Why I Let My Kids Pee Alone In Public

by Elizabeth Broadbent
Originally Published: 
public restrooms
Roy Grogan / iStock

My 6-year-old has to pee approximately every 15 minutes. Like a pregnant woman, I’ve memorized the location of every bathroom at every location we ever go.

And if my 6-year-old doesn’t have to pee, my 4-year-old’s clutching his groin and whining. I should be more sympathetic—really. But we just took a pee break five minutes ago, and now I have to drag both them and their 2-year-old brother into a bathroom, all the while making sure the baby doesn’t touch anything. So I’m somewhat lacking in empathy.

This happened over and over and over—with the 2-year-old all but licking the wall in the Target bathroom and thinking it was his personal job to hand me toilet paper, like I was Henry VIII, and the other boys going in other stalls anyway—until I finally threw my hands up in the air, pointed at the family restroom at Target, and said, “Fine. Go pee. Blaise, take August.”

And they peed. Presumably they dropped their little drawers, let it go into the toilet, and washed their hands, all without destroying the bathroom or themselves. A golden age had truly arrived.

They like to go to the men’s room. I tell them: “If someone tries to talk to you or touch you, scream as loud as you can.” They nod, because this is sane advice, and duck into the room of urinals and graffiti. Usually they only get into the men’s room before I can stop them, or if I can’t see them. I prefer they don’t go in there without Daddy. Maybe it’s the exposed urinals. I’m mortified to say that, despite statistics that say you’re far, far more likely to be assaulted by a close relative than a stranger, I still don’t feel good about my (very) young sons in the men’s room—even if I’m standing right there.

So instead, I have them use the women’s room. Yes, women can molest children, but the stats are super low, much lower than someone stealing stuff out of my Target cart while I escort the boys in. I don’t have to worry about the baby rolling on the restroom floor. I don’t have to stand there and look sketchy while I wait for them to drop their pants, pee, put their pants back on, and wash their hands, then play with the hand dryer for a while.

Most people think I’m insane to send my 6- and 4-year-olds into public restrooms alone. They’ll get molested! They’ll commit vandalism with toilet paper and sinks! They won’t wash their hands! They’ll pee with the door open, and someone will kidnap them!

I don’t worry about any of it. Except the hands. I check that their hands are wet.

I always send my boys in together, preferably to the women’s room. This sometimes leads to whining about wanting to use the men’s room (no), or the non-peeing brother not wanting to accompany the pee-er (too bad). I stand right there—one might say hover—or I keep a sharp eye on the door if we’re in, say, a restaurant. If they take too long, I go over and holler into the bathroom. That usually means they’re pooing. And no dice, kid—you’re wiping yourself. My boys know not to commit petty vandalism. And most importantly, they aren’t going to get molested.

But what about the hoards of transgender women using the women’s restroom? What if they see my small, vulnerable boys? Maybe normal men aren’t likely to molest kids. Maybe normal women aren’t likely to molest kids (by the way, the proper term is cisgender). But transgender people are sexually deviant anyway, so I best keep my kids peeing under an eagle eye ’til they’re 13 and able to fight them off, right?

Statistics have shown that there are exactly zero reported cases of transgender people attacking you in public restrooms. Zero. Zip, zilch, nada. I’d expect a trans woman to help my kid reach the soap, not drag him in a back stall and do dirty, dirty things to him. They’re less of a danger than cisgender men and women, which is a minuscule danger to begin with, which is why I find it convenient to let my kids use the bathroom on their own.

And no, they aren’t going to get molested. By anyone, trans or cisgender or gay or straight or pansexual. Some people will never believe this. They will insist, against all logic and statistics, that my sons will be molested as soon as I let them out of my sight, or that they might be molested, and then won’t I be sorry because it’ll be my fault? Better safe than sorry—pee with mom until you’re 10. Clearly I don’t love my children because I believe in statistics.

It’s convenient for me. But it’s also liberating for them. Mom isn’t hovering and watching them pee, or waiting for them to finish. They’re granted some bodily integrity. They’re granted independence. And they’re granted responsibility.

Using public restrooms alone is helping them grow up. And I’m grateful for it.

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