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Boys in Women's Locker Room at the Pool

May 2007

For the past few summers I have brought my son with me into the women's locker room at King pool when he gets ready for his swim classes. This year he is seven and they have a rule that 7 year olds *must* use the room corresponding with their sex. We were recently barred from a family swim because I wasn't willing to let him go into the men's locker room alone. My first thought was ''are these people crazy?'' The man working there said my son had to go in alone and they weren't required to supervise him. I'm considering giving him swim lessons elsewhere this summer and am wondering a couple of things: 1. is this a rule at most public pools? 2. is this legal? who is legally responsible for my *unsupervised* minor child should he god forbid get hurt or victimized in the locker room?( I'm guessing since I signed a waiver when signing him up for swim classes that the person responsible would be *me*. --and thus I should be the one watching him) 3. Is there a way to get around this rule at king? --can I refuse to sign the waiver and still take him to swim? 4. what could the legal basis for this possibly be? I'm justified, don't you think? I think my son would prefer to go himself but it's one thing for him to go in a public men's bathroom with me waiting outside and checking on him and yet *another* for me to expect his safety in an unsupervised public locker room situation where *any* male, whether child, teenager or adult, could be in there with him, changing clothes and showering. Even if I weren't worried about sex offenders, what if he slips in the shower? what if there is an altercation w/ another boy? That doesn't seem so far-fetched to me. I'm a pretty relaxed parent about most things, but I'm definitely not willing to let him go into a men's locker room alone. I guess I may be finding him other lessons. I find this incredibly unfair. concerned mom

I was a competitive swimmer from age 5 and changed in locker rooms without my parents from then on. I'm a girl, but boys did the same thing in their locker rooms. Granted, this was in the 70s, but I think it's naive to think there are either more people that prey on children now, or less people that preyed on children then. Talk to your son and prepare him. Give him some credit and independence - it will HELP him take care of himself. Do you also tag along at recess when he's at school? He can get in altercations then - probably more likely to do so because he knows the kids. And you're worried about him slipping and falling? That's starting to sound a little hysterical on your part. He can slip and fall anytime, even if you're standing right next to him.

And as a side note, as a woman, I would be very uncomfortable changing in the locker room with your seven year old son in there looking on. Not to be rude, but you know, it's not ALL about you and your son. ANON

The same 'rule' is stated for my neighborhood pool in El Cerrito. There is no statutory code posted with the sign as with other posted rules, so I take it to be an arbitrary preference. There are other arbitrary preferences the pool has, which I have decided myself to follow or not. My children often want to wear noodles tied around their torso. When seeing this the lifeguard typically whistles or shouts ''not allowed''. I go over and remind him or her I am within arms reach at all times. Reason always wins. It of course helps too that I am a 44 yo man, and the lifeguard usually a 17 year old kid. I'm let break the 'rules'. I view nonstatutory rules as guides for behavior, not as absolutes. I'd prefer a child of 7, 8 or even older feel comfortable alone in a changeroom, over any potential discomfort I may feel with a 7 yo girl with her father in the changeroom with me. If that's not the norm, then I hope the child's parent will choose to make the decision himself or herself, vs leaving all reason to a simple signed 'rule'.

I think that this is a pretty typical requirement at pools. As a female swimmer, I do not particularly like it when older (7ish) boys come into the lock room. I feel like they are old enough to know what they are looking at, but not old enough to know they shouldn't stare, and the mothers are usually too busy getting them showered and dressed and doing the same for themselves that they do not notice.

Not to belittle your concern, since I don't have a son and so have never had this problem, I think that maybe you are building up your worries too much. I think at 7, a child is ready for this. I know it is probably hard to let go a bit and trust him in this situation, but I really think it is quite safe. It's not like he is not within ear shot of you. Stay by the door and let him know you will be listening. You can call to him to ask if he is ok. You are worried he might slip in the shower. Well, he might slip on the playground, he might slip in the bathroom at home, he might slip getting out of bed in the morning. He will be ok. You are worried that he might have trouble with some other boys in the locker room. Again, this is something he is likely to encounter (and probably already has) at school, at the playground, etc. If an actual brawl broke out, you would hear it from outside the door. As far as sexual predators, you can warn him about danger signs (but try not to make him paranoid about any man in the locker room). I would imagine that the common MO of a predator of a young child would be to make friends with them first, and so you would obviously see if that was developing since you will be waiting for him right outside the door. I'm not familiar with King pool, but there is probably only one exit from the locker room, so you don't have to worry about abduction. swimmer

Change swimming lessons. I would never ever send my 7 year old son into a men's locker room alone, period. I have had several (now adult) family members be subjected to molestation as children & teens, no way am I even going to take a chance with my 7 year old. Young children in need of help often trustingly approach adult strangers in settings they are comfortable with (like a pool); 7 years old is just too young to have good judgment about this. The accidents etc. you describe as possibilties are likewise a good reason not to do this. anon

The downtown Berkeley YMCA has a similar policy, only I think it is ''over 5''. They also have some ''family changing rooms'' where the entire family can go in together and change, but boys are not allowed in the womens' locker room over a certain age. I believe this is because many women and especially young women and girls are just not comfortable taking their clothes off with boys around. I have three sons, the youngest is 6. My boys started to be modest about undressing in front of mom and others around the age of 5 or 6. This seems like a natural time to give them the responsibility to dress and undress themselves without mom to help. I think a 7 year old is totally capable of changing out of street cloths to a swimsuit and back. He is not going to get ''lost'' in the locker room - you are waiting for him and you can follow up if there are unreasonable delays. You need to give him the chance to grow up in this way now. He is not going to have mom around always. Ginger

Yep. I hear you. Feel the same thing myself, and I'm concerned because my son is very shy. So here's what I think we'll be doing this summer: The towel cabana! I learned this at Canyon Swim School where my son takes lessons. Sometimes he doesn't mind going into the boys room, sometimes he does (and it's mostly kids in there). The times he doesn't want to go in the boys room, I take a towel and after drying him off make a sort of tent around him where he can take off his suit and put on his underpants and pants. Shirt too, but usually that's not a problem. There. He's dry. He's changed. He's not showered, but we can do that at home later. another concerned mom

I know this doesn't really address all your various concerns, but could you just have him change into and out of his suit at home or even in the car, instead of at the pool? I sympathize with your concerns -- at our pool, the age limit for using the opposite gender's dressing rooms is 5. I guess mgmt's reasoning is that other grownups might feel uncomfortable with a child of the opposite gender around. Naked is no big deal

Hi -- I also don't want my son in the men's locker room alone. At El Cerrito Pool there is a unisex changing/shower room, wheelchair accessible and open to one person/family at a time. Try it! Pool's nicer than King, too. mom of swimmer

It's just so interesting how different we all are, and how different things make us anxious, or not. I am generally a very anxious mom, yet my son started going by himself into the Men's locker room at Willard pool when he was six? five? The cut off age at Willard Pool is definitely younger than seven. Besides the pool's official age, the 11 and 12 year old girs began to feel uncomfortable with my son in the locker room. When it is summer time and there are swim lessons happening, there are just tons of kids and parents and teachers around and I geuss I just figure there is safety in numbers. There are always some people I know around. Usually one of his teachers will keep an eye on him or check on him. If the locker room were more deserted, I might worry more.

Barring that - many parents I've seen bring their children in bathing suits and take them home that way too, even if wet. Anonymous

While I completely sympathize with your situation - Really - and if I had a son I would feel the same frustration about what to do. I face this somewhat when my 6 year old daughter's father takes her to swimming lessons and he can't help her with a shower. On the other hand, as a mother to 2 girls, having little boys over the age of 5 in the locker room makes both my girls uncomfortable and I can't get them to take a proper shower or change clothes unless there is a dressing room (which often there is not). My pre-pubesent 10 year old will openly declare she will not get undressed in front of a boy. So, I guess it's time for a bit of creativity: Put your swimming suits on before you go to the pool and just wear street clothes on top to shed just before you go into the water. Or perhaps swimming lessons can wait until Saturday when Dad can help with the dressing room. As for other pools - We go to El Cerrito. Their maximum age for a boy in the women's locker room is six. But you also do not need to go through the locker room to get to the pool and there is an outside shower to rinse off. I really do understand your fears and frustrations, but I am also glad 7 year old boys can't come into the women's locker room. Mom of girls

Could you just have him wear his swimming trunks to the pool and home again? kevin

I'm with you on this one! I wasn't comfortable sending my son alone into the men's locker room when he was that age, but he wasn't allowed in the women's locker room with me. I think the rules are reasonable to not let older boys into the women's locker room because it may bother some of the women and girls there, but that still didn't mean I wanted to send my son into the locker room alone. (It's not that I think child molesters are lurking behind every locker; it's more that my son still needed help getting everything together at that age.)

The Berkeley YMCA downtown has ''family changing rooms'', so we ended up taking swimming lessons there for several years. At other places where we'd swim, if there were nobody to supervise my son in the locker room I'd have him put his swim trunks on under his clothes. Then after his swimming lesson, I'd just wrap him up in towels and bring him home to change.

I know it seems challenging now, but it's a short time, and pretty soon he'll be old enough to be alone in the locker room. Good luck! - Swimming Mama

Around every corner does not a child molester lurk. Take it from someone who was very athletic and so spent years in locker rooms of various kinds from the infamous YMCAs to public pools to Catholic league basketball to junior and high schools sports every season. I was also an altar boy and not once did a priest try to molest me. My point is that your fears seem to be very out of proportion to the reality of the situation. Consider that your son will take about 3 minutes to change and you will be right outside listening at the door and will have told him to scream his bloody head off is anyone so much as looks at him funny. Am I right?

The chances of something bad happening are infinitesimally small, while the chances of something good happening are highly likely. Your son needs to grow up, meaning cut the apron strings. He needs to learn to do things on his own. He needs to learn that the vast majority of strangers are in fact good people and when they see your son changing to go swimming their only thoughts will be a bit of reminiscing about their own childhood down at the swimmin' hole laying in the sun butt naked and goin' a'fishin'. A parent's job is to protect their child, sure. But that does not mean never ever letting your child be in a situation that could in any remote way be harmful. Protecting your child means first and foremost teaching him how to protect himself, and that he learns to go out in the big bad world and make a way for himself. In my view, a parent who overprotects harms her child as much a parent who underprotects. Strive for an age appropriate balance.

At 7 I was riding my bike 3 miles sans helmet (people would have laughed uproariously at the idea of wearing a helmet) on busy streets to a public pool back and forth three times every day (came home to eat). We were gone for hours climbing trees and riding bikes all over hell. I now give my daughters little independence tests. I will do something like have them take a bus from near our house in very scary Richmond (not) , take BART to Berkeley, watch a specific movie on their own, then go to lunch at a certain restaurant on their own, intentionally ask a stranger for directions even though they already know the way, handle all the money on their own, but the BART ticket, and call me from a public phone (I didn't allow them to have cell phones until they were older) to come pick them up. True safety comes from protecting yourself, not relying on others to protect you, and your parents need to teach you that rather than take that away from you. sean

We take our daughters to King for swimming lessons. I hear your concern, but I think he will be okay getting changed in the men's/boys' room. I know a lot of kids are in and out of the locker rooms at the same time during swim lessons, if that makes you feel any better. Also, when lessons happen, the only adults around are the instructors and parents of children in lessons. The pool isn't open to the larger community at that time. If your boy takes longer than a few minutes to get changed, you could ask a staff member, another boy or Dad to check on your son. Or, if you feel more comfortable, you could have him sign up for lessons with a friend, or you could have your son wear his suit to the lesson and go home to change after the lesson. Another thing to keep in mind: from a girls' perspective, it can be uncomfortable when school-age boys are in the women's locker room. Your son may seem young to be off on his own, but now's a good time to talk with him about how to handle himself in different situations. King swimmers

If it matters to you that much, bring your son to the pool already dressed to swim, and take him home in his swim clothes (towel-dried) and have him shower/change clothes at home. But let him go to the boys bathroom by himself if he has to pee (please don't send him into the bushes)! Yes, there's always a chance that something bad can happen in a public place without your direct supervision, but in my opinion, I think it's a greater detriment to your son that you're not letting him learn a bit of independence at seven years old. Mom of boys

If your son is 7, he'll be fine in the locker room by himself. If it's for swim lessons, there will be other kids there. I'm sorry, but I do not think you are justified. I would feel EXTREMELY uncomfortable dressing in front of a 7 yr old or older boy in the women's locker room. I'm not even all that comfortable with it when they come into the women's bathroom. If you are flat dead-set against giving him the opportunity to just be normal in the locker room changing into or out of his swimsuit, then have him get in his swimsuit at home, and let him wear it wet before he gets home. This does not seem like a big deal (in fact, it's what I usually do at public pools just because it's quicker and I like my very own shower!). You also mention that your son would prefer to go by himself. Take your cues here. He's getting bigger, and probably feeling horribly embarassed by your insistence on watching every single move. He's growing up a little bit. The world is not actually crawling with sex offenders hanging out in public pool locker rooms waiting for 7 yr old boys to come in. In fact, most locker rooms are pretty wide open--so how could anything untoward happen without a lot of planning. And I'd bet that other boys & men in the locker room are there to swim. Altercations could happen anywhere, any time. It's not about whether he's unsupervised for a moment. If he were to slip in the shower (and I'm not sure why that would happen-does he have a tendency to run in locker rooms??), I'm sure that he'd get help immediately. ANYBODY can hear anyone yelling in most locker rooms. Oh, and keep in mind that most sexual predators actually KNOW their victims--not somebody they happen to see in a swim suit. I think it's pretty common to have the boys go into the male locker room, and I don't think you have a leg to stand on. Furthermore, you will certainly draw attention to yourself as not very relaxed, and you will probably humiliate your son. Have him dress/shower at home if it truly bothers you, but otherwise consider just giving him a little space to grow.

As a mom of two boys 3 and 6 1/2, I can totally understand yr issues with sending yr son off to interact with a locker room that is unsupervised.I'm sure plenty of Dads would like to go off to the pool with their daughters and not have to worry about this stuff too. I agree there should be an alternative, say a locker room attendant. I think in your son's best interest and yours(because it's clearly putting a damper on something you both probably love to do) how about this: UNTIL YOU CAN RESOLVE THIS DIPLOMATICALLY AND STRUCTURALLY, come completely dressed for swimming on arrival. King does have side doors. Ask to use them if they are not accessible. Deal with being wet on departure. Shower at home. DO NOT IMPACT YOUR SON'S ABILITY TO DO WHAT'S GOOD FOR HIM. Remember he's asking to go off in the locker, maybe b/c he wants the independence, maybe b/c the fuss yr raising, right or not, is hard for him. Continue to move up the City of Berkeley Dept of Rec chain of command(you don't think those teenagers who work at the pools have any control over what they've been told is the Rule, do you? of course not. They should have been more concerned for sure and worked with you but if they won't, maybe someone else will) I'm sure you can make an impact, but you should always do what's right for yr family and everyone's comfort level is different. Hope I didn't sound harsh. I really do support yr feelings that this should be different. I generally think Uppity is a quality to aspire to, but it can be hard for our children to be around when they just want to fit in and have fun. Another Riled Up Mama

Yes, you are out there on this one - Might be more your issue than your son's. Come to terms with it or find a pool with family changing rooms (good luck). This is the rule at most public pools where cut off age is often 5. King Pool is actually more lenient than others.

By the way, at 7 your son's presence may soon,if it isn't already, make the girls uncomfortable, and soon after that, it may be downright inappropriate. So is that okay to impose your fears on the girls' privacy? And how will your son soon feel having to go with you into the GIIIIRLS locker room.

Also, it is really a men AND boys locker room at King, as the one on the other side is the women AND girls. The folks at King pool are generally very cool. My husband, our men friends and boys we know who used the pool have never reported any problems with weirdos at the pool, nore have they reported floors being anymore slippery than usual (the male locker room floor is probably not any more slippery than the female locker room floor). I'm sure if your son yelled for help, that you (waiting outside the door) and others would hear easily and immediately. Even if he is with you, how do you prevent him from slipping on the floor? So that question is moot, in my mind.

Yes it is legal to segregate the two sexes in this way (in my non-legal opinion). Your unsupervised kid is porbably very able to handle himself in there. You can't watch him all the time. What age have you set as a cut off to allow him to be in a locker room alone? It is lovely that you care so much about him and do so want to protect him.

Hey my girls go through the girls locker room when their Dad is taking them to swimming and they've never had a problem. They just take longer getting ready. Sometimes a parent of one sex will ask an adult that is the same sex as their kid to go and check on their kid to see how they are doing. They have always been fine (just dawdling!)

I strongly urge you to check out a Kidpower class for you and your kid. They do a great job teaching safety for kids (to kids and their loving adults), in a non scary way. It teaches them how to deal with the situations that you sound like you are fearing most. Doing this might ease your fears, might help you give him some room to grow, and might help you have more confidence in his ability to take care of himself for a few minutes on his own. In this way you are less likely to damage his own self-confidence.

So please have more faith in your son and in King Pool folks. It is a fabulous place and the staff are pretty darn good, too. Best of luck in working through this. Anon

I think you are absolutely justified and you don't need to explain yourself to anyone. You are his mother and you want to supervise him in the locker room. End of story. The policy seems stupid and prudish in the extreme. agree with you on this

I appreciate your nervousness about your 7-year-old son using the boys' locker room. However, you need to look at this from the perspective of the girls (and women) in the locker room. My 10-year-old girl (who is beginning to develop) is quite unhappy with the presence of boys in the locker room. Sure, an adult can say, ''he's only 7,'' but to a girl who isn't that far from his age, boys (past kindergarten) in the locker room are a problem. The other side of this, is you are assuming that the older boys and men in the locker room are dangerous to your son, rather than at the pool in order to swim themselves. If the set up at King makes you too nervous, there are some places, like the Berkeley Y, that have family changing rooms where parents can help children dress privately (no showers, alas.) mother of a swimmer

Honey, I wouldn't be calling other people crazy. Lets look at this from MY perspective (38-year-old woman with school age daughters) and probably that of most other women/girls in the locker room. Quite frankly, I do not want your school age son (who probably giggles when he sees girls underpants) in the locker room with me while I am naked or my girls are naked. Can you imagine if they go to school together? How would my girls feel? Heck, how would I feel? Kinda creepy...Oh, and ALL pools/gyms that I go to limit the upper age for boys to ages 3 or 4 to be in the woman's locker room.

Also, I think that most of your concerns about the changing in the men's locker room are pretty far fetched. I have never slipped in the shower in my entire life (just asked my husband, and he says 'ditto.'). I have never witnessed weird altercations such as you suggest between primary age boys who have been in contact with each other for five minutes and have never met before in their lives and are just trying to put on their swimsuits...

Some ideas for you: dress your son in his trunks before he comes and let him ride home in his wet suit, then let him shower at home OR call around to a bunch of pools to find one that has a 'family' dressing room. -just normal, not unfair...

Actually, the 7-year-old limit is very generous. We belonged to the Hills Club in Oakland--a fairly nice private pool--and their age limit was 5 years old. You have a lot of options, including going elsewhere...but I seriously doubt you'll find *any* pools that will allow a 7 -year-old-boy into a women's locker room. What about the girls in there!!?? My 8-year-old daughter would FREAK OUT if a boy around her age saw her naked! It would be a total violation of the privacy and safety SHE should be able to feel in a changing room.

Your options: -- Don't have him change at the pool. Bring him and take him home in his trunks, and have him shower at home. Or have him change in the car while you stand guard. -- If there are outdoor showers for hosing off, have him rinse off outside in his trunks and do a surfer's change (towel around waist, drop drunks, put on pants) -- Let him do it. You said yourself he wants to go in the locker room himself. You could tell him to shower in his trunks then go straight to a toilet stall to change. -- Enroll him in swimming with a friend so they can go in together. Safety in numbers.

We had to do all of the above at one point or another because my son didn't want to be alone in the locker room at age 5. Eventually, he got used to it and did fine. I think 7 is about the right age for him to handle it. From the sound of things, you've probably scared him enough about strangers that he'll be on his guard.

I, too, think this rule is very silly--and dangerous. Exactly what do they think a 7- year-old boy is going to do in a women's locker room that is worth expelling them to the men's unsupervised? Unfortunatley, I don't know much about the legality of it. However, one suggestion I have for you is to find a child in your sons' swim class whose dad takes them, and ask him to watch your son. If the man happens to have a daughter, perhaps you could watch his daughter. Incredulous, too

I too have a 7 yr old son and am uncomfortable when he goes into the mens locker room. The pool we use is in a park complex heavily used by homeless people (not to malign the homeless - but would you want your 1st grader maybe be alone with them?).

I have been at pools where there are family changing rooms - definitely a great solution. Where we swim now there is a rule that over 6 they go into same sex locker rooms. Last fall when we moved here I protested and the staff let me take him (& my daughter) in the women's locker room (just to change and I didn't have them linger much). Now my son wants to use the men's locker room. I don't want to make him uncomfortable by forcing him to go through the womens'.

With both of my kids I bring them to the pool in their suits (when I can) and take them home wet and put them straight into the shower. I figure I save at least 20 minutes by having them shower at home when I can get busy with dinner or something.

And for the respondents who are concerned with boys staring - I too don't like it. My son does know what he is seeing, he bathes with his 8 yr old sister. They have always bathed together, they have a great time, and they don't see anything strange about having different ''parts'' (they do think it is interesting - but not strange). We live in a very small house and pretty much all see each other. I noticed that he was starting to look but it was not to try to figure out ''what are all those strange female things.'' I think it was what we all experience, not anything about the ''parts'' that we all have but that everyone's bodies are so different that it is kind of facinating. Because of that, I was relieved when he started insisting on going through the men's locker room - but still worried. Since he doesn't change or shower in it I just tell him to walk through quickly.

In response to the many people who said that the chances are so small of there being a sexual basic MO is 1. With my kids, if I don't have to take a chance, I don't take it. (keeping reasonable tabs on being over protective of course) another concerned & modest mom

As a regular public pool swimmer, let me emphasize that no, you are not justified in bringing your 7 year old son into the women's locker room. This is common practice at most pools, many have a younger age cut off. If you are uncomfortable with him using the men's locker room, then have him take care of all business at home, change in the car, whatever, or find another facility where you will be comfortable with him using the men's room by himself. It's unreasonable to expect the other locker room users to accommodate your personal issues. Frankly, I don't think any boy over 4 belongs in the women's locker room. And just for the record, I have 2 sons so yes, I've lived through this issue. Not only do I object to young boys in the women's locker room, I particularly object to women who bring older boys into the women's locker room, then the women go hide in the toilet stalls to change while the boys stare at the rest of us. boys belong in the men's room

Dad With a Daughter Wondering about Restrooms

May 2006

After reading responses from women with sons in Women's restrooms, I'm wondering what dads with daughters do??? I won't want to take my daughter into the Men's restroom, and at least until she's old enough, I won't want her to go alone into the Women's restroom either! What do you guys do???? --Wondering in Advance

hi dad, not to worry. my daughter is now 7 1/2. i have been taking her into men's restrooms since she was a baby and no one has ever said boo about it. a while back she started going into the women's restrooms WITH HER FRIEND. of course i watched the door very carefully when they first did that and was very relieved when they came out. now i'm more relaxed about it. when it's just the two of us, it is now about 50/50; half the time she'll come with me into the men's room, half the time she elects to go on her own into the women's. of course i still watch the door when she chooses the latter, but i am pretty relaxed and comfortable with it. but as far as taking her with me into the men's? never have i worried about this for one second or had any problem whatsoever. most of the men and boys we encounter inside understand the situation and some are even friendly and seem glad to see her. all act as though she has the same right to be there that they do (which she does, of course). doug

I have two daughters, ages 5 3/4 and 3 3/4, and I'm familiar with your situation. I just take them into the men's room with me. Sure, the men's restroom is often smellier than the ladies' (so my daughters tell me), but whatever. Nobody seems to care, really. I see lots of fathers do this. I also take them to the boys' locker room when we go swimming at the YMCA. I know that girls over 6 are supposed to go to the girls' locker room, but whatever. Nobody seems to care. I don't worry about exposing my daughters to male genitalia. Being in the boys' locker room so much, I think they've seen enough for there to be no fascination. Are you uncomfortable with ''exposing'' your daughter? Personally, I don't see any problem with it.
Paul, daddy with two daughters

We have a 31/2 year old daughter, who I have been taking care of (sahd) for the past 3 years. I generally don't worry about taking her into a men's room with me if she needs to go. We just go into one of the stalls and I stay with her until she's done. We've gotten a coupple of odd looks but since we don't really have an alternative,(and I don't think that it would be okay for me to take her into the woman's room) I'll just continue to do this until she's old enough to go herself. Good luck

Until I was five or six, I always went into the bathroom (or the shower room at the pool) with whichever of my parents was present. Spending time in men's and women's rooms was a good lesson: everybody's bodies are different, but everyone goes to the bathroom to do more or less the same thing. (Also that urinals, though they look cool, can be pretty gross.)

I think the key is to be confident in what you're doing, so that if someone asks why you're bringing your daughter into the men's room, you're not put on the defensive. You can just state it as family policy: ''my daughter always has one of her parents with her when she goes into public bathrooms.''

If you go along with the ''conventional wisdom''--whether you agree with it or not--that appears on BPN, that male strangers are predators and perverts (the basis for most mothers' fears about sending young sons alone in public men's rooms), and female strangers are motherly and nurturing. So according to this ''conventional wisdom'', you can send your daughter (you didn't say how old) into the public women's restroom by herself and in fairly good confidence hope that some motherly nurturing woman/women will look out for her while she's in there.
Go figure

3-year-old daughter in men's shower at YMCA

Feb 2004

My husband takes our three-year-old daughter to the Hilltop Y to go swimming, which she loves. She also loves taking a shower afterwards! We want to know if there is an age when girl children should no longer be allowed in the men's lockeroom. He isn't uncomfortable with it, she doesn't care, but the issue is at what age is it no longer acceptable.

I see boys in the women's bathroom and showers until they are 6 years old (Of course, some of them are beginning to grumble about it, too). As long as dad is very attentive (i.e., she is not left alone for a moment) and she still loves it, I say why not let the same standard stand for little girls as for little boys? Perhaps you will get some advice about what age small children can ''remember'' things and that's when the showers should stop. Deciding on such an age is unreliable and probably not a good criterion to base a decision on anyway. I recall well how much fun it was to take a shower with my father (I remember only coming up to his knees quite distintively while standing in the shower!). When I was a teenager or adult, I mentioned this to my mother. She said my father abruptly stopped letting me take showers with him literally on my second birthday because he thought I was too old and would remember (It turns out I have quite a few ''independent'' memories prior to my second birthday, so such early memories are not unusual for me). However, I do in fact remember and I remember that it was a fun thing to do with my dad (and I do remember all his anatomy, although he would probably die of embarrassment now if I told him this as an adult since he thought I was too young to remember and he is a bit shy about such things!). And, with my father being the only man in the house, I think it was healthy for me to innocently see the differences between boys and girls, not to mention simply having a fun activity to share with dad.

So, back to your case: As long as dad and daughter are comfortable (which likely also is influenced by how comfortable the other men in the locker room are), I see no harm in continuing (with vigilance) until it no longer is a comfortable situation. I would imagine that it will not be that difficult to tell when someone is uncomfortable, and therfore I wouldn't make an arbitrary decision -- i.e., one that is not already socially acceptable for little boys in women's locker rooms -- before that time. kb

Dad taking toddler daughter into the men's room

Sept 2003

What advice to people have about how a Dad can deal with toileting with a toddler girl who is in the process of potty training? If he is with her all day outside of the home, each of them will have to use the toilet. How should he use a public restroom when he needs to bring her in the stall with him? How should he help her to use the toilet when they must go in a men's room? anon

I was worried about this too. My husband is in charge of our 3 year old daughter one day a week and there is no getting around the potty problem. Occasionally they find a ''family bathroom'' or a single unisex potty room, but most of the time he has to take her into the men's room. She was very concerned about this, but we assured her that it was OK, since she has to go to the potty with an adult. She is getting used to it. My husband just tries to choose the quieter, cleaner bathrooms and quickly whisks her into a stall - they are all the same anyway. Jaime

I hope that potty thing doesn't get into the way of daddies and daughter getting around together. Some ideas...

Many cafes, small restaurants, and same stores have little mixed bathrooms, which both dad and daughter can use (at the same time).

If she refuses to go on a men's bathroom, she could use a travel potty (for example ''Potette'', you get that at Baby World or at Longs). It comes with liners, but you could as well buy a matching tupperware with lid that can be emptied into the canalisation or a bathroom (for #2). The traditional is ''to go behind the bushes'', and clean up like you would do with a dog, but that's probably a bad idea for fathers.

As to bringing a girl into a bathroom with other men in it, I am not sure either. Would the other men be offended? Would your daugher feel intimidated? This all depends on the design of men's bathrooms which I don't know very well.

A similar thing: Moms have to take their sons into locker rooms at the swimming pool until they are Kindergarten age or so. They can watch all the other women naked there, and they can see him naked. I think it's no problem and certainly not a big deal, but maybe other people feel different. Julia

Young Son Using Women's Restroom

April 2006

My son turned 5 years-old last month. Whenever he and I are together in public and he has to use the restroom, I bring him into the women's restroom with me. He is still a young boy and I am not comfortable sending him into the men's restroom by himself, even if I were to stand outside of the men's restroom. Yet, I am astounded by the inappropriate looks I get from women when I bring him into the women's restroom with me. I would like to find out how other mothers handle these ackward glances from other women. Am I being overprotective? Also, when should a young boy use the men's restroom if he is by himself?

Many public pools use 6 as cut off age. Frankly, I think it should be less of an issue in women's restrooms since there are always private stalls. But some of those stuffy department stores have crabby ladies who don't even like moms to nurse in the ''ladies lounge.'' I'd be more uncomfortable if I were a dad bringing a young girl into men's room.
Fortunate to have child with a bladder of steel

Personally, I am mystified by rules barring, and social disapproval of, young boys in women's restrooms. I am not comfortable with sending him alone into a men's restroom; I simply won't do it. I make sure that he behaves appropriately in the women's restroom, and ignore any dirty looks that come my way. I'm With You

Of course you should bring a 5 year old into the women's restroom with you. I could not imagine sending a child that age into a men's room (unless my husband took him in there). If someone gives you a look, ignore them. If they say something to you, simply respond ''I'm so sorry if you are not comfortable with my son using the stall in here. I'm sure you understand the need for safety precautions and how irresponsible I would feel putting my 5 year old alone in a room full of adults whom I don't know and where I can't see him.''

Give them a weak smile and proceed to do what you need to do. The doors close so I cannot understand what their rational concern could be.
Mom who brings her 7 year old son too

I think a 5 year old should still go into the women's room with you. My son is almost 4, and I can't see being comfortable with sending him into a public restroom alone, any time soon. I don't think twice when I see a 5 year old in the women's room. I can't speak to WHEN it would start being inappropriate, though. anon

I take my 7 years old son with me to women's bathroom whenever possible, and I have never noticed any looks from others. Maybe I am insensitive,,, or too busy caring my children. He sometimes go to men's bathroom by himself but if he needs to go number 2 he still wants to go with me to women's restroom. Whenever he goes to men's restroom, I feel very worried. You just never know what kind of people are inside. I even ask some guys walking inside to see how he is doing, and by saying so, especially if the person asked is also a father of young children, he does look after my son while inside the bathroom. In all cases so far, he is fine. I am not probably even embarrased to go inside men's bathroom if my son shouts and calls my name from inside. I need to make sure he is safe. Mom of two busy young boys

My son is nearly 10 and I still often take him into the bathroom with me - because when I don't, he comes in to get me anyway! Seriously, I think I only recently allowed him to go by himself and I don't really care what anyone else thinks. He is respectful in the bathroom - women's bathrooms have stalls w/doors so there is no big deal there.

I think you may be projecting your own self-consciousness about this onto the other women - I honestly have never noticed anyone staring and no one has EVER commented on this.

In any case, I would think 5 is still young enough to go in with you. You could go by the 48 inch rule at amusement parks.
My son is my baby forever

I have three sons, and my youngest is 5. I wouldn't dream of sending him off to the men's room by himself. Maybe when he's 6 or 7. My older boys started to feel uncomfortable around that age and asked to use the men's, so then it was a few years of me hovering outside the men's bathroom door wringing my hands and fretting if they were gone for more than 2 minutes. I have never noticed any dirty looks in the women's room except for one time a teenaged girl gave me a dirty look when I walked in with my 5-year-old. I was surprised! Just an issue of immaturity. One day she will be fretting about this herself. Just keep doing what you're doing!

My son will be 6 in July and I still take him to the women's restroom when my husband is not with me to take him to the Men's Room. I don't particularly care what other people think about this, he is my child and it is my job to protect him. Sexual predators are known to hang out in bathrooms waiting for their next victim, and I'll be damned if my son will be the one! I've told my son that he could go to the men's restroom by himself when he is 7 or 8, and he was okay with it. Trust your gut and don't let the stares bother you. Anon

My son is 7 1/2 and I still often bring him into the women's room with me and I have never noticed any odd ''looks.'' However, I many not be sensitive as you are but I'm not comfortable having my son go into a men's room alone. He will sometimes request to go to the men's room by himself and when that happens I let him, giving specific directions to wash hands, leave as soon as he is done, etc. I don't think you are being overprotective at all. I think five is to young to use a men's room on his own and not only because of sexual predators but they get distracted easily and lose track of time.

I really wouldn't give a hoot about anybody's dirty looks. In my experience, most women understand why moms keep their kids with them, and if they don't, well...''F 'em.'' But at some point soon, your son is probably going to start feeling uncomfortable in the women's room. My 6 1/2 year old has been using the men's room for about a year. It was his choice, not mine, he just suddenly stopped feeling comfortable in the women's room and liked the independence of going to the men's room by himself. I just stand outside and look at my watch and if it ever feels like it's taking a long time I yell in and ask if he's okay, or ask a man coming out to give me a report. It's a rite of passage, like anything else, nerve-wracking at first but fine when you're used to it. Any place really sketchy, I still make him come with me.

I'm curious to see what people say. I have a five year old boy and have no intention of allowing him into a men's room on his own anytime soon. My husband is in total agreement with me on this. While I've not had the experience of women seeming surprised/disturbed to see our son in the bathroom with me, I wouldn't care if I did. As my husband said, ''I'd rather err on the side of caution than have something happen that I couldn't reverse.'' In some instances, I've gone into the men's room with him - not the big, multi-stall kind, but the single use ones. -Anon.

My son will be six in a few weeks, and he always accompanies me into the women's restroom. I've never thought twice about this--- I haven't noticed any looks from other women, whether I've ever received any or not---and to be honest, I don't really care what other people think about my son being in the restroom. I wouldn't dream of sending him into a men's room on his own any more than I'd send him away with perfect strangers (male or female) to pull his pants down. And I don't know what the ''normal'' age is for little boys to use the men's room unaccompanied, but I have no plans to do it in the near future.

My guess is the women who are looking at you funny are the same ones who say little boys shouldn't wear dresses or girly shoes, and those aren't the people I'd take parenting advice from. As parents, it's often hard to deal with other people's disapproval over any issue, but if the only question in your mind is whether other people find your decision socially acceptable or not, I say stand up for your instincts and ignore the looks.

You are absolutely in the right. It is perfectly fine for you to bring him into the women's restrooms (if it were a father with a daughter it would be different, but in women's there are only stalls). If someone gives a look, just shrug it off, and if someone looks at your son and he notices, glare at them with your ''don't you dare even THINK about looking at my kid like that'' look. It is best to bring them until seven or eight, depending on maturity level. It's not overprotectiveness, it's sensibility.

I still take my 7-year old son into women's restrooms in airports, sports stadiums, museums, etc. Everything is very private (stalls for toilets), so I don't think twice about it. He is well-behaved and not peering under stalls or staring at people. I believe it is my job to keep him safe, so I don't worry about it. However, at our swim club where women are changing clothes out in the open, I have him go into the men's dressing room as he is at the age where he will stare at women's bodies. I feel this is a different situation because there are not private changing areas. At the same time, this is a family club where I am comfortable having him go into the dressing room. I don't know what I would do at a large public pool where I didn't know the people or layout well. Bottomline is that I would follow my gut feelings and do what I think was the safest thing for my young son and handle any complaints if/when they came up.
Safe not Sorry Mom

My son is 9 and started using the mens room when he was bout 7. If I can find a family bathroom I have him use that. Ignore the nasty looks....they must not have kids or they would understand. When my son uses the mens bathroom I have him talk the whole time he is in there. He either tells me jokes or a story or something. When he was younger I would have him say the ABC's or count to whatever big number he could get to. I told him if he stops I am coming in!!! I also keep a mental description of everyone who goes in and out of the restroom and how long they take. (If I was a man doing this outside the womens room I am sure I would be arrested!!!!)
Good luck... Annon

I would just ignore looks. We've only ever gotten any looks from little girls that are in the bathroom at the same time. I think most women (esp. mothers) understand the desire to protect children. This is a very personal decision that you get to make about your son's safety. If you're comfortable and your son is comfortable, then that's the thing to do. In our case, our son started going into the men's room between 7 and 8 years old.
protective mom

My older son is seven and when I am out without my husband I still bring him in the restroom with me if we are in a place that is too public (lots of people going in and out) or when I have to go too and can't be outside the door waiting for him. I started letting him go by himself occaisionally when he was six. I will sometimes let him go with his younger brother who is four, but again only if I can stand right outside and it isn't too busy. Usually if the two of them go in it takes about five times as long as if one goes alone or they go with me. I think they are playing with the water at the sinks. (OK, I hope that is what they are doing.) When my older one is on his own I ask him if he is just going to pee or needs to poop too, and then give him a time limit. Personally, I don't know if I have gotten and dirty looks and would ignore them if I could. My son is using a toilet behind a closed door, and so are the other women. He doesn't pee on the seat, look under the stall walls or doors and is usually in my company in the handicapped stall since you can't fit three people in a regular stall. The only time he can see them, or they him, is at the sink washing hands which doesn't have to be a single sex activity, and that is the end of that for now.

I've been trying to decide how old is too old. My first reaction is 8 or 9. I will amend that to, when they are old enough to be embarassed too, but only if they also have enough sense to recognize danger and behave on their own. And I probably will still be waiting outside the door until he is bigger than me!
mom of 2 boys

I say ignore the awkward glances, a five year-old boy IS too young to go to the men's room alone (unfortunate in this day and age, but true.) Your son's safety is more important than strangers' looks.

Hi, When my 10 year old stepson was in town, I took him into the woman's restroom with me. It's more important for me to know he is ok than to worry about others. People should not give you disapproving looks. If they do, ignore them. Five years old is fine to bring into the ladies restroom. Our world isn't always safe and we must do what is necessary to protect our children. I think strange looks is better than a missing child!!

Perhaps it is because I am so busy with the two year old and the five year old (both boys) I have never noticed any bad looks from other women in the restroom. I think you should continue to take you son in the restroom with you. I do--and will until he is seven or eight, at least. My son is very mature and polite (well, you know five year olds) but I would never let him go to a restroom by himself. If his dad isn't there then he goes with me into the ladies' room. Don't worry what other people think! Keep your kids safe and do what you feel best about. These other people aren't the mama of your son!

Hi- I am the dad of a 6.5 year old girl, and if I am alone with her at a restaurant, gas station, wherever, I will generally take her into the men's room. I have never experienced any grief with this. I also will take her into a single-stall women's room (for example, the one at Picante restaurant) rather than wait for the one-person men's room, if she really has to ''go'' badly. I've gotten a couple of stares when I walk out of a women's room with her, but I just don't care that much. No one has ever given me any real problem about it. I wouldn't worry about it - my feeling is, the world is full of woe, and if this is anyone's big problem, well, I just put in in perspective!

You are not being overprotective, but you might be oversensitive to these ''inappropriate looks''. Forget them! You know very well and so would they if they thought about it, that a 5 year old boy can not go in the men's room by himself! If you must, or if someone actually says something to you, just tell them that. I don't see what the big deal is at all--contrary to the men's room, everyone in the women's room is in their nice little stall and there is no way your son would see anything untoward. If you want to avoid the situation further, scout out those new-fangled ''family restrooms'' that are at the mall, the zoo, etc, or places with ''one-seaters'' like some cafes and smaller businesses.
I.P. Freely

We're in the same situation. And to boot, my son is very tall and looks a couple years older than his five years. But he's really not ready to go by himself into the men's bathroom. Some places we know have strict age limits, like four or five. So far, I've only rarely had to deal with other women who are upset by seeing my son in the bathroom. Maybe that's because I try not to make eye contact withh other people in the bathroom, but get in, do our business, and get out again. Once, however, I had a woman come up to me and basically cuss me out--in front of my son--for bringing him into the bathroom. I then checked with management and found out that we were within their age restrictions, so I tried to let it go. I think if I encounter someone who gets upset again, I'll just look them straight in the eye and ask them in this day and age how old they think a young boy should be to take care of himself by himself in the men's room? And then just keep doing what we're doing. I'm not sure how long I'll be taking my son into the women's bathroom, probably another year or two given that my son is shy and doesn't want to be left alone. I have a feeling that this is going to be another one of those issues--like finally putting changing stations in men's rooms--that management will have to help us find a solution to. Some places have co-ed bathrooms or ''family'' bathrooms for families with young kids. I look for those.
Don't like it either

I agree with all the other posters that your child's safety is paramount. The only time I think it might be an issue is at a changing room kind of place (like a pool). But in places like that, that often have age limits for children of the opposite sex, they should also have some single room option for you to use. In any case, one way to avoid any stares is to ask if they have single room bathrooms where you can take your son with you.

Seat covers for potty training and public toilets?

Nov 2007

I am about to start potty training and am unsure how to deal with using public toliets. All the product reviews for folding seat covers are terrible and I don't want to use disposables. Any advice would be greatly appreciated! Cheers!

Sometimes too much info is a bad thing. For example, only people that had some tragic accident would bother writing a product review of a $5 folding potty seat. Ours worked great. When our dd was just first potty trained (at 1.75 years) we just toted the baby bjorn potty in a shopping bag, but when she was comfortable going at home on the potty with a little seat, we started toting the folding thing around. After awhile, we just skipped it and put down the paper cover (if available) and held her so she didn't fall in. I'd recommend trying to get your child used to using the big potty with the seat as soon as possible, because if going from diapers to the little potty is a big improvement, going from the little potty to the big flushing potty is the greatest thing ever. anon

If there's seat covers I use those and hold her while she's sitting on the toilet. And if not, I make seat covers using the toilet paper. When traveling in cars, I place a doggy training pad on her car seat for her to seat on top of in case of accidents. Many new malls now have family rooms with toddler size toilets and seat covers. Crystal

We keep a small plastic Baby Bjorn potty in the back of our car for emergencies. If it is pee, just throw in a toilet...or a bush and wipe down.We have boys, so now if they have to pee, they don't actually touch anything and I don't usually break out the back-up potty. But if it is poop, we either dump in the toilet and then wash out, or wrap a plastic bag around it to poop into until we can dispose of the poop properly. public bathrooms creep me out too

I just plop my kids on the potty or hold them over it if it looks nasty. I am 39 and haven't caught anything from a toilet. My kids are doing okay so far. -not too worried.

I always carried one of the small, one-piece, molded plastic Baby Bjorn potties with me...ALWAYS. Similar ones can be found often at various Dollar stores. I just found it easier than dealing with the possible and potential disasters of public toilets. Potty Mama

Dealing with small children and dirty public toilets

March 2005

My daughter recently turned 2 so we are gearing up for potty training. While I have a number of anxieties about this, I recently had a real scare. She and I were taking a walk along the Bay and I needed to find a toilet. What we found were a couple of those portable outhouses. Luckily for us we had a ''best case scenario'' in that one was large (wheelchair) and very clean. Even still, I didn't want my daughter to touch anything (I can't imagine that working in a normal sized outhouse) and there I stood staring at a hole over a large vat of human waste. So how do people deal with public toilets, both indoors and outhouse, as far as cleanliness and hole size? I can imagine several things such as carrying a small toilet or even seat along, but we won't always have those. Or maybe holding her suspended over the hole, but then where do her feet/pants dangle? And even if that worked with urinating, I am guessing that for poop she would need a more comfortable seating arrangement. I feel like I should be looking forward to ending diapers but I'm not.
Scared to Potty Train

**You're going to go into the restroom with her for a long time from now forward; she won't be solo.
**You'll almost always wipe the seat first, thanks to all those parents who hold their kids above the seat and don't clean the resulting spills.
**Bring backup wipes along - you never know when you're stuck with a porta potty.

Oh, also... despite germ gross out and toileting learning curves, you will naturally relax a little as time goes on. Children take a few years to learn how to wipe really well, but of course, you have to let them do it themselves at some point; otherwise you will end up with 5 year olds yelling to the end of the house ''Someone come wipe me!''. At some point, you just do your best and know your kid will perform less than perfect wiping for awhile. Try not to think about it. It is sorta gross. You will also learn to give your HOME toilet seat a good looking at before sitting on it, as aim is not always perfect in children either. Squeezes eyes shut and makes sure they bathe regularly.

Hi, I'm the mom of 5 yr old and 3 yr old girls, so have been dealing with this for a few years now...and I'm a clean-freak! First, calm down, you're thinking about all the right things...and as long as there's toilet paper, you'll be fine. Tell your daughter the basics about not touching anything in a public restroom--''germs are like tiny little bugs we can't see, and they're dirty. There are lots of germs in public bathrooms''. Or something like that.

Then, use a seat cover, if available, or cover the seat with TP if not. You can lift her up and set her on the seat, and hold her there. Neither of my girls had a problem going #1 or #2 (that only happens rarely, though--they usually prefer to poop at home) while I'm holding them. Yes, their dress or pants might touch the front of the toilet, but hey, that's what washing machines are for...

And I can't say enough about that waterless hand cleaner--Purell, or any generic form of it (Safeway, Albertsons, Longs & Walgreens have their own brands which are cheaper and exactly the same). We have numerous bottles of it all over the house, and in the car and diaper bag. I have a tiny bottle in each stroller and in my purse, fannypack, etc. We are never without the stuff. It makes me feel so much better when I can squirt that in my kids' hands after an encounter with a public toilet (sink or not--sometimes I just want to get my 3 year old out fast (she still tries to touch too many things in public restrooms), so we forego the sink and use the ''special stuff'' instead.) Another tip--scope out public restrooms around town (in stores, restaurants...), and try to plan your trips around the cleanest ones. Heidi

We've just gone through this phase and I too dreaded having to use often yucky public toilets. I recommend having the fold-up toilet seat with you as much as possible, as it really helps to be able to whip it out at a moment's notice. When you are caught without it--which we know will happen--you end up holding your child while they try and poop. Not as comfortable, but it has worked for us.

It seems our ''diaper bag'' is bigger now than when my child was in actually diapers because we not only carry the fold-up potty seat, but a spare pair of underpants, pants and socks (yes, they can get mighty wet in an accident). We always have a spare pull- up too in case our son is just too tired to make it to the toilet, has diarrhea, or we end up on a long drive for nap potential.

Good luck mastering the logistics, it won't seem as difficult in a few months. Constance

My two year old was potty trained at 22 months, and we use a foldable toilet seat for public places. They can be purchased at BabiesRus. She was not able to use it the first time, but had no problem from then on. She really likes ''her potty seat'' and it folds small enough for me to carry in my purse. As for touching things in the restroom, I have no answer, she has touched the most disgusting things. We use lots of soap after. happy with seat

Hi there - my best buy ever was a portable, foldable potty seat. It fits on any toilet and you know it's clean - just keep it in a ziploc bag and then clean it when you get home. Here's a link, search for Folding Potty Seat Good Luck - using public toilets is not that scary! cathy

At what age is it safe for kids to go by themselves?

January 1999

I was reading all the postings about the Mom & Dad disagreeing on safety issues , and I have a related question of my own. All the opinions expressed adamantly stated that children should never be sent alone into a public restroom. I was wondering: At what age *does* it become safe to send a child to the bathroom alone? 5? 8? 12? Sometimes I find myself in a very uncomfortable position: I have a 3 yr old boy and a 5 yr old girl. The three of us will be at a restaurant, and one of the children will need to go to the bathroom. We can't all pick up our stuff and go, or the restaurant employees are likely to think we've left and to clear away our food; I can't go into the bathroom with one child, leaving the other all alone and unsupervised at a table in the restaurant (I would think this is even more dangerous than sending one to the bathroom alone); I'm not keen on sending one child to the bathroom alone, because even assuming the child could *find* the bathroom there always are fears about what might happen. I usually compromise by walking the child to the bathroom door, sending him/her in alone, but standing near the door, but where I can also see the table. I didn't think this was that bad a solution, but everyone who posted a response to the Mom & Dad safety question seemed to think sending a child into the bathroom alone is a horrible thing to do. So does anyone have any alternative suggestions?

I'm a single mother with no father in the picture and I started letting my son go into public restrooms by himself when he was about 5. I stand outside of the door and estimate how much time it should take him to get in and do his business and get out. If it seems to be taking longer I call out to see if he is okay. I am perfectly willing to go into a men's restroom if I'm sufficiently worried. I've just had to do this once or twice in the last 4 years. There is a strong cultural taboo against a woman in a men's bathroom (and vice versa), but I recognize it for what it is, just a cultural taboo, and I feel no qualms about breaking it if I think the situation warrants it.

I think the compromise of waiting for the one kid while keeping the other kid in view in the restaurant is a good one. Dianna

Filthy bathrooms in public schools

August 2003

My daughter has complained quite a bit about the condition of the bathrooms at her Berkeley public elementary school. As we approach the beginning of the school year, I'm wondering what other parents have done to improve the condition of the bathrooms at their children's schools. Any advice on how to organize around this issue? Didn't Berkeley voters pass measure AA or BB or something like that a couple of years ago to hire more janitors to deal specifically with this issue? Weren't there some Berkeley High moms a few years ago who organized and got some results? From what I've seen and heard, this situation really is intolerable and I'd like to join up with some other parents to effect some positive change. The impression I have is that many kids' solution is to not use the bathrooms at all. Isn't there a better solution?
public school parent

I have no solution to the bathroom issue - just a few observations. I work in a school and we struggle with the bathroom problem. It is not necessarily an issue of more custodians, although BUSD custodians have had their hours cut in many schools due to the budget crisis. (Measures AA/BB do not necessarily provide more custodial hours). All schools schedule the custodians to clean bathrooms on a regular and reasonable schedule; it's a priority. The problem is: children and bathooms. (How many 6 year olds always remember to flush?) Multiply it by 200, 300, 400 incidents a day bathrooms. Really, they are never as nice as yours at home, and they are the one place at school where kids are unsupervised. Imagine the activities that occur when adults aren't looking! As a staff member I have ''popped in'' on all sorts of...unusual...activies, by kids of all kinds. But how do we feel about adults ''supervising'' this very personal place? Even if it was possible to escort each kid to the bathroom (it's not!) the real issue lies in teaching all children to behave responsibly when adults AREN''T watching. And there's the rub. We've create signs, posters, art work, had ''workshops'' with classes, did spot checks and drop-ins...but still our school bathrooms are ''nasty''. (The boys are the worst - those of us with boys at home know why - poor aim). Anyone with suggestions - I want to hear them! BTW, my own kids have survived BUSD bathrooms all the way through high school...the call of nature wins over delicate sensibilities. But does it have to be this way? bathroom monitor

I did not find out until he was graduating from an El Cerrito middle school, but my son never used the bathrooms at school and held it until he got home. This was due to the conditions of the facilities as well as the rowdiness that went on in them. He was also complaining of stomach aches. My plan was, if the stomach aches were caused by ''holding it'' all day, to get a note from his pediatritian requesting that he be allowed to use the teachers' bathroom. School was over, however, before I got to take any action and the stomach aches went away. By the way, I went to Cragmont in the 60's and also never used the bathrooms because I got roughed-up in one once when I was in the first grade, and the bathrooms were pretty clean. LC

I feel compelled to answer this post, even though my older daughter is still 2 years away from kindergarten at the Berkeley public schools. If the bathrooms are filthy and kids are too disgusted or afraid to visit them, and the schools are understaffed, underfinanced, whatever, why not call on volunteer parents?

I would happily go to my daughter's school a few times a week to supervise the bathroom situation during recesses/lunchtimes. It wouldn't be fun, per say, but having relatively clean, safe, accessible bathrooms is very important to me, as I imagine it will be for my kids too. Heck, I wouldn't even mind doing a little cleaning if it's necessary! I bet if the parents saw where their kids had to do their business, enough would volunteer to help keep things orderly and sanitary. I would! Heidi

2 1/2 Yr Old will only use the potty at home

November 2002

My potty training 2 1/2 year old refuses to go on any potty other than the one at home. At home, he's great, even getting up from the middle of a video to tell me he has to go. Great, right? The downside is that when we are not at home, he HOLDS it, sometimes 4 or 5 or 6 hours at a time (I know, I can't believe it either). I feel no rush to potty train, but I feel like we're neither here nor there, and I'm concerned about how long he's holding it. Any ideas?

A 2 1/2 year old can hold out for 4,5,6 hours without using the potty, with no problem. Ask him/her if s/he to go before you leave home, and then if s/he refuses to use a public toilet while you're out but has no accidents, I wouldn't worry about it. My child can go a LOT longer than I can and seems to have suffered no ill effects. Sometimes he wants to use a public toilet and lots of times he doesn't. I don't fight him on this one. Fran

I don't know if your son has expressed his reasons for only wanting to use the potty at home, but for my daughter, she found the big industrial toilets that you find in many public places to be quite menacing.

My solution: To carry around a Baby Bjorn potty (about $10) and a ziploc of Clorox wipes (well-marked, so as not to confuse them with diaper wipes!!). I usually just got smiles in public as we went from place to place with the potty in tow. (My husband found it to be a little too crass for his comfort, so he'd stick the potty in a plastic bag.) When she'd have to go, we'd stop in the nearest restroom and do our thing.

Now, she doesn't mind going on the public toilets, but if they are the big industrial ones, she asks to leave the room before I flush, as she finds that noise to be too scary. -- Ilana