The Time Facebook Made Me Question My Family’s Bathroom Stance

bathroom stance

Something happened last week that caught me off guard. Facebook finally made me question my parenting.

Scrolling through my newsfeed has made me wish I was somewhere else more than once. It has made me jealous, of friends and family members who are together for important events, making me wish I wasn’t too far away to celebrate my cousins’ weddings, or join my in-laws for a relaxing vacation in Mexico. While I click through the adorable pictures of my nieces and nephews, and “like” my loved ones’ status updates sharing how much fun they are having, I am happy for them, but sad for myself.

Those feelings are common, but I don’t recall ever feeling like less of a parent because of anything my Facebook friends have posted.

This day was different. My feelings of inadequacy weren’t over an elaborate fall craft, or a perfect family photo, or someone’s kid’s Mensa membership. I recognize that one person’s accomplishment has no bearing on my successes or failures, which is good, because I have a ridiculous amount of successful people with great lives in my newsfeed.

On this day, I was stopped short by a conversation about allowing children to use the bathroom alone at restaurants. Someone asked when others let their kids use public restrooms, and the responses took me by surprise. For the first time,  Facebook made me wonder if I was parenting wrong.

Some of the parents, mostly mothers, were still escorting their 8, 10, and even 14-year-old children to the bathroom at restaurants and stores. By comparison, if we are familiar with an establishment, and I can see the restroom door from my location, I will allow my six-year-old son to go to the men’s room alone. I didn’t even share my situation on this thread, afraid of the backlash from more cautious parents. Would they think I was neglectful? Am I neglectful? 

And then I took a step back. I thought about the first time this topic became an issue for my son and me. We were at a birthday party for one of his classmates, and the bathrooms weren’t singles. He didn’t want to use the same public bathroom the girls from his school were using, and I didn’t blame him. I allowed him to use the men’s room, with the reminder to come right back out, but not before he washed those little hands he always forgets to throw some soap and water on. And don’t talk to anyone in there.

After that occasion, we still went with him when he had to go in public bathrooms, but once in a while, if the situation was right, he could use the bathroom himself, and now, as a first grader, he is experiencing this freedom more frequently.

Was it scary the first few times he disappeared behind that door? Incredibly. It was also scary to drive him home from the hospital. Watching him walk for the first time, unsteady on his tiny legs, made my heart lurch and my brain fill with visions of him falling and cracking his face on every conceivable hard, sharp object. Witnessing his four-year-old body teeter and take off on his training wheel-free bike had me wondering how long casts stay on these days. The first time a friend treated him badly, I wanted to intervene in the worst way.

I am a mom. Every new milestone means my boy is inching away from me. The more independent he is, the less he needs me. That is both invigorating, exciting, and heartbreaking. But I can’t let my personal feelings of fear and discomfort cloud the opportunities to let my boy spread his wings, because he will need to fly. I want him to fly.

Having kids is terrifying. The media has led us to believe our world is more dangerous than when we were kids, and that is simply not true. Crime is down, but many people think it is up. Way up. I know this is why many parents are afraid of allowing their children to visit public bathrooms alone, and I am not asking anyone else to do something they don’t think is best for their family, but personally, I am back on steady ground. I am comfortable with my family’s choice, even though my track record of being unaffected by Facebook is broken.

14 thoughts on “The Time Facebook Made Me Question My Family’s Bathroom Stance

  1. It hasn't been an issue for us yet, since my 3 year old still needs assistance, but I brought it up this summer when I was in a private pool single sex changing room, and there were tween boys in there. Not six year olds, tweens, who had complete freedom within the pool complex but apparently were not allowed in this PRIVATE men's room without an adult. I posted on Facebook because I was APPALLED by how this mom's trust issues made so many in there, including me and several young girls, feel so horribly uncomfortable. Well, apparently I'm in the minority as well, because moms of boys came out in full defense about not being willing to EVER let their kids use the bathroom or change room alone, and if their father wasn't with them, it was women's room and the girls in there who minded could….umm….I'll clean it up…be free with their kisses, and the only reason I was saying that is it will never be an issue for me, having girls. Let me tell you, my girls go to the pool with their dad plenty, and past babyhood, it will be a discussion.
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    1. We were at a pool recently that had a posted sign saying children over four were not allowed in the opposite gender changing rooms. I liked the idea of suggesting there is a time when having a child of the opposite gender could make people uncomfortable, but four seemed young, and I'm on the lenient side of kids in bathrooms and changing rooms. EVERYONE was ignoring the sign.
      My recent post The Time Facebook Made Me Question My Family’s Bathroom Stance

      1. Four is definitely too young. The age they start looking is too old. And a restroom with enclosed stalls is different than a locker room. Where are the easy answers?

  2. Oh Amy I get a lot of flack for letting my eight year old son go to the bathroom alone! Like at the park. Hello-there is only one way in and out of the bathroom and I can see the door. If I thought trouble was amiss, I'd be barging right in there to see. At Target if we're in the checkout line and he has to do, I let him. Again I can see the door right where I'm at. Because he is special needs, yes I have to watch like a hawk to make sure he gets back to us when he gets out. But this is one situation that I can allow him some freedom. Ironically, he's currently not allowed to use the restroom with his peers at school due to some of his behavior issues, so this is a very good thing. Any independence we can allow our children to have is going to help them out in the long run!
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  3. While driving to Florida i let my 9 and 6 yr old go to the mens room with the express direction to hold hands and use the same stall. I watched them go in together….stood right by the door. Watched several men come and go ( in my mind of course they were all potential predators…) i think i lasted about 2 mins before i burst into the mens room….apologizing to the surprised man at the urinal….and out came my 2 very embarrassed boys..who were in the same stall…still holding hands. 🙂

  4. We have a nine-year-old, two six-year-olds, and a three-year-old. We let them potty solo at about age six. Naturally the three-year-old wants to potty by himself too. This Sunday at church, I let him go into the vacant boys bathroom. Soon after, of course, two men also went in to do their business. Then my three-year-old started yelling, "MOMMY! COME WIPE MY BOTTOM!" while I stood helplessly outside. Awesome.
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  5. With us, it depends on the situation. I actually had my FOUR YEAR OLD disappear into a men's room at Cleveland Hopkins Airport when I thought he was following his father … who turned out to have gone into ANOTHER bathroom down the concourse. So … I've been the sweaty mom about to stroke out worrying about her kid in the public bathroom. If I know the restaurant and can see the bathroom and the exits, then I allow my now 7 yr old to go by himself. If it's a huge crowded restaurant and I can't see the bathroom, then the kid gets a chaperone. Period. It might be me. It might be his older cousins or his grandfather, uncle or father. But someone's going with him. And if it's just me, he goes with me … into the ladies room. Period. I know that crime isn't up and that we hear more about abductions because they're sensational and we have more channels to promote that kind of news. But … Adam Walsh, the 6-yr-old whose father started America's Most Wanted after his son was kidnapped and killed, well, that little boy disappeared from the mall I grew up shopping at in my suburban home town. Call me overprotective. I don't mind a bit.

    1. That airport story made me catch my breath. How terrifying! My kids are accompanied in places like airports, stadiums, or anywhere there are two exits to the bathroom. Honestly, I'm not as frightened of someone snatching them, as I am of them getting lost in the sea of people or being confused about how to get back.

      Adam Walsh's horrific story turned the country upside down, and I can see why it would impact you in a personal way. I had to go back and reread my post to see if I used the word "overprotective." I didn't, because that wasn't my intent.

      My recent post The Time Facebook Made Me Question My Family’s Bathroom Stance

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