Posted by: Genny Colby | April 23, 2012

My Pet Peeve of the Day

Those who know me, know that I am trying to follow a “Free Range” type of parenting style.  I am striving to give my children the kind of childhood that my husband and I had growing up.  I want them to grow, to explore their world, to gain confidence and independence.  I want them to know that mom and dad are here, always, but that they are strong, capable, and able to do so much.  To do this, I have to be willing to let them try new things, to explore their world, and yes, even fall down and get dirty or *gasp* hurt a little bit!

You can read a great description of what being “Free Range” means here, by Lenore Skenazy, who has been a strong advocate of this type of parenting.  And as time goes on, I am sure I will write more about what being Free Range means to me and my family, but for now, back to my pet peeve.

On a recent trip to Target, being pregnant, a trip to the restroom was the top priority. Taking kids to the restroom when in public is not my favorite activity, but it is sometimes a necessity.  But at what age should children start using the appropriate gender public bathroom?  I  guess my feeling is that by about 5 or 6 your child should be capable enough to use the restroom without a parent standing right outside the stall door.  At some point we have to trust our kids, right?

So I was slightly bothered on this day to find a mother with 4 kids, all aged at least 4 and up in the woman’s bathroom.  She had two girls (twins I would guess) and a two boys.  One of the boys was the youngest and I could have seen if she just had him that maybe taking him into the woman’s bathroom would have been the simplest and not all that inappropriate, but she also had what I would guess would be an 8-year-old son, just waiting with her in the woman’s bathroom, while the remaining three used the facilities.  Why could she not have sent the two boys into the men’s room together?  Or at the very least, why did the 8-year-old boy need to just stand in the woman’s bathroom?

Beyond my discomfort with an 8-year-old boy in the woman’s restroom, how does this make him feel?  Here he is, having to stand with his MOTHER in the WOMAN’s bathroom.  I can only imagine how mortified he would have been should a classmate or friend had seen him.  What must he think his mother’s opinion of him is that he can not either use the men’s room alone, or that he could not stand outside the restroom area, waiting for his family.

So I am curious, what are your thoughts?  How old is old enough to either use the appropriate gender restroom solo, or at least wait outside for the parent and/or siblings to finish?



  1. I would say that 8 is too old for a boy to be in the womens room but it may have been a safety issue. Sending your kid into the bathroom alone could pose a risk, or leaving them alone outside the bathroom. I’m sure that woman had her hands full with 4 kids and didnt think twice about taking her son in there. But I agree at what point do you start trusting your children. You can’t protect them forever or 100% of the time. I’m not a parent so I can’t speak to this fully but I do get annoyed when i see boys that are too old to be in the womens room. Its a bit of a violation of privacy to the women in there.

  2. I regularly have to take 4 kids everywhere I go. L started going to the men’s room by himself around 5 1/2 (when he was tall enough to reach the sinks on his own) and T started going with L around 4. Mind you, I guess I’m a “free range” parent too…if my kids had to come up with a “mommy quote” it would either be “4 on the floor” or “walk it off” 🙂

    • Oh, and T is 7 and would KILL me if I made him go to the ladies room without a darn good reason.

  3. thank you for those who have kept an open mind, even if you don’t agree with me! And for those that do…thanks for making me feel not so alone.

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