

    For all those stating that we don’t know the kids history or background and that there may be a medical or mental heatlh issue as to why he’s going with his mother, I’d like to point out it was the mother saying that it was unsafe for him to go alone. SHE is saying that it’s these times we live in, SHE didn’t say he is a special needs kid. There will always be exceptions, but most the time there isn’t.

  130. Warren February 5, 2013 at 12:11 am #

    My wife asked me tonight,

    If I were at the mall shopping with our youngest daughter, 13, and she went into the public restroom, and I then saw this boy going in, what would I do?

    First look for a security guard. Not finding one immediately, I would have gone in and dragged him out. Instinct kicks in, and I admit it. From a distance, not knowing he was going in with his Mom, I would react. Then who is in trouble. Me!

  131. Eliza February 5, 2013 at 12:22 am #

    My daughter goes to school with a boy whose mother is over protective of her son. Sounds like the Mum in this story. My daughter has a nick name for the boy and Mum at her school. She calls the boy Raymond and the Mum Marie. I guess if we want to see what the future will be for that boy is to watch reruns of Everybody Loves Raymond.

  132. Earth.W February 5, 2013 at 4:14 am #

    Can you imagine what would have happened if this was a matter of a Father dragging his daughter into the toilet? I can see Police called, the bloke being listed as a sex offender and more.

    Hell, I copped suspicious eyes every time I took a young female child of mine into the men’s toilets with me so she could go.

  133. Earth.W February 5, 2013 at 4:29 am #

    In many European countries, they have unisex toilets AND, they have open saunas where people of all ages and genders sit there…NAKED!

    Europeans can be so far ahead of the Puritanical West.

  134. Jemma February 5, 2013 at 7:11 am #

    I know this is getting off topic, but Warren and Donna who complain about special needs teen boys making them feel unfortable in womens restrooms–I simply don’t buy it. Is this something that happens more than one in 10,000 restroom visits? Why are you inventing problems that don’t exist?

  135. Snow February 5, 2013 at 9:01 am #

    Oh brother. My son has been using the men’s bathroom by himself since he was 5. When he was 5 I would wait outside the door, but I certainly didn’t go in and I didn’t bring him to the women’s room with me. Last summer we were in Chicago and a brand new Target had opened up downtown. In we went, the place was a madhouse and I had to go to the bathroom. Of course, there was a huge line. My son, age 10 at the time, just sat on a bench outside the bathroom and waited for me to finish. He was alone in downtown Chicago, waiting for me. He had no phone. This was his first time in Chicago. Neither of us had any concerns about him waiting for me by himself in a store. The line was so long I was gone about 20 minutes and he had to fend for himself. There was absolutely no problem. A little while later we were eating lunch somewhere, I don’t remember where, and guess what? Yeah, he had to use the bathroom. He asked me if I knew where it was, I said I did not and he should go ask someone. He got up, asked someone where the bathroom was, and he went to the bathroom. Out of my sight, in a big city. 10 years old. My kid will be able to function very nicely when he’s an adult, I feel very sorry for the middle school student who is forced to use the wrong bathroom.

  136. Niah H February 5, 2013 at 9:18 am #

    My 5 year old son goes to the public bathroom alone all the time. Not only has he never not come out of the bathroom completely fine, but probably 2 out of 5 times I send him back in to wash his hands (he is a boy.) Plus, for all of the “incapable” kids out there, my son is on the autism spectrum. There are so many things that he can not do independently, but walking into a bathroom, using the urinal (which is fun for him because we don’t have that cool thing at home), and being sent back in to wash his hands…he can do all of that alone. My 3 year old daughter hasn’t gone into a restroom alone yet, mostly because she’s rarely with only her father at a store, but she goes in her own stall. At 3, the most I get is she’ll ask me to come help her. But that is rare. She is usually perfectly capable of using the bathroom in her own stall alone. And *gasp* often I’ll use the stall next to her. She’ll finish and go wash her hands and then wait against the wall until I’m finished also. No need to cram into a dirty stall together.

  137. pentamom February 5, 2013 at 9:18 am #

    Charles — there is nothing to fear for a half-grown boy going into a restroom alone, under normal circumstances.

    There is also nothing to “fear” from a boy using a woman’s restroom, but it’s inappropriate and deemed an invasion of privacy by the general understanding of our culture, and by many of the individual women and girls in our culture.

    That desire for privacy should be respected unless there’s an actual reason (i..e. not a made up, paranoid fear) to do otherwise.

  138. marie February 5, 2013 at 10:09 am #

    If I were at the mall shopping with our youngest daughter, 13, and she went into the public restroom, and I then saw this boy going in, what would I do?
    First look for a security guard. Not finding one immediately, I would have gone in and dragged him out. Instinct kicks in, and I admit it. From a distance, not knowing he was going in with his Mom, I would react.

    Warren, what are you reacting to? Have you not raised your daughter to protect herself? When she comes out of the restroom and says, “Well, that was weird,” or “He was weird/scary”…do you think you are incapable of helping her deal with her feelings if she was traumatized by the experience?

    Have you never walked into the wrong restroom by mistake? (I have and it makes a heck of a funny story to tell later.) If my son wanders into the wrong restroom and you drag him out, you are making an ass of yourself and humiliating the boy…because your imagination went out of control.

  139. Emily February 5, 2013 at 10:09 am #

    I agree with Warren, Donna, and Pentamom. Yes, I’m in favour of inclusion for people with special needs, but I also believe that everyone should learn and follow the rules of polite society, so that we can all get along. Also, no one person, or subset of people, should have to make ALL the accommodations, as it seems that the women’s bathroom/changeroom is often used as the default “women, disabled individuals, and boys up to middle school age” bathroom. I’ve run into problems like these on many occasions. For example:

    -When I was in university, the fitness facilities on campus had changerooms for men and women, but no children’s or family changerooms. This made sense, because universities aren’t designed to cater to children or families; they’re intended for adults. However, they offered children’s swimming, basketball, etc., programs on the weekends, to make more money (because, you know, the university didn’t charge us enough for tuition), and on weekends, the women’s changeroom would be flooded with boys, some of them well into school age. When I complained about this, I was told that I had to just live with it, because “What if Dad can’t be there?” Meanwhile, my first two years of undergrad, I was involved in a program called Big Buddies, and I was matched up with a little boy who was eight when we joined the program, so, about the same age as some of the “interlopers” in the women’s change room. When we went swimming on campus, he changed by himself in the men’s change room, while I changed in the women’s. Nothing ever went wrong, except for me having to rush through and meet him on the other end, and walk back to my building with frozen hair in the winter. Anyway, sadly, although my Little Buddy and I followed the rules, we were the exception to the rule–most people decided that gender assignments on the changerooms were just suggestions, and couldn’t possibly apply to their little snowflake.

    -A few years ago, I was swimming at the YMCA, and a group of mentally challeneged young people (all boys, for some reason) came in with their caregivers (all female, for some reason, so I don’t hazard to guess how they handled the changeroom thing). Anyway, at one point, one boy started mouthing the gutter water at the side of the pool, and then spitting it back out into the gutter. When I alerted one of the caregivers, she said “Oh, yeah, he’s autistic, he likes the water.” I then told the powers-that-be about this, because it could be a health issue–and it was also in the dead of winter, during flu season, so I hope the caregivers didn’t blame the YMCA if that boy got sick.

    -When I was thirteen, I went to summer camp as usual (I went to the same camp from ages 10-16), and when I arrived, there was a girl in my cabin who was mentally handicapped, and attending through a program called Project Rainbow. There were four sets of bunk beds in our cabin, set up in the middle of the floor, two by two, with an “aisle” down the very middle of the cabin. We also had three counsellors, who were in single beds in the corners. Anyway, the Project Rainbow girl (let’s call her Skye, for simplicity’s sake), were in adjacent bottom bunks. Since Skye was fourteen, but functioning at more of a kindergarten level, she’d get super excited and keyed up at night, and she’d actually steady herself against the posts of her bunk bed, and kick me….repeatedly. When I complained, I was accused of being “intolerant.” When I asked one of the counsellors if she’d switch beds with me (after I’d already been putting up with several nights of being kicked), I was told that this wasn’t possible, for “sexual reasons.” This was from a counsellor who was only four years older than I was, so technically still a minor, but for some reason, it made a difference. Anyway, no alternative solutions were proposed, no one offered to rotate sleeping next to Skye; I was just blamed as being the “problem,” and treated like a bully, just for wanting to sleep in peace.

    Anyway, back to my main point–yes, children, older people, and people with disabilities should be more than welcome to interact with the world, shop at the mall, swim at the YMCA, attend summer camp, etc., but they should first be taught how to behave in those places, or else the world just might “interact” right back, and tell them that they’re behaving inappropriately. One thing I hate is people who say “It takes a village to raise a child,” and then complain when they don’t like what the “village” has to say, even if it’s “Stop kicking me,” or “Gutter water isn’t for drinking.” You can’t have it both ways.

  140. SKL February 5, 2013 at 10:30 am #

    As far as the special needs argument goes, while I am not against it, I must say I have never in my 46 years seen a half-grown special-needs boy brought into the public ladies’ room. Where I live, I’ve only twice seen boys over about 6 in the ladies’, and while those two might have had a screw loose, it did not appear that way to me. So I doubt that the reason for the commonness of this sight in some places is “special needs.”

  141. Amanda Matthews February 5, 2013 at 10:53 am #

    @Charles I think 2 is an embarrassment issue, not a risk of molestation issue (except with Warren).

    Not that I really understand that either. I don’t want a woman opening my stall door while I’m changing my tampon any more than I want a man doing it (to use one person’s example); but I don’t expect ANYONE to open the stall door while it’s shut and locked, man nor woman. And if someone is really determined to come in and open the stall door, I don’t think a sign on the outside of the restroom door is going to stop them.

    The only sense I can make of this is the fact that women often “hang out” in womens’ restrooms, talking about things they don’t want males to hear, fixing their makeup when many of them don’t want anyone seeing them without it? I never did that stuff, so maybe that is why I don’t understand it.

    Or maybe it is the fact that I’m equally embarrassed by a random woman seeing me use the toilet, change clothes etc. as I am a random man. If they aren’t my husband or my kids (and I’m equally unembarrassed if it’s my sons or my daughter) I don’t want them seeing me, no matter their gender…

    @Warren “I would have gone in and dragged him out” Oh, but as soon as you go in, my husband has to rush in and punch you for going into the restroom while MY daughter is in there! :)

  142. pentamom February 5, 2013 at 11:14 am #

    Emily, this is really OT, but I’m not sure what you were thinking with the gutter water thing. Yes, if the child was able to be restrained from doing that without causing bigger issues, he should have been. (And maybe he couldn’t have been. Maybe being there in that situation without making some kind of huge scene represented progress for him. We just don’t know.)

    But how is it more of a health issue than people swimming in the pool and getting the water in their mouths, and then spitting it back out, which is happening every second of every day? Isn’t the gutter water the same as the pool water, just overflow?

    Or am I not understanding what you’re describing?

  143. Gene Callahan February 5, 2013 at 11:17 am #

    @Karen: “It’s really not anyone else’s business.”

    Wrong, Karen. It is “the business” of anyone using the public restroom who is allowed in and who not.

  144. pentamom February 5, 2013 at 11:17 am #

    Amanda, I understand what you’re saying, but maybe in some ways it’s just more about limits. There is an understanding that there are men’s rooms, and women’s rooms. People who think that they can violate widely accepted limits (that other people feel obligated to respect) for their own reasons, and not even marginally GOOD reasons, are creating a problem.

  145. Gene Callahan February 5, 2013 at 11:31 am #

    @Charles: “Does it really matter who poops with whom?”

    Yes, Charles. You don’t get to pick your own social norms from a menu. The culture as a whole picks them.

  146. EricS February 5, 2013 at 12:14 pm #

    Are many parents really that selfish and self-centered? Because that’s what it is. It’s ALWAYS less about the “safety” of the child, than it is the quelling of the parent(s) own inner fear and self doubt. This mentality is so ingrained in many of today’s parents, that to them it’s normal. An auto response just like breathing. And as Lenore said, when they finally bring themselves to overcoming their fears, they realize there really was no fear to be had. That they don’t even know WHY they were being fearful in the first place. Parents, this isn’t about how YOU feel, it’s about what is best for you children, so that they grow up well adjusted, confident with self-esteem, and your fears don’t become theirs. Today’s parental mentality of worse-case thinking, and coddling, is a sure fire way of setting up your kids to fail as they get older. That’s just fact. You have to ask yourself, what is more important, my feelings, or the future of my child? I have to say, I come across many pauses when I ask this question. The fact that it’s a no brainer, yet a lot of parents have a difficult time choosing. Selfish.

  147. WendyW February 5, 2013 at 12:17 pm #

    The odds of a normal 13yo boy trying to get a “look” at something in a ladies restroom are probably much higher than any risks that same boy faces in the mens room. 13yo boys in general are a relatively uncivilized subset of the species.

  148. Emily February 5, 2013 at 12:26 pm #

    @Pentamom–I thought the gutter water was dirtier than the normal pool water, because it’s the dirty water being filtered out of the pool, to be replaced with clean water. Also, the gutter is full of germs from people’s feet, the floor, etc. Now that you mention it, I’m not sure what the scientific rationale behind it is, but I took swimming, first aid, lifesaving, etc., for many, many years, and we were always told that the gutter water is the dirtiest water in the pool area. I didn’t make a big deal about it either; I just quietly pointed it out to the caregiver, in a “he could get sick” kind of way, and then when that didn’t work, I filled out a comment card and put it in the suggestion box, which is how we usually communicate if something is wrong at the Y.

  149. EricS February 5, 2013 at 12:31 pm #

    I remember up until the age of 7 or 8, my dad would take me with him to use public washrooms. I’m sure it was for the efficiency, rather than fear of leaving me and my siblings alone outside. We’ve also been left alone outside when we said we didn’t have to go. If it had been only my mother, she would get us to come with her to the women’s washroom. Again, if we didn’t have to go, we’d be left outside to wait. But by the age of 8-9, I refused to go inside the women’s washroom with my mother when I had to go. And would just run into the men’s washroom. My mom, never came in after me, never made an issue when I came out. The only thing she made sure of was that I washed my hands. And the funny thing about that, if I said “I forgot”, she’d make me wipe them on my pants. That was our “hand sanitizer”. lol

  150. Donna February 5, 2013 at 12:35 pm #

    @Jemma – We’re not inventing the problem. Having never been in a woman’s bathroom with a disabled pubescent male, I don’t think it is a prevalent problem. However, I do take issue with the idea expressed by the several here that basically woman should not care if a male is in the ladies room if he is disabled. Particularly because this is being done soley for THE MOTHER/CAREGIVER’S OWN comfort. I’ve never been to a place that had women’s bathrooms but not men’s – with shorter lines since we are so concerned with going immediately. I imagine that even disabled men want to use the men’s room and not the ladies room. It seems you are taking your pubescent son into the ladies because you are more comfortable going in there than helping him in the men’s bathroom. Why should the other women be uncomfortable so that you can be more comfortable?

    As for why women are uncomfortable with strange men in the bathroom, it is predominantly cultural norms. But you have to live within cultural norms whether you are disabled or not and whether you like them or not. The culture surrounding bathroom privacy is not going to change because you gave birth to an autistic child. In fact, even if we all believed that bathroom sex segregation is wrong, it will take several generations before people are truly comfortable in multisex public bathroom.

    I’ve also been in enough bathrooms with broken locks and wide gaps between the sides and doors to not put much stock in the fact that we are in stalls. Am I embarrassed if a strange woman opens the door because the latch is broken? Sure. Would I be more embarrassed if it were a man? Absolutely!

  151. Emily February 5, 2013 at 12:36 pm #

    People are probably going to hate me for this, but I don’t think hand sanitizer is inherently bubble-wrappish and paranoid; it all depends on how you use it. If I go to a high-traffic public place (shopping mall, library, bus station, etc.), and there’s a hand sanitizer pump there, for anyone to use, then I’ll sanitize my hands, especially if it’s in the middle of winter flu season. Also, when I was living/studying in Australia, for some reason, the women’s bathroom in the university’s Creative Arts building never had any soap, so I’d always bring hand sanitizer in my backpack on days when I planned to be in that building for any length of time. However, I think the current culture of antibacterial everything, and kids going to school with little bottles of hand sanitizer on lanyards, is excessive. Besides, what would happen if someone’s Purell lanyard were to get caught on the monkey bars or something? Hello, choking hazard.

  152. Ann February 5, 2013 at 12:54 pm #

    That poor kid. He must be mortified having to use the women’s bathroom with his mom. Being a young tween/teen is hard enough without your mom dragging you into the women’s restroom!

  153. Warren February 5, 2013 at 1:08 pm #

    Ok to the one that responded with, have you never gone into the wrong bathroom……… I have not.
    And I would not assume that a teenage boy would do it by mistake, since oh I don’t know the constant stream of men using one door, and women using the other, is usually a good indicator.

    As for dragging him out. Very simple, do you think it would be better to stand in there and hold a conversation with him, or remove him.

    And for the record, no I do not need to protect my daughters from attack, as they are a couple of tough chicks.
    But when they and other ladies will be in their stalls, unaware of this guys presence, it is my duty to be the gentleman and find out what is going on. I never said I was going to hurt him, just remove him. Big difference.

    And to the lady with the husband, tell him to sit down, because he really wouldn’t want to intervene and get hurt.

  154. Warren February 5, 2013 at 1:11 pm #

    Oh and just for the record. I wouldn not be dragging his sorry butt out, because I think he might do something wrong. I would be doing it because he already has done something wrong.
    You all need to stop being so sensitive.
    To see a male hanging out in front of a female restroom and calling the cops, would be over reacting.
    To see one enter, and going to get him out is not.

  155. pentamom February 5, 2013 at 1:18 pm #

    Okay, Emily, the gutters must work differently than the ones I’m familiar with. What I envisioned was just a place where the water slopped into to keep it from overflowing, but there was nothing to stop it slopping right back into the pool, and vice versa. I don’t think there was any kind of filtration in that setup — the filter openings are on the sides of the pool.

  156. Donna February 5, 2013 at 1:19 pm #

    @Helms – And when I say “we’re not inventing the problem,” I mean that it wasn’t us who brought it up. It was one of the first posts, then echoed by several others. It is either such a problem that we need to automatically consider that the teenage boy in the women’s bathroom may be disabled although his mother clearly stated that he was there because the world is too dangerous or is such a nonissue that we should not consider disability at all.

  157. Donna February 5, 2013 at 1:20 pm #

    That should be Jemma and not Helms. Not sure how autocorrect went there.

  158. Emily February 5, 2013 at 1:55 pm #

    @Pentamom–The pool at our YMCA has jets and filters inside the pool, but it also has metal grates in the gutters that are meant to drain away the dirty runoff water. It’s really hard to describe it in writing, without showing you the pool itself, but it’s been drilled into my head since I was young that the gutter water is gross. Anyway, I’m glad you asked about it instead of just discounting my viewpoint or saying I was being stupid.

  159. Christine February 5, 2013 at 2:52 pm #

    I wish you could come do a workshop in my neighborhood. In our old neighborhood my daughter would run from house to house with a group of kids. It started when she was 4 (almost 5). They came over to our house to play, then wanted to go somewhere else so I let her go too. I reminded her to look both ways and asked the other kids to keep an eye on her (at first). Pretty soon she was doing fine on her own and I wasn’t worried about cars (I’d already read your book so I never worried about strangers).

    I was so used to this life that when we moved last year it never occurred to me that a nice, quiet neighborhood set back away from busy streets and the home to a number of sheriff’s deputies and police officers would be the complete opposite. The parents here don’t let their kids walk down the street without an escort-even the older kids. Elayna is 6 now and this weekend she walked down (by herself) to play with a 9 year old friend. The friend was sick but the parents wouldn’t send my daughter back because they were afraid to let her go that far by herself (she walked down okay alone but somehow they couldn’t let her go home alone). Instead she stayed at their house exposed to germs (which to me is MUCH worse than walking down the street alone) until we came down to see why the girls hadn’t come back to our house. I’m afraid my neighbors are going to think we’re just pawning her off on them when really she’s inviting her friends to come play with her. Not to mention it’s exhausting for me to stop whatever I’m doing so I can escort a 9 year old!? less than a block. At 9 I was riding to the library, pool, and grocery by myself-sometimes up to a mile away. I don’t understand why the kids in my neighborhood can’t walk a block.

  160. SKL February 5, 2013 at 3:17 pm #

    This discussion reminds me of an incident at McDonald’s where a person who was biologically male but “identified as a woman” went into the ladies’. A woman saw him in there and beat the crap out of him. (Maybe it was more than one woman.) There was a big uproar because the poor transsexual person was subjected to so much cruelty and discrimination.


    As far as I’m concerned, if you have a penis (and you aren’t a tot), you can’t just decide that you belong in the ladies’ room. How am I supposed to know whether you’re a rapist in drag? Pee elsewhere.

  161. Rachel February 5, 2013 at 3:19 pm #

    ” Particularly because this is being done soley for THE MOTHER/CAREGIVER’S OWN comfort. I’ve never been to a place that had women’s bathrooms but not men’s – with shorter lines since we are so concerned with going immediately. I imagine that even disabled men want to use the men’s room and not the ladies room. It seems you are taking your pubescent son into the ladies because you are more comfortable going in there than helping him in the men’s bathroom. Why should the other women be uncomfortable so that you can be more comfortable?”

    Donna, are you suggesting the mother of a special needs teenage boy who needs assistance in the restroom should take him into the men’s room? It seems if we are truly talking comfort of others, the women’s room would be the more rational, logical choice. The men’s room would have open urinals whereas the woman’s room have stalls that lock. I would assume the men in the men’s room would be far more uncomfortable with a woman taking her special needs son in there. (And asking a man to assist the teenager would be very awkward for both parties involved.) Obviously if there is a choice to use a family restroom or a private one, MOST caregivers of special needs individuals would choose those in a heartbeat. But we mustn’t judge those that do need to use a woman’s/men’s only restroom sometimes with a special needs individual. We should show them compassion and not be upset that our own comfort levels are disturbed. Perhaps if we remember that most special needs individuals that don’t have the ability to use the restroom alone, probably have a fairly young mental age. So if we can think of them as a 2, 3, or 4 year old in a large body, maybe we can learn to be more understanding. Overall, though, I wouldn’t think this was a widespread problem. I have never personally experienced this issue and it’s kind of like the saying, “Unless you’ve walked in another man’s shoes….” I couldn’t imagine spending my days and nights caring for a special needs teenage boy, being out in public with him when suddenly he “has to go now”, knowing full well he did not have the mental and/or physical capability to go on his own, and then faced with the choice of going into the men’s room with him or taking him into the women’s room, knowing full well I was going to possibly be negatively judged and looked down upon no matter what my decision – that I had to make quick or be faced with a big mess to clean up. I would hope I would run across compassionate individuals that would be understanding.

  162. Rachel February 5, 2013 at 3:23 pm #

    By the way, I’m not saying that the original post was necessarily a special needs boy, but since the conversation did lean that way, I’m just saying that it isn’t black and white all the time and we should be a bit understanding. :)

  163. pentamom February 5, 2013 at 4:57 pm #

    Yes, Emily, I hope you didn’t think I was implying you were stupid. I was picturing our own Y pool and wondering what you meant.

    I don’t really grasp your description, but that’s okay. It’s not necessary for me to understand the mechanics of the pool to get the point. :-)

  164. Donna February 5, 2013 at 5:11 pm #

    “It seems if we are truly talking comfort of others, the women’s room would be the more rational, logical choice. ”

    It may be more comfortable for the caregiver and for the men in the men’s bathroom, but it’s not for the women in the women’s bathroom and the disabled teen. Since someone is going to uncomfortable whichever way you go, it seems that the caregiver’s comfort is the ruling force in the decision making process as to which bathroom to use.

    “So if we can think of them as a 2, 3, or 4 year old in a large body, maybe we can learn to be more understanding.”

    That isn’t true at all. Even if this statement were true (which I don’t think it is), puberty is controlled by hormones, not mental ability. Chronological age determines physical and hormonal sexual maturity not mental age. A mentally challenged 16 year old boy has some, if not all, of the sexual responses and urges of other 16 year old boys, even if mentally only 2.

    I don’t in any way believe that special needs teens are a danger to anyone in the women’s bathroom. Frankly, I don’t imagine that most men are turned on in the least by being in a bathroom full of strange women (unless maybe they are all supermodels). However, we are talking about a cultural norm that women are uncomfortable being in states of undress in the presence of unknown males who have reached some level of sexual maturity. Wrong or right, it is the culture we live in. Sexual maturity is sexual maturity, whether you have the mind of a 3 year old or the mind of a 16 year old.

  165. Charles February 5, 2013 at 5:14 pm #

    @ Gene Callahan: “You don’t get to pick your own social norms from a menu. The culture as a whole picks them.”

    No, but I wish many of the commenters here would reflect a bit more on their own irrational bathroom/sexual hang-ups before judging other people’s.

    Besides, culture can change for the better, as I’m sure you would agree that we shouldn’t blindly submit to the dominant culture of parental paranoia just because that’s what “the culture” picked for us parents.

  166. Rachel February 5, 2013 at 5:18 pm #

    ““It seems if we are truly talking comfort of others, the women’s room would be the more rational, logical choice. ”
    It may be more comfortable for the caregiver and for the men in the men’s bathroom, but it’s not for the women in the women’s bathroom and the disabled teen. Since someone is going to uncomfortable whichever way you go, it seems that the caregiver’s comfort is the ruling force in the decision making process as to which bathroom to use.”

    So again, what choice does she have? Let him soil his pants? What would you do if you had a teenage son in this situation? Because you seem to be saying that no matter what she chooses, (outside of finding a private restroom, which is not always feasible), she would be making a wrong choice. ;( Seriously, what IS the right choice? What is the solution?

  167. Rachel February 5, 2013 at 5:20 pm #

    @ Donna – And I would think women in private stalls behind closed doors would be more comfortable with a special needs teen boy in their restroom than men out in the open with a woman without special needs coming in to assist her special needs teenage son. Would you not agree?

  168. David February 5, 2013 at 5:31 pm #

    Donna, I’m a guy and have never been in a women’s restroom (at least I have no memories of it) but do women walk around in “various stages of undress” in there? Because I always assumed they would pull up their pants/pull down their skirts before exiting the stalls. I could be wrong. But if they do walk around with parts showing, then I guess I could see your argument. In men’s restrooms, however, even though most guys try to be as modest as possible, with in the open urinals, there’s only so much you can cover. I would definitely be uncomfortable with a lady coming in with a special needs teenage son. I probably wouldn’t say anything, but I definitely would be waiting for her to leave before I did my business – or use a stall if one was available. So I would think Rachel is correct that the least uncomfortable situation for all parties would be to take the boy to the women’s bathroom (assuming of course there are no other options), since there would be more privacy for everyone involved there by sheer logic of design.

  169. Donna February 5, 2013 at 5:32 pm #

    @Rachel – I disagree. Rational or not, in general, women seem to be more modest than men about the bathroom. I know many men who roll their eyes about their female significant other’s refusal to use the bathroom in their presence. I know no women who do the same and many who complain about their male significant other just walking in and doing their business while they are in the bathroom.

    And honestly, I think the comfort of the person who needs to use the restroom is the overriding concern. Which room do THEY want to go in? Men are going to be somewhat uncomfortable with a woman in the men’s room. Women are going to be somewhat uncomfortable with a teen male in the women’s bathroom. At least one person should be comfortable and it should be the person peeing. But none of this seems to take their feelings into account.

  170. Donna February 5, 2013 at 5:40 pm #

    @David – In general they do. Except when the door doesn’t lock and someone walks up and pulls the handle. Or when the gaps between the door and the wall are 2 inches big. Or when they want to show their friend their new butt tattoo (went into the bathroom where that was occurring once).

    The fact is that NEITHER sex wants the opposite sex in their bathroom. The fact is that, regardless of mental ability, the teenage boy is probably horribly embarrassed by being in the women’s bathroom since it is clear even to him that (a) he needs help doing something that everyone else his age can do and (b) he is doing it in the wrong place. Why exactly the deference to always taking him into the ladies room? It is 100% for the comfort of the caregiver because everyone else is uncomfortable either way, even if one is arguably more uncomfortable than the other.

  171. SKL February 5, 2013 at 5:41 pm #

    Bah. It seems simple to me. A person who cannot go potty on his/her own needs to be assisted by whoever is there to assist. If there is no “family bathroom,” you go into the bathroom suited to the gender of the person assisting. If necessary, you say “sorry, excuse us.” If at all possible, you plan for a same-sex assistant if a bathroom visit will be needed. The people in that bathroom should show some compassion and be considerate (and modest).

    The issue is with people who *can* go potty on their own. People should not have to make accommodations endlessly for insubstantial reasons.

  172. Brenda Adler February 5, 2013 at 6:27 pm #

    Ok so you take your girl into the mens room and some guy has his penis out and that’s the end of the world, but if you take your son in and some guy has his penis out that’s ok?

    Sorry that logic makes no sense. It doesn’t matter whether you have an “innie” or an “outie” it’s just peeing – or waiting for someone to finsih adjusting their underwear or whatever.

    The embarrasment and shame most people drill into kids is why they now start sex ed in Kindergarten. Once they are embarrassed they don’t listen and learn.

    Women go topless here. There are nude beaches. While it’s technically illegal you get the odd naturalist or person making a politcal statement that’s completely nude. The newest public pool here has only mixed gender change AND showes *except* on Tuesdays and Thursdays the whole facility is one gender (for those with religious restrictions. Although I’m sure kids under a certain age are allowed regardless)

    I’m not saying drag your 12 year old son in the women’s room if he doesn’t want to be there. However, can we please, for the love of reason, stop making it harder for men to be equal parents? Most stores aren’t kind enough to have stools for little people to reach the taps. A lot of younger kids have fears of public bathrooms (the noise of the toilets, the automatic toilets, or the driers). If someone needs to assist someone in the bathroom, regardless or age or potential nakedness, can we please let them do it without the shame?

    And if you *want* to be assured that there will be no people of the opposite gender then you *need* to find a single occupant bathroom. If someone *needs* assistance that trumps your *wants*.

  173. Emily February 5, 2013 at 7:00 pm #

    @Rachel–We all know that a special needs person who needs help in the bathroom may have a younger mental/emotional age than chronological/physical age, but that doesn’t mean that that person has equal development all over. Just because that person can’t negotiate a public bathroom alone, doesn’t mean that there’s no way he’s “developed” enough to have urges for/curiosity about the opposite sex. In fact, that’s the crux of the problem–mentally handicapped individuals with the mental capacity to be aroused (or simply curious), but without the maturity level to moderate those urges. So, if you throw the bathroom issue into the mix (like, if the person doesn’t have the manual dexterity to get his pants down and back up again), then he HAS to have an aide in the bathroom, and the only way around it is if that aide were also male. However, it’s not always possible to match up same-sex caregivers and clients, because “caregiving” professions seem to attract more women than men.

    Anyway, I’m not trying to create a strawman argument here, but if uneven development can happen with able-bodied, neurotypical people (and, we all know someone who’s great at art, but horrible at math, or really good with their hands, but can barely read, etc.), it can happen with disabled people as well. Remember Skye? She was developed enough to realize that she was older, and to WANT to be like the rest of us, but not developed enough to realize that being hyper and thrashing around in her bed wasn’t the way to go if she wanted to be included.

  174. pentamom February 5, 2013 at 8:41 pm #

    “Besides, culture can change for the better, as I’m sure you would agree that we shouldn’t blindly submit to the dominant culture of parental paranoia just because that’s what “the culture” picked for us parents.”

    Are you under the impression that keeping bodily functions private between the sexes is some recent artifact of “parental paranoia,” not the normal state of the majority cultures over the entire earth for thousands of years?

    Even if it’s an unnecessary norm, it seems a bit much to wave away people’s feelings, cultivated over thousands of years of human culture, because Charles thinks it’s an unnecessary concern. If nothing else, do you have no respect for the *feelings* of other people, even if you think their *ideas* are wrong?

  175. Let_Her_Eat_Dirt February 5, 2013 at 9:02 pm #

    Amazing. I feel so sorry for those over-protected boys. How humiliating it must be!

    One of my proudest moments as a father came a few months ago when I was taking my two-year-old girl to the restroom in a crowded restaurant. She sprinted ahead and disappeared into the women’s restroom. I waited a few minutes, and out she flew, drying her hands on her shirt. A woman came out behind her and said she had snaked her way to an open stall, peed, and washed her hands, all on her own. Score one for self-reliance!

    Let Her Eat Dirt
    One dad’s take on raising tough, adventurous girls

  176. Emily February 5, 2013 at 9:28 pm #

    @Pentamom–I agree; I don’t like the idea of co-ed bathrooms either. They’re apparently more acceptable in Australia, and all of the bathrooms at International House were co-ed, except for the ONE set of gendered bathrooms just off the TV room, except those bathrooms didn’t have showers. Luckily, I only lived at iHouse proper for two weeks, then a week in a motel-type setup, before the postgraduate house (with normal, single, residential-type bathrooms) was cleared for move-in. This was never supposed to happen; it was just a bureaucratic glitch with the city……but I wasn’t told until I arrived, after flying halfway around the world from Canada, and one of the asshat “student leaders” basically told me that I was being unreasonable to be put out by that. So, I spent two weeks feeling pretty mortified about not being able to keep the more private aspects of my life PRIVATE from the opposite sex. After that, when I visited iHouse, if I ever had to go to the bathroom, I’d either find the one gendered one, or just make sure there were no guys in whichever co-ed one I was closest to.

    HOWEVER, there were some logistical things (that most people don’t think of), that were actually made easier by the co-ed thing. For example, on one occasion, I witnessed a girl giving a guy friend a haircut in one of the co-ed bathrooms. It also made a lot of sense for things like Halloween, or spirit days involving body paint, etc……..but, in my mind, those events didn’t happen frequently enough to warrant having co-ed bathrooms as the default option. I think it would have made more sense to either make iHouse co-ed by floor rather than by room (so, have all-male and all-female floors), or make certain floors single-gender, and reserve a few other floors as co-ed, for people who really wanted it. People said that everyone was really “respectful” with the co-ed situation, and it made the bathrooms cleaner, but I think that that was just a nice way of saying that some people just hurried in and out with their eyes to the floor because of embarrassment. That’s not a nice way to have to live.

    P.S., Later on, I became a student leader as well, but I took a much kinder, gentler approach than the one who branded me as a troublemaker within five minutes of meeting me, when I was tired, carsick, and shell-shocked from a 30-hour journey.

  177. Warren February 5, 2013 at 9:36 pm #

    Wow, how sensitive can people get.

    Let’s get something out in the open. As a society we have a responsiblity to help and accomodate those with special needs.

    As an idividual I do not have to kiss their caregiver’s butt, or sacrifice my rights.

    If a women wants to come into the men’s with her child, or a father wants to bring in his daughter go for it. I really do not object with them being there.

    I do object with the lack of respect that alot of these caregivers show. They will walk in like they own the place. For some reason they feel it is beneath them to announce they are coming in. Those are the ones I have a problem with.
    It all goes back to this sense of entitlement that so many people have. And it is wrong.

  178. Rachel February 5, 2013 at 10:04 pm #

    Ok, I apparently tried to say what I was saying wrong. I know not every special needs individual has the overall capacity of of one certain age. I realize there is uneven development. What I was trying to say, (and failed, apparently), is that if WE could just think of them as large toddlers then maybe WE would feel better – regardless of whether they are or not. But that was really just such a TINY statement of my overall post. The MAIN point I was trying to get across was that these caregivers seem to be in a lose – lose situation no matter what choice they make if we are worried about trying to make sure everyone is comfortable and has their rights to absolute privacy all the time. Personally I say TRUST them to do what they and the individual they are caring for are most comfortable with and show a little compassion – even if it is outside your comfort zone. I have a good friend who lives across the country that has a severely mentally handicapped teenage son. She tries very hard not to get in situations where she has no choice but to take him to the women’s restroom but she has told me that she’s had to do it a few times. He could care less if he’s in the women’s restroom. He has such a sweet spirit and he smiles and waves at all the ladies and tells them his name. Maybe because he’s so sweet and friendly no one has ever said anything to her. I just hope she continues to run across compassionate, understanding individuals.

  179. Charles February 5, 2013 at 10:07 pm #

    @pentamom: “Are you under the impression that keeping bodily functions private between the sexes is some recent artifact of “parental paranoia,” not the normal state of the majority cultures over the entire earth for thousands of years?”

    No, segregated public restrooms are not culturally universal, and they’re not that old. This idea that women should keep their shameful “bodily functions” private from men and vice-versa is pure sexism.

    And while I understand that many people have been conditioned to feel shame and discomfort about their bodies, I’m optimistic that over time we’ll move beyond that, even if it takes time.

  180. Emily February 5, 2013 at 10:26 pm #

    >>No, segregated public restrooms are not culturally universal, and they’re not that old. This idea that women should keep their shameful “bodily functions” private from men and vice-versa is pure sexism.<<

    Charles–How is that sexist, if it applies equally to both genders?

  181. Emily February 5, 2013 at 10:38 pm #

    Rachel–I see your point now; the “oversized toddler” designation for mentally handicapped people in the opposite-gendered public bathroom isn’t meant to be accurate; it’s more to make the other people (of the gender said bathroom is for) feel slightly more “okay” about the situation. Fair point. However, I still think that my argument about uneven development holds water (no pun intended), not just for the public bathroom/locker room debate, but for other aspects of life as well–schools, camps, after-school groups, families, neighbourhoods, and even mentally handicapped adults in workplaces–because it can cause a lot of problems when it’s not appropriately handled, and on the flip side, it can even be interpreted negatively when the person in question has no evil intentions. There was Skye at summer camp, who had the co-ordination and strength to kick me from her bed next to mine, but wasn’t mature enough to understand that kicking wasn’t okay, but on the other hand, there was the 40-year-old mentally handicapped man who got kicked out of free swim at the YMCA, for DIVING FOR RINGS. Parents complained that he was diving down to look up their kids’ swimsuits, so the YMCA responded by removing him from free swim, where diving for rings was a theoretically permissible activity (but was apparently only socially acceptable for children), and told him he could dive for rings during the adult/teen length swim, which was for swimming lengths. So, he was punished for appropriate behaviour that got misinterpreted, AND the proposed “solution” created an obstruction in the pool lanes during length swim. Talk about a lose-lose situation. This is why I don’t think “uneven development” should be brushed off as unimportant.

  182. Nurture February 5, 2013 at 10:44 pm #

    1/ My son is only 8 and he hs been using the men’s room alone for 2 years now. He would be mortified if I tried to take him into the Ladies with me.

    2/ I suffer from anxiety and strongly dislike using the loo in public. It’s bad enough when it is only other women and small children around me. I do NOT want to have to deal with teenage boys as well.

    3/ This reeks of double standards. Seriously, if a man were to insist on his teenage daughter accompanying him into the mens room, people would be thinking all sorts of terrible things about him (rightly or wrongly, it does happen). Why is it suddenly OK when it is the other way around?

  183. Charles February 5, 2013 at 11:36 pm #

    @Emily: “How is that sexist, if it applies equally to both genders?”

    It’s a sexist attitude because it uses sex as the sole determining factor in who can share a public restroom. If privacy of bodily function were the highest priority, then why discriminate between men and women who invade that privacy?

    That both men and women want to keep their “bodily functions” segregated does not make it less sexist, and I suppose it must originate in Victorian notions of modesty and the desire for men to deny that women actually *have* bodily functions.

  184. marie February 6, 2013 at 9:21 am #

    Thank goodness no one asked which way the toilet paper should be hung or this discussion would have really gone off the rails. :-)

  185. Emily February 6, 2013 at 9:23 am #

    @Charles–If using sex as the “sole determining factor” in segregating public facilities in situations where some measure of privacy is needed, how do you suggest society handles it? I mean, short of making an individual facility for each person, in every public place, which is clearly impossible, I really don’t see any other way around it.

  186. pentamom February 6, 2013 at 9:42 am #

    Charles, you’re missing my point.

    You think it’s unnecessary.

    But it would be really upsetting to a lot of people if you just did things the way you want.

    So, doing things the way 90% of people (in this culture) want to do it is no real skin off your nose, but doing it your way would upset most of the people you interact with.

    “Just get over it” may be a perfectly rational response, but it also makes you a heartless solipsist.

    Also, I’m not buying your history. I know that in the West, it’s no longer the majority. But until quite recently it was nearly universal (I never said completely), and has been, most of the time. It may still be, if you count the whole population of the world.

    Emily, Charles’ answer is that there is nothing that actually requires privacy, so because he thinks that, YOU just shouldn’t care, because obviously, he’s right.

  187. Emily February 6, 2013 at 2:12 pm #

    @Pentamom–I agree with you. I don’t think that wanting a modicum of privacy for things like sleeping, changing clothes, bodily functions, and certain hygiene tasks that require me to be “exposed” (for example, showering), makes me unreasonable; it makes me normal. So, you’re right–if 90% of our culutre wants privacy for these things, then our culture should be designed to accommodate that 90% of its population.

  188. lsl February 6, 2013 at 3:23 pm #

    Like several other people, I also worked with special needs kids. If I had to help a boy or young man (the school included up to age 21) use the restroom or change for the pool, we would go in the men’s room. All the women would announce that we were coming in, but even if male staff were changing that wouldn’t stop us. It was much less rare that male staff would have to enter the women’s room, but if they did they would announce it & get right back out as fast as they possibly could.

    Oh, and the kid who was drinking pool water? We had several of those & we had to stop them if possible, not because of transferring diseases or anything, but because the chlorine would make them throw up, & if anyone threw up in the pool for any reason, we had to close it down for the whole day.

  189. Backroadsem February 6, 2013 at 3:54 pm #

    I’ve been on a “Gilmore Girls” binge as of late and recently watched an episode (maybe aired six/seven years ago?) in which one of the jokes of the episode was a mother taking her six-year-old into the women’s bathroom at a football game. At the time this show ran, apparently that was something to poke fun at.

    How times are changing!

  190. Lauren February 6, 2013 at 4:17 pm #

    Perhaps all restrooms should be gender neutral, which I am seeing more and more of here in Seattle. That would solve the problem in a hurry.

    I personally find them awkward, and prefer to use the “gender neutral without urinals” rooms, instead of the “gender neutral with urinals” rooms.

  191. Charles February 6, 2013 at 4:51 pm #

    @pentamom: “…it would be really upsetting to a lot of people if you just did things the way you want.”

    Not sure where I suggested barging into ladies’ rooms as the way to reduce body-shaming and sexism in our culture. The culture will change slowly, even if it takes generations. So don’t worry, we’ll all be dead by the time men and women are comfortable using the same toilet.

    “…there is nothing that actually requires privacy, so because he thinks that, YOU just shouldn’t care, because obviously, he’s right.”

    At the risk of repeating myself, if it were just about requiring privacy, then why does it matter whether it’s privacy from men or women? If you needed privacy that badly, you wouldn’t be able to use a single-sex bathroom either. It’s a sexist hang-up that our *culture* needs to get over, though not necessarily you personally.

    But back to my original point, it sure would be nice if people at least admitted they carry around their own bathroom baggage before criticizing other parents’ hang-ups.

  192. Amanda Matthews February 6, 2013 at 5:10 pm #

    @pentamom but you do realize, that most of us here (all of us in support of free-range parenting) are going against many widly accepted limits?

    RE: going into the wrong restroom… I HAVE gone into the wrong restroom before. I actually sent my daughter into the wrong restroom not too long ago. There were no other people going in/out at the time. I pointed my daughter to the restroom, but the door was too heavy so I opened it for her – and she ran in as I caught a quick glance inside and saw urinals. No big deal, I told my daughter my mistake and opened the door for the other bathroom. She wasn’t traumatized by the sight of the urinals.

    Seriously, SKL? You’re more afraid of a penis inside someone’s clothes than of women who will SERIOUSLY BEAT UP ANOTHER PERSON? I’d be more afraid the violent women are rapists…. or. more likely, GOING TO BEAT ME UP for some reason.

    “If a women wants to come into the men’s with her child, or a father wants to bring in his daughter go for it. I really do not object with them being there.”

    Uh, but you said if a teenage male went into the women’s bathroom you would go in and pull him out – what about teenage parents?

    Or is a teenage male fine to go into the women’s bathroom as long as he has a young female accompanying him? Would a teenage boy helping his little sister be okay?

    When you go in to drag the teenage boy out, are you going to first request papers to prove his relationship with the girl?

  193. Emily February 6, 2013 at 7:56 pm #

    This isn’t a complete solution, but after reading through all the anecdotes from parents of children who are pottty-trained, but still too small to comfortably reach bathroom fixtures designed for adults, I’m thinking, how easy would it be for public places like shopping malls, recreation centres, etc., to simply put a few inexpensive step stools in the bathrooms? A lot of these kids are fine in their bathrooms at home, because they can use a step stool there to reach the sink to wash hands, brush teeth, etc., but need assistance in public, because of the height issue, so they’d probably be accustomed to doing the same in a public bathroom, if a step stool was provided.

  194. Amanda Matthews February 6, 2013 at 8:51 pm #

    That would be a wonderful solution, but I’m guessing most places are afraid a small child would fall of a stepstool and hurt themselves, and then the parents would sue.

  195. Emily February 6, 2013 at 10:41 pm #

    @Amanda Matthews–Fair enough, but I’ve actually seen step stools in a few places, now that I think about it. I think there might even be one in the first-floor women’s bathroom at the YMCA here. I guess they figure that, if a step stool is dangerous, then they’d have to also get rid of all the treadmills (actually saw an old woman fly off the end of one once), and free weights (dangerous if used improperly, or dropped), the swimming pool (drowning), and just about everything else there that involves moving one’s body in any way, shape, or form. So, when you look at it that way, a step stool really doesn’t seem like a huge deal.

  196. SKL February 6, 2013 at 11:11 pm #

    Amanda, women have been raped by men hiding out in bathrooms. Lots of times. We’re talking about a McDonald’s in a low-income area of a city. The incidence of rape in such areas is very high. Yes, I believe it would be scary to realize a male was in the women’s toilet while I was in there.

    And what do we teach girls to do if they fear they’ve encountered a rapist? Go for the groin, among other things. Under no circumstances just stand there and do nothing.

    But now are we supposed to first ask “excuse me, are you a transsexual” before we knee him in the nuts? Screw that. You will not convince me that adult penises belong in the ladies’ room.

    Another story I recall had a guy suing a university because they would not let him use the women’s locker room to change, nor sit naked in the women’s sauna. The university had swim lessons for kids as young as six. I need my 6yo daughters to look at penises because some person “identifies as female”? No. Again, how exactly do you know whether a guy is interested in ogling a woman vs. being one?

  197. pentamom February 7, 2013 at 9:19 am #

    Amanda — we’re going against accepted limits, and I certainly have no problem with that, especially when it’s done on principle, and because to not do so would actually harm someone.

    But my Free-Ranging doesn’t impinge on anyone else. It doesn’t take the attitude “I’m going to Free-Range, and I absolutely don’t care if I upset or distress you in doing it.” That’s because there’s no reason any other person should (or should be expected to) be upset or distressed by how I raise my kids, provided I’m not teaching them to be anti-social. I mean, at least insofar as that distress or upset isn’t volunteered for, by being a busybody.

    Using the wrong bathroom is deeply personally offensive to the feelings of people who are directly affected by it. Free-Ranging is rather different from that.

  198. pentamom February 7, 2013 at 9:23 am #

    “At the risk of repeating myself, if it were just about requiring privacy, then why does it matter whether it’s privacy from men or women? ”

    Sigh. Because for at least as long as the United States existed, people have felt that it matters.

    Again, you can come up with an airtight logical argument why it shouldn’t, and maybe you’d even be right, but functioning in society does, to some extent, involve respecting other people’s feelings even when they’re wrongly based, particularly when there’s no real cost to doing so.

    I know you”re not advocating just barging into the wrong bathroom, but you keep asking why it matters, and the answer is, because people feel that it does, and people’s feelings matter. Other people’s feelings are a real thing. They don’t rule everything, but they do count for something in the equation. At least if you want to be a decent member of society.

  199. Emily February 7, 2013 at 10:34 am #

    I don’t believe that transsexuals/transgendered individuals are inherently bad (in fact, I’ve known a few), but in situations like the locker room at the YMCA, I think it’s best for people who identify as something other than their biological sex, to either change at home, use the family changeroom, or come up with some plan that won’t make things uncomfortable for the majority. It may not be quite fair, but it seems like the only logical options in that scenario would be:

    A) Don’t participate.

    B) Pick the changeroom according to “identified gender,” and make people uncomfortable.

    C) Pick the changeroom according to “biological sex,” and FEEL uncomfortable.

    D) Do some brainstorming, or talk to someone there, and figure out a work-around.

  200. Warren February 7, 2013 at 12:17 pm #


    You should be incharge of propaganda for some hostile country somewhere, or you are just very narrow minded. Which is it, that you can twist and turn words, or you just read what you want to read.
    1. When I wrote about the teenage boy entering the women’s restroom, did I state he was accompanying a special needs child younger than himself? No I did not. I stated a teenage boy, sorry if I made the assumption that those in here would be smart enough to know I meant a LONE teenager.
    2. Did you even read the statement, after me saying I had no problem….where it says just give us the heads up.

    Sorry to get personal, but Amanda, it is people like you that have caused many of the problems that we see today. Because before we react we are expected to take into account every freaking possible reason, no matter how remote, before we do anything.

    I stand by my oringinal statement, that if I saw a teenage boy going into a womens public restroom, and there were no security around, I would go in and drag him out. If you do not like this, I really dont give a rats ass. Just dont get in my way.

    If you want to sit there for ten minutes and weigh every option, or every possible reason why someone is doing something, go for it. Personally, I will asses the situation as best I can and act accordingly.

    There are those who do, and then there are those who need it done for them.

  201. gail February 8, 2013 at 2:26 am #

    Here in Europe I feel it’s quite the opposite: I remember people rolling their eyes at me for taking my baby with me into public bathrooms. Well, I carried her in a sling, and it would have been very inconvenient to take her out, hand her to someone, untie the sling and do the whole tying process again later. Of course whenever she was in a pram, I asked a stranger to look after her for a few moments. That’s what most people do!

  202. NicoleK February 8, 2013 at 7:59 am #

    Heh, we were just talking about this at playgroup this morning. I think 5 or 6 is old enough to go to the bathroom or changing room. By then the kid can easily dress and undress, and has been potty trained a couple years.

    Based on the way the mom was acting, is it possible the son had mental issues that would make him unable to use the restroom?

  203. jc February 8, 2013 at 2:41 pm #

    Here’s an alternative perspective….my 10 year old son, who looks and usually acts pretty “normal” has autism. He’s very high functioning, independent and has a lot of freedom but he also has very high levels of anxiety and sensory issues. One of his biggest issues is unknown toilets. We’ve been working on this issue for years and I can successfully get him to use a public restroom now, which was impossible in the past. However, his anxiety is high enough that he won’t go in one alone. Not because of strangers or “bad people” but because of the fear of random toilets being flushed. The only way I can get him to use the bathroom outside our home or school is to bring him with me into the women’s bathroom. I get tons of crap for it. And if there’s a family bathroom we go in there. But usually there isn’t. I’ve had all sorts of nasty comments made about bringing him in but quite frankly I’m at a loss of what to do instead. I also don’t feel that my son needs to share his autism with the world at all times. He’s aware he has it and is proud of his neurodiversity but usually if someone is being rude in the first place they aren’t going to be any more understanding of what autism can look like (i.e. my normal looking totally verbal kid doesn’t fit what they expect autism to look like) and accept his need to use the women’s bathroom. I wish wish wish my son would go on his own and we’re working on it but…at the same time it would be nice if people wouldn’t always assume it’s a parenting issue.

  204. pentamom February 8, 2013 at 3:10 pm #

    jc, I hear what you’re saying but:

    1. Being asked by a security guard not to infringe on normal policy was not rudeness, it’s her job to do that. So she doesn’t deserve the response to rudeness, she deserves a reasonable explanation for your reasonable situation.

    2. In this case, the mother was using a bogus reason to explain her actions. Either the bogus reason was her real reason, which is wrong, or the real reason was that her son had some kind of disability and she lied about her real reason with a bogus reason, which is not the appropriate way to be discreet, let alone to set an example for her child about how to handle his disability.

    So while I can agree that there are times when you just have to do what you have to do, there’s no defending this situation as it’s been presented to us. If you have a legitimate reason for what you need to do, yelling at the security guard and making up a false, and stupid, reason is not the answer.

    So in this case, it was a parenting issue either way — no “assumption” necessary.

  205. Warren February 8, 2013 at 3:41 pm #


    I am not trying to be rude, but I need to ask. Why is it such a hardship to just give a shout out, as a heads up to the other people in the restroom? And then maybe a quick “thanks” when you are done?

    I do not have a problem with the whole caregiver thing, as long as some respect and courteousy is shown, for the people using the room.

  206. Teresa February 8, 2013 at 4:45 pm #

    Everyone here is SO uptight!! Who cares if people take their kids into the bathroom? The stalls have locks, the kid couldn’t see anything, I would be a million dollars that he was a special needs child, and seirously has this ever happend to anyone like more than once in your life? or do you often see teenage boys hanging around in womens rooms enough to write an article about it? i’m 35 and have never encountered a teenage boy in a bathroom. I also can’t believe that some of you act smug when friends take their 5 year old daughters to the bathroom, as if you are a better parent for letting your children go alone. REALLY???? That is SO lame. There are adults who beat, starve, and sexually molest their children. Taking your 5 year old daughter and sister to the bathroom with you is not bad parenting.I can’t stop laughing at this article.You guys all sound really uptight and judgy. no thanks.

  207. Rachel February 8, 2013 at 5:12 pm #

    Do any of you know the statistics on what can actually occur in a public bathroom when your child goes in alone? I don’t. Maybe I’ve just read the horror stories of 6,7,8 year old boys going into a mens room and either being raped or murdered. Personally, I’d rather err on the side of caution. Maybe you should stop judging what other parents do and worry about your own.

  208. Emily February 8, 2013 at 5:30 pm #

    @Teresa–Escorting a five-year-old to the bathroom is one thing, especially if it’s a bigger bathroom at a place like a shopping mall, truck stop, amusement park, etc. However, escorting an opposite-sex TEENAGER to the bathroom, when said teenager is clearly embarrassed about the situation, is quite another. With the obvious exception of kids with special needs (who should probably be supervised more closely, because even without the ability to navigate a public bathroom alone, they could still be developed enough to ogle members of the opposite sex inappropriately), there has to be a cut-off age for the whole “safety versus modesty/privacy” debate. In most cases, that cut-off comes around kindergarten age, because that’s the age when kids start going to the bathroom alone at school, changing on their own for gym classes and school-run swimming lessons, tying their own shoes, putting on their own snow suits for recess, etc. I don’t see that as being “judgy,” it’s just what most people do, and when people act outside that norm, some people are going to find it strange and/or uncomfortable.

  209. Suzanne February 8, 2013 at 9:18 pm #

    I’m going to agree with those who said kindergarten but I think it depends more on height (can s/he reach the sink, etc) and ability to manage on their own than age.

    It’s not that there is an actual danger from an older boy in the woman’s room. (We really do need a sarcacism font if anyone thought “maybe the teen will molest someone was genuine) It’s that in the United States men and women have seperate restrooms, I realize some other countries don’t. It is not appropriate to be in the “wrong” restroom and if 5 or 6 years isn’t the cut off, puberty certainly is. I really think it goes back to “when in Rome do as the Romans do” It’s inappropriate because our culture says so.

  210. SKL February 9, 2013 at 12:55 am #

    As for Lenore’s original “how old” question, it will vary broadly depending on the location and the child. There are restrooms I let my kids use on their own before they were 3, and there are some I don’t let them use alone now at age 6. I think the cutoff is about age 7 for a neurotypical child. I have seen 8yo boys in the ladies’ and felt it inappropriate. Then again, I could imagine a few places where I’d still take an 8yo in with me – if only because there is safety in numbers (for both the mom and the kid). But as a general rule, I tend to stay away from such places, or at least not plan bathroom stops there.

  211. Emily February 9, 2013 at 3:03 pm #

    @JC–I’m not an expert in working with kids on the autism spectrum, but if your son is competent in other areas, as you say, and doesn’t have problems with language, and understanding cause and effect, etc., would it be possible to tell him, “Going to [Fun Location] is contingent on using the bathrooms there independently?” Would that work, or would it be too mean?

  212. Dawn February 10, 2013 at 1:03 am #

    I haven’t read any responses.

    I started letting my son go in alone at 4. It was a bathroom in a kids Science center, very clean etc. It has become so normal for him to go in on his own.
    There have been times that I don’t like the look of a place, or get a weird feeling, or it seems really filthy and gross, and I make him come in with me (he’s 7) but that has only happened twice in the last 3 years.

  213. Nicole February 11, 2013 at 4:20 pm #

    I have read some of the responses and I just don’t get it. Why does it matter if he goes into the restroom with his mom or not? My kids like to go in to their own restrooms (they are 9 and 5) without me but I certainly wouldn’t flinch at a mother or father helping their child use a restroom. Aren’t there stall doors? Why would someone be bothered?

  214. Lashonda February 12, 2013 at 7:12 am #

    I stopped bringing my boys ( I have 2) in with me when the oldest turned 7 and the youngest 4 and the oldest started asking for privacy. I then started sending them together to the men’s restroom. Big brother was to stay with little brother til they were done. I would stand outside the door and wait for them. If they were taking too long, I’d open the door a little and call for them (not out of fear for their safety but out of knowledge that they were probably playing with the toilet paper and making a mess)

  215. D February 23, 2013 at 6:54 pm #

    My son is 4. He is not yet capable of going to a public bathroom by himself. I am DYING for the day that he is. For now we go to the ladies room together, but I’m already trying to train him to do it on his own so I can let him go unaccompanied! I tell you in a year or so he will be more than ready to head to a mens’ room on his own…

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  3. Weekend link dump for February 10 – Off the Kuff - February 10, 2013

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