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Thursday, October 29, 2009

How Old Is Too Old?

By Rachel H

My first child was a boy, so since he was born, I have always taken him into the Ladies’ Restroom with me when we are out in public. He just turned six, and I guess I got so used to doing this that it never really crossed my mind that there will come a point when he needs to go into the Men’s Room alone. My family went out for dinner a few months ago, and when I got up to use the restroom my son said he had to go as well, so we trotted off together to the ladies room. When we got back my husband immediately said, “You can’t do that anymore! He is way too old to be in there with you!” For the first time I had to stop and think, “How old is too old?”

When I told Katie I wanted to write about this, her first response was, “I have to tell you the truth … it creeps me out to see six-year-old boys in the women’s bathroom.” But then I told her my side and explained that my fear is sending him in to the Men’s bathroom alone and running into the psychopath who is just sitting there waiting for an innocent little boy to waltz in! She said she’d never thought about that since her son is still small enough to accompany her and no one really notices. Do I think Mr. Creepy Man is waiting in the restroom at a fine dining restaurant? Probably not … but, when we are at the park or the mall, I truly do have that fear. I have heard stories of men exposing themselves to young boys in the bathrooms and it scares me to death.

I am pretty far from being an over-protective mom, and sometimes I think I have raised my kids to almost be TOO independent, but this is one situation where I really need help. I am guessing I just need to start standing next to the bathroom door and sending my son in to use the restroom as quickly as possible. I don’t know what other option I have. So please share! When did you start letting your son use the Men’s Restroom without an adult?

Now this leads me to many other questions where I wonder “How old is too old?” I am going to preface this now by saying that some of these questions can get very touchy and I know some readers will get very opinionated about them. So please keep your comments nice and respect the views of others. After all, some of us really do have justifiable reasons behind why we do things! This also goes for children who have special needs. There are often times where they may need extra help and should not be judged.

How old is too old to …

Bathe with a sibling of the opposite sex?
See their parents nude?
Need help getting dressed?
Watch Barney?
Be rocked to sleep?
Wear longalls and shortalls?
Wear smocked clothes?
Use a pacifier?
Be walked into their classroom by mom or dad?
Ride in a stroller?
Have their parents cut up their food?
Trick or treat?
Still take a bath instead of a shower?
Still be wearing diapers?

Lots of thought provoking questions here, folks! So, weigh in with your answers and let us know !


Maythi said...

Rachel, Wow. Another reason I am glad I have two girls :) Although, my husband has run into this before, and let me tell you what - WAY creepier to have to take your little girl into the men's bathroom with you - no matter how little she is! He won't do it. The only time he was put in this situation, he was at Target - I was in the car in the parking lot with our youngest. He called my cell phone and said, "Come in to Target. R needs to use the bathroom and I am NOT taking her into the dudes bathroom"! I bolted out of the car with the baby and was inside Target in about 2 seconds flat. When I got inside, R said to me, "Thank goodness you're here, I told Daddy I was not supposed to go into that bathroom". HA HA!!Guess this is an issue for both moms & dads alike.

And I like your list of how old is too old. Kind of hard to make a judgement call on some though, since every child is so different, right?

Jennifer K. said...

What a good topic! I have two boys, and the oldest is six (almost 7), so we're faced with this alot. The thought of sending my sweet boy into a men's room where some creepy person might be lurking scares me to death. So far, the only time I've sent him into a men's room alone is at our church and the pool because (a)I feel comfortable about the people there and (b)women & girls are actually undressing in the women's room at the pool. Other than that, I take him into women's restrooms with me, and I don't really know yet when I'll stop. I suppose when I feel that he's at a point where he could and would protect himself if needed. Most women's restrooms have stalls with doors that lock, so I personally don't have a problem with it. I'll think about the other questions after a bit more coffee! ~ Jennifer K.

Jenna said...

Hah! This is a great topic. My son, now six started asking to go 'to the men's room' about a year ago. I quickly found out that he was chatting and talking with people in the bathrooms... Now there are some pretty strick ground rules, and I'm usually waiting right outside the door if hear anything that makes my 'spidy/mommy' senses tingle.
That said, if there is a family bathroom option we always take it. And, if we are traveling and I can't wait for him, then he goes with me and his older sister - we just don't share a stall anymore : )

Cara said...

I face the same problem with two boys. My oldest is 8 and the only way I would let him go into a restroom by himself is if it is somewhere I am comfortable. The YWCA is a nightmare for me. If the family dressing room is occupied,I hate sending him into the other restroom for boys up to 15. Like you I have heard way too many horror stories about people in bathrooms. Maybe it is exaggerated by the media but I am not willing to take a chance.

Allison T said...

Awesome post, Rachel! You always have blogs that I can relate to.

I have a 7 year old son, and right now I just look at my location and situation and make a judgement call on whether or not he goes to the mens bathroom alone or womens bathroom with me.

Anonymous said...

I love this topic! My only offering is that even at Kindergarten, that is too old to bring your child to the classroom. School is a place where children really need to show off their independence! After they are comfortable finding their classrooms, it is time to kiss goodbye at the school entrance! Even at many preschools where independence is strongly encouraged parents must say goodbye to their 3 and 4 year olds at the entrance!

Katina said...

I did hear a good solution to the dad and daughter dilemma (Dad traveling solo with daughter and doesn't want to take her into the men's room with him). If it's a multi-stall restroom, have a worker (gas station attendance, etc.) check the men's room to make sure it is empty. Once empty, ask them to hang a sign on the door (temporarily closed)or simply ask folks not to enter until the father and daughter are out. I've also heard of asking a member of the opposite sex to keep an eye on your kid while they are in there (for example, I would ask a non-creepy, father figure kind of guy to keep an eye on my 6 year old son if he happened to be entering the restroom at the same time as my son). I know my husband would understand and be happy to help if another mom asked this of him. There is no good solution! This discussion reminds me too that I don't discuss stranger issues and personal safety with my sons often enough.

Maythi said...

Wow. There is no way I'd feel comfortable dropping my preschooler off at the curb. Good thing we picked a preschool where they encourage parents to come in and leave the kids in the classroom. Preschool is a place where a lot of children are learning to feel safe without their parents. Not all of them are ready to just spread their wings and claim their independence. I personally think that's too young to be dropped off & I think it's nice to be able to see what they've done each day in their classrooms when you come and pick them up.

I know some parents are completely fine with dropping off, & if that works for them, great. But I don't think parents should feel pressured to have to just drop off their kids at an entrance. For me, that was a deal breaker when choosing preschools. Just make sure you research your options and pick what works best for you & your family. Sounds like once they hit kindergarten, there's no choice, so I am enjoying it while I can.

Leslie said...

I have four children and have always done "drop off" for preschool and elementary school. It was way too much work (and too dangerous in the parking lots) for me to have to get all the kids in and out of the car to walk in. Our teachers are great with emails and newsletters that keep us posted on daily events. And they are always happy to talk to me any time I have a question. Drop off has always been next to the front door and teachers walk them to their classes. It is not as scary as it may seem.

Anonymous said...

Wear smocked clothes....HAHA. This one made me laugh. I am thinking any girl past age 3 and any boy past age 1.

Anonymous said...

The smocked clothes made me laugh, too! I still remember my mother buying me smocked clothing when I was WAY too old to wear it and I always felt like a total dweeb when I did. I never did put anything smocked on my son, and stopped with my daughters when they were around 4.
Cute post today. I liked these ideas.

Anonymous said...

Too old to Breast feed? One time after seeing a 4 year old still nursing, I decided that when they could walk around the bed from one boob to the other, it was time to stop! ha ha

Be Rocked to sleep ? when they are too big to fit in your lap! Rock and Sing, Rock and Sing...

Where Smocked clothing? I started a smocked dress for my daughter when she was born...I haven't finished it yet. She is now 22 (years old, that is, not months!)

What the heck are longalls and shortalls?

Anonymous said...

I loved reading all these responses! I agree that it is okay to take your 6 year old in the bathroom with you, but I also think it is okay to drop them off at preschool. This is my 17th year of teaching kindergarten, and it is evident from day one the kids who have been given independence and those who have not. It affects many different areas. Walk them in for as long as they need it (usually a week or two for first-time preschoolers), but I guarantee you that they are ready for you to stop walking them in way before the parents are. I have never heard of a preschool who did not have teachers safely escorting each child to their class when drop-off is an option.
Longalls are those one-piece jumpers for boys and I have never liked them at any age, although the shortalls are cute.
Breastfeeding and pacifiers - I am not even going to go there! Too many opinions!

Maythi said...

I am surprised that someone who has taught for 17 years can make a wide assumption about walking a child into preschool. As a former teacher myself, I know that each child is very different and their personality affects the choices a parent makes regarding not only walking them into preschool, but on many other fronts as well. Independence is not only fostered by dropping your child off at school - there are many other ways to encourage and build independence. I think there are too many kids out there who are too independent. And let me tell you what, it is evident from day one the kids who have been given too much independence and those who have not. It affects many different areas.

It is my opinion, and obviously the opinion of many professionals at our preschool, that walking your child to their classroom is important. I think we have had most kids transition just fine into kindergarten.

Kelly said...

I love this topic and the comments. I don't know when I will start letting my son go into a public bathroom by himself, I think it will depend on where we are. He is almost 5 and for now he will stick with me. When family restrooms are available, we do use those first. I have been asked by men in public places to keep an eye on their daughter for them in the bathroom, and am happy to do so.

As for dropping kids off, my son's school requires us to sign them in and out, so we must walk them to the class. I do think that once they can find their room in Kindergarten and you can trust that they will go where they are supposed to that they need to do it on there own, but also remember their are exceptions. Kids with special needs may need extra time, and you can't always tell who these kids are by looking, so keep an open mind. On another note, It is frustrating and a distraction for kids to still be crying when mommy leaves 3 months into school starting. It seems it is often prompted by parents that don't want to let go. They can sense a parent's apprehension and can also sense a paren'ts confidence, so have confidence in them.

I think longalls and shortalls are awkward past the toddler stage. Girls can get away with smocked clothes longer than boys.

Strollers are the one that bug me. If your child's feet touch the floor or have to scrunch up to get in, they are too big! Four years old is pushing the limit, but 5 and up really get me. Let them get exercise and Walk, they should be big enough to follow directions and stay by their parents or hold your hand.

Amy said...

Wow, Maythi ... for someone who keeps saying each child is different, you seem to be really slamming those who are independent and may enjoy walking to class "alone". (ie - with a teacher beside them). Some people are very comfortable with that situation and should not be made to feel like a bad parent for giving their child the option of using the drop off line.

I have also taught preschool and first grade for many years, and it honestly does not matter to me if a parent walks their child to the door or not. What does bother me is when the parent uses that time as an individual conference (not saying you do that, just informing others). Teachers have students to watch, and a fun day of learning to start! If every parent came into the room to chat each morning, it would be a catastrophe! I think most teachers would agree that we are happy to schedule a conference at any time. We love for you to be involved in your childs education!

Anonymous said...

No one has commented on the question of how old is too old to let your kids see you nude! It is a question that I have been contemplating as my son gets older. Any advice? I would love if there is a counselor or therapist out there who could weigh in on this one! Thanks!!!

Anonymous said...

Hot button topic, Rachel!
Ok, bathe with opposite sex sibling: Don't know, have 2 girls. See parents nude: until they show signs of modesty and are uncomfortable; Help with dressing: 4; Barney: does anyone even watch that?; breastfeed: not even touching that one!; rocked to sleep: as long as they'll let you! (but they should also be able to get to sleep on their own): longalls: age 1/walking; smocked: 5 for girls, 2 for boys; paci: 18 months, and then only in bed; walked in to school: personal preference; stroller: depends on the distance and safety of the route - longer/unsafe=stroller use for older kids (up to age 5); cut food: depends on the food - pancakes age 4 can do it, meat is harder; trick or treat: don't know what is "normal", but my kids will never go by themselves!; bath vs shower: who cares as long as they're clean?; diapers: age 3, but don't stress if not because they won't be wearing diapers to college.

Maythi said...

Amy, Nowhere did I "slam" anyone for doing it. I said, and I quote, "I know some parents are completely fine with dropping off, & if that works for them, great." If that is somehow "slamming" people for making that choice, well it was certainly not my intention. From the beginning I stated that this was my personal opinion & I think I have been clear in stating that different things work for different people. As long as parents feel comfortable and confident in their decisions, no one should be able to make them feel bad. After all, they are OUR children and no one else's.

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