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Heading to the restroom, SOLO

If you're a mama with a little boy or if you're a papa with a little girl, how and when would/did you let them go to the bathroom on their own?  When our daughters were brought on a playdate with a friend and his papa, we wondered, "would Jason take them into the men's room?  Or let them potty on their own?"  Shannon emails:

I’m the mama of two kids, ages 7 and 3, and we have just started swim lessons again at our local pool.  Up until now, I have been bringing my son (the 7-year old) in the locker room with me despite the inane sign that tells me children 5 and up must use the same gender locker room or a family changing room.  There was no way my 5-year old was in any way ready to go in the men’s room by himself and it’s virtually impossible to get a family room (plus floor is generally wet and icky).  So now that he is 7, my husband suggested that maybe he is old enough to venture into the men’s room and change by himself while I tend to my daughter in the ladies room.  At first I was really reluctant and worried (there are myriad scenarios that fly through my head), but I thought we’d give it a try.  We designated a spot for him to wait for his sister and me, we talked about strangers and where to go for help (the front desk) if he needed it.

So I was wondering at what age do other mamas let their sons go in the men’s room on their own and how they felt about it?


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Have you been reading my mind? My husband and I recently had the SAME conversation. I love your safety strategies tip.

My son is six, and neither he (my son) nor I feel comfortable with the idea of him going alone to the men's changing room at the pool. So, instead he uses the family changing room. Sometimes we have to wait, but so be it.

I think I'm a wee bit overprotective--I tend to see potential predators everywhere. When he starts arguing with me that he IS old enough to use the men's room by himself (age 25???--JUST KIDDING:), I'll take a note from your playbook on safety tips, take a deep breath, and send him on his own. Maybe that will be next year. I just know, at six, that he doesn't feel safe going solo yet.

I'm interested to hear what others think...Am I being too overprotective (as my hubby argues)?

My son is 7, and he's been going to the men's room by himself for about a year and a half. At some point, he absolutely refused to go to the ladies' room with me, even if they were empty and not pink. I usually stand outside the men's bathroom, talking to him loudly, mortifying everyone within earshot.

The family room is a great idea, but it's not available everywhere.

I think I let my son use the men's changing room at the pool starting when he was 5. I wasn't dealing with other children at the time, though. So I found a seat where I could watch both the entrance and exit and waited for him. We talked a bit about safety beforehand, and he always knew where I'd be. The one time he took a long, long, long time in the shower, I just asked one of the male lifeguards to go check on him. He was embarrassed, but the lifeguard was totally cool with the request. Don't know if that would help, but I liked knowing I had a way to check on him. After that year, he's mostly been in there with his cousin or with a friend--safety and confidence in numbers, I hope--or we've done the family changing room when I can't watch exits. Another thing that made me feel comfortable letting my son go into the men's room was noticing how many dads were heading in with their sons of all ages. It's not like I'm sending one child into a room of adult men.

It was a hard step to take, though, and I'm not going to be like that obnoxious woman from NY and tell everyone that they're being overprotective. You know your environment, you know your kids, you'll know when they're ready.

The only thing I do feel strongly about is that older boys who aren't ready to use the men's room on their own should wait for the family changing room, even when it is inconvenient. I don't usually think of myself as overly modest, but yeah, I'd feel uncomfortable stripping in front of a strange 7-year-old boy. And I don't think I want to take off my daughter's clothes in front of one, either.

My 7 yr. old son insisted on using the men's bathroom at Fred Meyer earlier this year and he doesn't seem likely to go back to using women's bathrooms with me ever again. Who would've thunk I'd reminisce about the days we used the potty together? But, I stood right outside the door and even opened it a crack saying, "Are you OK?" That first time was tough. I mean, where else do I allow my sons to partially undress behind a closed door with strangers? Ugh. This one is tough but it's just part of that letting go process of parenthood.

For safety reasons, it's good to keep a conversation going through the door with the child. I remember that awful story about a little boy being murdered at a campsite bathroom while his aunt waited outside for him.

My name should be ParanoidMama. Thankfully, I never faced that one cause I'd probably be dragging a teenage son into the bathroom with me.

On a similar topic - our four year old daughter refuses to go to a men's bathroom when she's out alone with Dad. Has anyone had to deal with this? She is too young to go to the ladies alone (although at John Wayne Airport down in Southern CA she did as she refused point blank to go to the mens). They normally seek out a disabled/family bathroom but that's not always possible. Any ideas??

wow- crazy timing as we came from swim lessons tonight! My son is 5 but is tall. I do feel a little uncomfortable bringing him in the womens room but no way am I letting him go into the mens room by himself at age 5. I try to be conscious of him while we are changing and have given him the talk about how we dont talk about peoples bodies or stare.

I think at 5 they are still too young in terms of their judgement and their safety to be alone in a mens locker room.

This came up for us the other day too, as my son just turned 5. We were at his soon-to-be elementary school and he needed to go to the bathroom. Well, I couldn't very well take him to the ladies at his SCHOOL... so I just sent him to the boys room. Since it was a school bathroom (and no one was around) it wasn't a big deal. He goes into some restrooms alone if it's a gender neutral restroom (think small restaurants) and generally does ok. Sometimes he can't reach things.

I think in large public restrooms it's going to be a little more sticky. I like the idea of standing outside and shouting hehe. I think my 1 yr old would like to get in on that game :-)

i haven't had to deal with the changing room issue yet (that would definitely scare me!) but i regularly send everett, who's almost six, into the men's bathroom alone, standing outside (im)patiently waiting for him to come out. he's VERY slow at wiping, too, so it takes forever and often i am about to push open the door myself or start screaming when he comes out.

a few weeks ago all of us were at the farmer's market at psu, and we used the bathroom, truman (who's just 3 and doesn't even really use the potty yet) went with his brother. i was standing outside starting to get worried as usual. a man came walking by and said, 'do you want me to go check on them?' hehe. i guess i had that look on my face...

just at that moment, another man held the (heavy!) door open for them, and they came out. phew.

How timely! I just took my son to one of the Portland pools last night and was wondering the same thing. I saw the sign about only letting boys under 5 in the women's locker room. My son is only 4, but I could tell at least one older lady was uncomfortable with him being in the shower area. I don't have a husband so I'm not really sure what I'm going to do when it gets to the stage where he's not allowed in the women's room locker room. I can't imagine sending him in to change by himself in the men's room! I guess I hope I'll feel more confident about it as he gets older.

So do you tell your boys when they go in alone to use the urinals or go into a stall? My son uses the urinals when he goes in with my husband, but I wonder if having him use a stall when he's alone would be better? In the locker room they could also change in a stall until they are more comfortable. My son is pretty modest himself. I don't know, this is something I've been thinking about as well.

Im a single mom with two boys, 5 and 7. Their dad isn't in town so they're bathroom visits in public have all been with me so of course I have many experiences with this. One specific story:
The first time I took them to Montavilla pool in SE last summer I was worried how grownups were seemingly going in and out of the pool area without being checked (there is a weight room adjacent to the changing area). My seven year old is big for his age and I knew he was too big for the ladies--he also begs to go in the men's with his brother -- a big boy thing. Here I wouldn't budge; tho the family changing room was so wet we had to dress on the benches (I take an extra old bath mat now just for the floor and keep it in a bag). SO.......THAT very day a MAN was arrested in the WOMEN's changing room there for impersonating a woman and just sitting in the changing room looking at the ladies. So it's not just a mom/boy issue. It was in the Oregonian if you want to check it out. Do we still go to the Montavilla pool? Absolutely. Family changing rooms.

However, my big boy got to kindergarten and didn't know how to use a urinal! My mistake and he had a lot of lessons with his grandpa and uncles after that--never turn down a trusted male's offer to take you kids to the bathroom for you. They need to figure out this stuff!

Basically anywhere there is a lot of traffic--airports and rest stops, etc.: no way--but soon. I don't want them growing up fearful and I want them to feel I trust their judgement. We know about stranger danger and who has the right to see our privates (mom, dad, doctor). Trusting your gut goes a long way in parenting in all situations. Like I said, going into Montavilla and just looking around it felt very vulnerable to me, and it was.

I have no problem asking a man/waiter/lifeguard walking by to check on them if it's been a long time. I think 99% of the time it makes them feel good. Who can begrudge a mama looking after her kids?

I also agree that going in the stall is a good idea when solo.

And don't get me started on how hung up our society is on child nudity. When I get a dirty look from another mom for having my 5 y old boy in the ladies changing room (last week--just the two of us) I don't get embarassed, just sorry for them that they think this is a big deal. He's five. We've travelled and bathed in Japan and South America and never was an eyebrow raised when little boys were in tow.

I agree about the nudity thing-I realize that I am more comfortable with nakedness than many, but have a hard time understanding the discomfort/awkwarness some adults feel about changing clothes when little kids are around. I also think that we need to show our children what real people look like-naked or not! My sons (5 yrs and 1yr) both come in the locker room with me at the pool-and are both nonplussed at seeing others naked.

We're getting off track a bit here --maybe this is another topic. My Mama friends and I sometimes talk about the easy access to porn and now ridiculous model-body standards for girls (and boys!) and how this can manifest in very unrealistic expectations during intimacy later in life. The occasional glimpse at a hazy Playboy centerfold when I was a girl is nothing compared to what my boys see on a daily basis--and we don't watch TV! While Im always happy to use a family changing room for everyone's privacy--including those less comfortable with my boys in the area--it can't be all bad for our kids to see bodies of all types as they mature and try to make sense of it all. And of course I coach them about manners in all situations: never stare, point, etc. They are nonplussed also and I think this is healthy.

It depend of what age they are. I think age 1-5 are must be guide when they take a bath or washing some necessary .

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