So She Let Her Sons, 5 and 2, Go To the Men’s Room Alone…

Hi iriaibbnbk
Readers! This is from a mom named Becky S:

Dear Free-Range Kids: When my sons were 5 and 2 my husband went to Iraq for a year with his Reserve unit. My family lived about 400 miles away from our home and I used to take the boys to visit quite regularly. The first time we went without Daddy, they didn’t want to go in the ladies’ room with me, “Because we’re MEN, mommy!” So I let them go.

They’ve been visiting the men’s room by themselves ever since (almost 10 years now). Nothing bad ever happened to them. The older one helped the younger one, and occasionally another guy would help one or the other of them reach the soap or the paper towels. But after that trip they started going to the park in our neighborhood by themselves and everything started to snowball. Now they ride bikes all over our town and cook their own mac and cheese or ramen for snack. They made me dinner for Mothers’ Day while Dad was at work.  – Becky

A little independence goes a long way. 

43 Responses to So She Let Her Sons, 5 and 2, Go To the Men’s Room Alone…

  1. Linda May 15, 2012 at 9:20 pm #

    My family was attending a wedding this past weekend, and just as I had filled 3 plates from the buffet and artfully balanced them all in my arms, I saw that my 2-year-old had given Daddy the slip and run into the restroom, claiming that she needed to use the potty. From across the room, I saw Daddy searching in the completely wrong direction, and with arms full of loaded dinner plates, I couldn’t exactly wave him down.

    I eventually navigated across the crowded room to deposit the plates at our table, and navigated my way back to the restroom, where I found some other woman (a friend of the groom, I think?) lifting my daughter up to the sink, since she couldn’t reach. She told me that she’d seen the whole scene play out, and decided that my little girl might need some help…and so off she went to do so. Easy!

    The biggest danger of unsupervised children at that wedding was that they kept trying to steal some cake before it was time.

  2. gap.runner May 15, 2012 at 9:41 pm #

    It would have been a much more exciting tale for the 24-hour news services if the boys were sucked down the toilet and eaten by a giant alligator that preys on unattended children. Imagine the field day the media would have with that one. Then all of the parenting sites would have one more reason not to let kids use public bathrooms by themselves. It’s a sad commentary on US society that a story about two young boys using a men’s room by themselves without incident is viewed as remarkable. It’s a normal thing in Germany.

  3. Lisa May 15, 2012 at 9:51 pm #

    I’d be more worried about the 2-year-old playing in a urinal than anything.

  4. Lollipoplover May 15, 2012 at 9:54 pm #

    gap.runner- a man in Idaho was bitten by a rattlesnake in the Walmart garden department last week, but you don’t see warnings now about avoiding garden departments. Kids+accidents sell.

    Good for this mom. Toileting independently is a milestone that should be encouraged at young ages, not thwarted because of paranoid mom syndrome. I’m certain her sons will be very good men one day with a mom like Becky.

    As for all of this toileting conversation, why are moms over thinking this one? My husband and I gave high fives and whoopie cheers when our kids got the whole toileting thing on their own (@4 and 5 for all 3) and we were relieved of tagging along to make sure they washed their hands. They do. And if they don’t, they usually have a strong argument that the sink area was dirty that they would catch more germs there vs. the toilet.
    I know several kids who have fears of public restrooms including school bathrooms. This is likely caused by crazy moms who think they are so dangerous and “Don’t go without me or something bad could happen!”. One boy we know has anal fisures because he holds in his bowel movements. A girl in my daughter’s class pooped her pants (she’s 9) because she didn’t want to use the toilet at school. I know several moms who still wiped their kid’s ass at the age of 6. I agree with Lenore, this is mass psychosis! Who honestly wants to wipe a 6 yo?

  5. Arrogantsob May 15, 2012 at 10:05 pm #

    Wait, wait, wait, wait…So you mean to tell me you treated your children like human beings, and they have since responded by embracing independence and are now accountable for their actions AND self-reliant? (Dripping with sarcasm). Good for you for trusting your children enough, and trusting the values you instilled in them enough, to allow them to grow into their environment, rather than stunting that growth with overbearing supervision and a reinforced plastic bubble.

  6. Emily May 15, 2012 at 10:41 pm #

    Great story–I mean, macaroni and cheese aren’t the healthiest snacks, but for two active boys, it probably won’t matter too much. As for the public bathroom thing, yes, let them go alone–I think all kids should be able to do that by kindergarten age, because by that age, they have to use the bathroom alone (and tie their own shoes, and change into gym clothes/snowsuits/swimsuits for school swimming lessons) at school.

  7. Jessica May 15, 2012 at 10:47 pm #

    I admit, I would have a hard time letting my sons use the bathrooms by themselves at such a young age. I try not to be paranoid, but the mind wanders.

  8. Julie May 15, 2012 at 11:09 pm #

    A few years ago we went with another family to a local amusement park. We took a potty/diaper change break in which 5 kids (and 2 moms) had to go/be changed. I told my son–4-years-old at the time–that he could go in the men’s room with my friend’s 7-year-old. My friend just looked at me wide-eyed, and announced, “He doesn’t go into the men’s. He goes in with me.” I was really surprised since she isn’t typically a helicopter mom. But the 7-year-old overheard me and wouldn’t you know, decided he wanted to try the mens this time. So, my friend sighed and relented and the boys ran into the bathroom. And came back with smiles. Mission accomplished without carting extra people into the handicap stall!

  9. Scott K Pickering May 15, 2012 at 11:39 pm #

  10. ramblingsingleparentgoddess May 16, 2012 at 12:04 am #

    dances in the aisles! independent potty time brought on through interdependent instruction.

  11. Jen G. May 16, 2012 at 12:04 am #

    I have a very dificult time getting my 5 year old son to go to the bathroom by himself when we are out in public. The reason for this is simple. When he was 3 or 4 years old, he wanted to go to the men’s room by himself at a place we went to frequently. I told him he could go and that I would be in the ladies’ room. I promised him I would come right back out when I was done and wait for him. If he finished first he was supposed to wait for me. No problem, right?

    I no sooner sat on the toilet when he comes running into the ladies room crying his eyes out and telling me some mean man told him he couldn’t be in there by himself b/c he wasn’t old enough.

    I calmed him down and went back out with him and said go ahead inside. I’ll be right here. When Xander went back in, the “mean man” came out yelling at me, saying, “You never know who’s in there! He could get molested!”

    My response? Are YOU going to molest him because I don’t see anyone else in there!” He got real quiet and his wife, who was sitting on a nearby bench, laughed.

  12. Jennifer gagnon May 16, 2012 at 12:05 am #

    That is wonderful! I truly believe we are raising adults , we are not raising children. We want them to become self sufficient adults right. I have 3 children and just this morning my 7 year old daughter excitedly woke me up to tell me that her 10 year old brother made her scrambled eggs for breakfast. Not that she cant make her own .. But she is still nervous around the stove if moms not at her side. Horray for big brother he’s becoming an independent young man.

  13. Kate May 16, 2012 at 12:08 am #

    My dad and I ate at the same restaurant every Thursday night from the time I was 2 years old, until I went to college. Between ages 2 and 4, my dad always took me into the men’s room with him and helped me into the stall. It was a really small bathroom, and any time anyone else would come in, my dad would always mention the fact that his daughter was in the stall. I think he was trying to tell them to either be done and zipped up by the time I came out, or to please hold it until we left. Anyway, it was awkward. Oh, I still remember the sweet, sweet day that I finally got to use the women’s room by myself! I even got to walk alone through the whole restaurant to get there. It really was an exciting, empowering moment. I always keep my eyes open for opportunities to let my 19 month old son find that kind of exhilarating independence.

  14. Jenna May 16, 2012 at 12:59 am #

    I once had an errand to run around dinnertime. I didn’t want to take all five kids with me, so I left the two older boys (ages 9 and 7) home with strict instructions on how to open and heat up a can of green beans to go with the meal in the crock pot that was already ready. Ever since then, they are so eager to help prepare dinner. I started letting them make the fruit salad we usually have (washing and cutting up apples, bananas, strawberries, etc.) and stirring something over the stove. I can see how much more independent they are just from having a little freedom in the kitchen than they were six months ago when they didn’t. They have even made lunch for the whole family on Sundays a few times. Plus it’s a great way to get them working together. I have nieces who are 9 and 10 and make pancakes and waffles for their families for breakfast all the time (last summer at a family get-together I saw them do it when they were 8 and 9 and thought, man I’d better get to teaching my boys some kitchen skills) and it’s so great that they can truly help out more.

  15. skl1 May 16, 2012 at 1:10 am #

    I have to say I’m so proud of my friend, who sent my 5yo daughter to the restroom in a restaurant we hadn’t been to before (our table was at the opposite corner with no view of the restrooms), alone, with just one instruction: “wipe the seat.” This is a complete turn-around from maybe a year ago. Shows that seeing is believing – kids really are capable if you give them some credit.

  16. Donna May 16, 2012 at 1:56 am #

    A few years ago, I was with a friend at a local restaurant with our kids. Her daughter would have been about 7 or 8 at the time. Her daughter was sitting next to me and said that she needed to go to the bathroom. I said okay and said girl started to go off by herself. Mom lit out of her chair to go with the girl. I just sighed.

  17. Spazztastic May 16, 2012 at 2:09 am #

    If I’m familiar with the place, I let my seven-year-old go by himself. If I’m not, I’ll keep a close eye on the bathroom. The worst moment I had was when I needed to go, and we were in a stadium…50,000 people. I left him in his seat and went myself. He was still there when I got back. But my mother thinks I should escort him to the single-stall bathroom within sight of our restaurant table.

  18. Katie B May 16, 2012 at 2:29 am #

    This is the issue that pushed me over the edge of letting my boys be free-range. I was in a public restroom and a woman brought her 10 year old son in. I was uncomfortable, the boy was uncomfortable, it was just weird. However, when I started telling people the story, a disturbing number seemed ok with it. Luckily I found this website, so I didn’t think I was the crazy one, but personally I can’t wait until my kids (2 boys – 3 years and 6 months) are old enough to start going into the bathroom by themselves. Much less hassle for me!

  19. Uncle May 16, 2012 at 2:50 am #

    @Lollipoplover: A few years ago, I was at a restaurant with the in-law family, and my 5 year-old nephew needed to go. I went with him, because I was going to go anyway. When he gets done, he says to me, “Will you come in [the stall] and wipe me?” I said, “NO!?! You’re 5! You can wipe your own butt.” He said he didn’t know how to. I said, “It’s pretty straightforward. You take some toilet paper, and wipe all the stuff off your butt until the paper is clean.” He finally did it, and went back to the table to brag to his parents about it. And I was just left thinking, “You’ve never explained this to him?!?” Who knows how long they would’ve kept wiping his butt.

  20. Uncle May 16, 2012 at 2:53 am #

    Follow up to the post above: It was, in fact, that family (in-laws) that ultimately led me to this site. Because I disagreed with pretty much everything they did with their kids. And now I have a little one. So I guess I should thank them for that. 🙂

  21. Fuchsia May 16, 2012 at 4:26 am #

    Wow that Circle of Moms thread is crazy! A 13 year old boy isn’t old enough to safely use the mens room without mommy hovering by the door to make sure he is ok? Really? And no one thought that was too much? Wow. Just wow.

  22. Fuchsia May 16, 2012 at 4:33 am #

    “You take that boy with you for as long as you feel confortable. I am sure the women in there won’t say anything. I am not gonna let my son be out of my sight until he is at least 50.” (circle of moms comment)

    I think I would have something to say if a 50 year old man comes in with his mom! I would have something to say to the teen aged boy coming in too.

  23. Rhea May 16, 2012 at 7:34 am #

    “Because we’re MEN, mommy!”

    I shudder to think of the mum that replied “no you’re not.” It would have had ramifications on them for years. Good on this mum for giving her sons the opportunity to become the great men they know they can be.

  24. CrazyCatLady May 16, 2012 at 10:33 am #

    I must admit, that I had a hard time letting my oldest use the restroom or port a potty by himself until he was about 8. That is because at 6.5 or 7 we were at the park with the port a potty and he was taking a long time and other kids were waiting. So I went over, and he hadn’t locked the door, so I opened it. He was hanging way into the port a pot to see what was down there. Far enough over that he could have fallen in if he went a couple more inches. Needless to say, we went home and he took a shower. And I wouldn’t let him back in because he was so impulsive about stuff that I didn’t trust him.

    But when his younger brother was old enough to go in with him, then I let them go together. Which also causes some commotion because younger brother has long blond hair. He has had more than one guy tell him he was in the wrong place, which they relented when he got to the urinal.

  25. Cynthia May 16, 2012 at 12:11 pm #

    CrazyCatLady, that made me laugh so hard. I can just see my brother doing something like that. Fortunately, my kids haven’t, yet.

  26. linvo May 16, 2012 at 6:43 pm #

    Admittedly, there are several reasons why kids wouldn’t be keen to use a school toilet. They are not the most comforting places in the first place, quite eery when there’s no one else there. And I discovered that at my daughter’s school, most of the locks on the doors are broken! My neighbour told me that her daughter is constantly constipated because she doesn’t want to stay on the toilet long enough to do a poo in case someone barges in on her. But the worst culprit was me… Last year, one night when my daughter was sleeping in my bed (a special weekend treat sometimes), I watched an episode of Doctor Who when I was sure she was asleep. Turned out she wasn’t asleep and secretly watching and saw a very scary scene of a monster’s head breaking through the door of… a public toilet. My daughter already had toileting issues due to a diagnosed overactive bladder and after this, she was scared of going into the school toilets by herself for ages! She actually got such a fright that at first she was even too scared to go to the toilet by herself at home! I was so embarrassed to have to go explain this to her teacher and ask her to send a buddy with her for a while. She eventually got over it, but it took a lot of coaching and a lot of courage on her part. And I can now send her to the toilet by herself when we’re out and about. Obviously that was due to a stupid mistake on my part, but I remember not liking public toilets when I was a kid myself. And it had nothing to do with molesters, but all with monsters, giant spiders, rats, ghosts and my vivid imagination.

  27. Selby May 16, 2012 at 7:05 pm #

    Emily that was rather the backhanded compliment. “I mean, macaroni and cheese aren’t the healthiest snacks, but for two active boys, it probably won’t matter too much.”

    You had to get that bit of Sanctimommy in there? Really?

  28. Heath May 18, 2012 at 4:23 am #

    @Selby, I noticed that too. I was wondering when people started dogging mac and cheese. What’s the issue? The dairy or the carbs? Ha ha! Of course, I’m just a dumb male, so what do I know? 😉

  29. SaraLu May 18, 2012 at 10:31 pm #

    And mac and cheese for a snack? No way! It’s a warm, cheesy, comforting, delicious DINNER!

  30. skl1 May 18, 2012 at 11:31 pm #

    Don’t people know you can buy organic mac & cheese? My kids used to have it at least weekly (for dinner), before I switched to giving them fast food instead.

  31. skl1 May 18, 2012 at 11:32 pm #

    Oh, and Ramen is way worse than mac’n’cheese. Look it up. It’s amazing we survived grad school, folks.

  32. pentamom May 19, 2012 at 8:06 am #

    I’d way rather have my kids fix ramen and mac and cheese and hot dogs than have them so busy second-guessing what healthy food is, that they didn’t bother to try. I know those aren’t the only two options, but you also pick your battles. The battle for teaching to make good eating choices is fought day in day out by teaching and example, and is not lost because you make them make easy, fun, yummy, and not ideally nutritious food now and then. The battle for getting them to do things on their own without coaching is hampered by making things too complicated, like adding on layers of judgment of what’s “healthy” or not before they’re allowed to pick up the pots and pans.

  33. pentamom May 19, 2012 at 8:07 am #

    Sorry, that’s “let them make” easy, fun, yummy, etc.

  34. Bill May 25, 2012 at 2:05 am #

    I’m sure all of you are trying to do what you think is best for your kids, but after being a criminal defense lawyer for nearly 20 years I can tell you that you are creating a very serious and real risk of harm to your children. Sorry to be a buzzkill about this topic, but a lot of children have been hurt badly this way. I won’t share stories of what I know about my own clients doing, but it only takes a few minutes of research online to find plenty of stories of where this parenting approach resulted in children being raped. Here’s a few examples:

    Boy sexually assaulted in Burger King restroom:

    Boy sexually assaulted in bathroom stall at park:

    Boy raped in department store bathroom:

    Boy molested in mall bathroom:

    I wish the world was a place that was safe to parent the way this site advocates, but that just isn’t the case.

  35. Spazztastic May 25, 2012 at 2:22 am #

    Bill, bad things happen. But they don’t happen so frequently that we must chain our children to our bodies and not let them ever more than an arm’s length out of sight. Hundreds are killed in car accidents daily, we do not seek to ban cars. Yet we seek to ban children from being children because something ‘might’ happen.

  36. Bill May 25, 2012 at 2:28 am #

    I didn’t advocate chaining or keeping children within arm’s length, but I think this site has a lot of pollyanna advice based on the false premise that everything will be just fine. Statistically, it probably will be fine. But why increase the odds of your child being the one that is on the evening news?

    And no we don’t ban cars, but we do put kids in child safety car seats to protect them. Believe what you want about the world, but you won’t find this site’s advice being followed by cops, criminal defense lawyers, child advocates, or people who work with abused children. Take that advice for whatever you believe it to be worth.

  37. Spazztastic May 25, 2012 at 2:40 am #

    Your advice is worthless, that’s what it is. It’s information designed to scare. I know more children who have died from cancer than who have ever been in danger from a stranger; I know more children who subjected to the harms you list by a family member than I do a stranger. The likelihood of ‘stranger danger’ is much less likely than the same dangers at the hands of a family member, less than being in a car accident, less than being killed by a falling tree. Teach children how to recognize ACTUAL dangers, rather than the ones the media scream about, and those children will be much better off, and not afraid of their own shadows nor to be away from their mother’s teats.

  38. Bill May 25, 2012 at 3:00 am #

    Yes, your child is more likely to be molested by someone you know and trust than by a stranger. The reason there is usually less risk from a stranger is because strangers don’t have easy access to your children. Just two days ago a few miles from my home a man in a minivan tried to get a young girl at a bus stop to get into his car. Fortunately other people came up and he sped away. The dangers are real. I’ve known plenty of victims and I’ve known plenty of perpetrators too. You’ve made up your mind and you aren’t interested in hearing any opinions different than yours, so this is my last comment on the topic. I hope your children grow up safely.

  39. linvo May 25, 2012 at 7:47 am #

    @Bill, one of those incidents happened in 2009, one in 2011, 3 in the US and one in the UK. I’m not sure what you are trying to prove here? Also, what do you suggest a mother out with a 13yo boy does when he needs to go?

    And “not having easy access” would be the definition of a stranger, I would think?


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