Public restrooms are PUBLIC. That means they are there for everyone: you, me, your kids, parents, people without kids, and creeps. If you take your child into any public area, you take risks. However, the bathrooms are there for you, too, and you have as much right to use them as everyone else does.
WHEN MOMS AND DADS HAVE TO GO:
INFANTS – take them in a stall with you. Use the handicapped stall if you need to. The handicapped stall is for people who need extra assistance and people with infants need extra assistance. If there is a line of handicapped people, wait your turn. If handicapped people complain, apologize to them that your handicap is not as easy to see as theirs is.
NOT YET POTTY TRAINED (under 3) – take them in a stall with you and talk about how they can use the toilet when they learn how. It’s still perfectly alright to use the handicapped stall!
POTTY TRAINED BUT CAN’T YET SIT STILL (over 3 to 5) – take them in a stall with you and have them turn their backs and talk about privacy. Tell them how you need to have them in there with you to give the other people privacy and how you need them to turn their backs for your privacy.
CAN SIT STILL FOR A FEW MINUTES (5 to 8 ) – check out the bathroom and see if there is an open stall. If so, scoot your kid into the open stall as quickly as possible and then use the urinal or a stall, whichever you need, do all your washing up, then scoot the kid back out when you are ready to go. This maintains the privacy of the opposite sex patrons using the bathroom and keeps your kid from seeing things he/she shouldn’t be seeing. If anyone complains that you used two stalls, too bad. Please refer to the first point which is, that public bathrooms are public.
If you look and there are no open stalls, enlist the help of a stranger. Tell them you need to go to the bathroom and don’t want to leave your kid unsupervised and that you don’t want your kid to make anyone else uncomfortable by waiting in line with you. Ask if the stranger would wait in line for you, and save the first available stall for your child and yell to you when it’s ‘safe’ to come in. Scoot your kid into the stall, let the stranger take the next available, then it’s your turn. Do your thing and scoot your kid back out.
If a mom asks another mom to do this, typically cooperation is a given. If a mom asks a non-mom to do this, sometimes you might get a weird look or weird reaction, but non-moms often appreciate the thought of not having an 8-year-old boy staring at them while they adjust their brassieres and will appreciate your willingness to protect their privacy.
A sometimes helpful hint is to ask a pair of teenaged girls. They are less embarrassed about doing weird things in bathrooms and care less what others think of their weird behavior. Further, it helps the teens feel important that they helped out an adult, and further, it helps to give them an example of the difficulties parents face.
As for dads, I have found that there often isn’t much call for this as the stalls are usually fairly available. However, waiting a little while for a stall to open up usually works, or enlisting the help of an older man is usually a good way to go.
You just have to say that you have to go to the bathroom and don’t want to leave your daughter outside unsupervised and you don’t want her to see what’s going on, either. Ask a guy to save you a stall and yell out to you when it’s available. Scoot your daughter in, do your business, and scoot her back out.
OVER 8 – They really shouldn’t be in the opposite sex’s bathroom, that’s getting too old. They are embarrassed and so are the other patrons. You are probably going to have to leave them outside unsupervised, which is an unadvisable risk, or hold it until you can get to a less-public bathroom.
WHEN KIDS HAVE TO GO:
UNDER 5 – Take them into your bathroom and have them use a stall. Waiting in line with you is okay for short periods of time if you are able to distract them from staring at what’s going on.
5 TO 8 – It’s still a better bet to take them into ‘your’ bathroom, but I suggest employing the help of a stranger (as described above) to keep you from waiting in line in a bathroom they are old enough to know that they’ve got no business being in.
8 AND OLDER – It’s about time to have them go into their own sex’s bathroom when they themselves have to go, but it’s still risky to have them in there by themselves.
LIGHT TRAFFIC BATHROOMS
Have the kid look into the bathroom and see if anyone is in there. If empty, have your kid go in and stand at the door and ask anyone that comes to wait because your young child is in there alone and you might have to go in there to help them. If you can get just one person waiting outside with you, others will be inclined to wait, too. If someone refuses and walks past you, go ahead and enter the wrong sex bathroom and get your kid because someone who refuses your request has ‘creep’ potential. You’re going to feel stupid, but having your kid abducted is a lot worse than feeling stupid.
HEAVY TRAFFIC BATHROOMS
I would still try the above approach, but if you’re making too many people wait, that’s inconsiderate. If you have a child over 8, they should be able to hold it until you can get to another bathroom, perhaps one with less traffic.
Come in and Discuss Public Restrooms