Kids and public restrooms

Remember the yearly discussions about what to do about Santa? I took them over to the Christmas site. Last week it was what you tell your kids about Santa, and this week is how to deal with your child's belief in Santa ending.

Today's question is from Andrea, who writes:

"How do you handle it when you are out with your boys and they need to use the washroom? Or you do? My 5-year-old son recognizes the Men and Women symbols and sometimes refuses to go into the bathroom with me. Obviously I do not want him going to the men's bathroom without me. Equally obvious is that I do not want to go into the men's bathroom either…."

My kids are old enough, and there are two of them, for me to send them into a public restroom together. I'm still standing right outside the door, talking to them the whole time, but they know they have to stick together. Since they're usually punching each other the entire time they're in the restroom, it's easy to keep track of them and know that they're not being approached by anyone.

But it's harder when you only have one. And when that one is young enough that you don't want to go into WHY you are apprehensive about their being alone in the men's restroom.

The trick I have heard (and used when my older one was going into restrooms alone when his brother wasn't) is to have your child count or sing a song the entire time they're in the bathroom. You can stand outside and listen to the counting or the song, and if the child stops you can rush in.

Does anyone have other ideas? This is a headscratcher, but is time-delineated, so at least there's that.

Here now.

By now you have probably read this amazing piece, which is spreading virally: Notes From a Dragon Mom. If you haven't, please click over to read it now. It's written by the mother of a child who is dying.

The line that hit me the hardest is this:

"And there’s this: parents who, particularly in this country, are expected to be superhuman, to raise children who outpace all their peers, don’t want to see what we see. The long truth about their children, about themselves: that none of it is forever."

That is, I think, what is the what.


I am planning a small, simple birthday party for my grandmother, who has Alzheimer's. We are getting together in the common room of her facility for coffee and cake. It will be a beautiful cake. I asked my friend, who has the best bakery in Toledo, to do something delicate and flowery and old-fashioned. Something ladylike. And we've invited her friends, and my children will be there, and we'll give her presents.

It is not so much, but it's what she will like. She's not my same grandmother anymore. She knows who I am (although she sometimes thinks I'm her daughter, not her granddaughter) and she loves me, but she's not the same. She used to be curious and sarcastic. Now she is tentative and quiet. She still hugs me tightly.

None of it is forever.


I decided to make something of myself. I moved, and I work a lot, and I'm in a demanding grad school program that is forcing me to learn about net present values and VUT formulas and cost systems. When I decided that I wasn't just a mom, just a divorcee, just someone who'd failed, I stepped off the cliff. Stepping off was terrifying, but essentially effortless. Everything that's come after has been more hard work than I've ever done before. More hard work than I thought I could do.

I am doing it for myself. But I am also doing it for my children. A little bit because I like to give them material security after never having it (they didn't realize, but I did). But mostly because I want them to see that you can choose your own course. You can be good at something. You can go from thinking you suck to knowing you are worth being wooed.

I can't make my children happy. I can't make myself happy. I can only keep trying to be useful, and to show my children that they can be useful. Why are we here, if not to help each other? This business school curriculum is making me examine the idea of value. Is it something to be increased at all costs for the shareholders? That, I would argue, is not value, any more than doing everything right for your children, everything that increases their brain power and health and ability to fall asleep at the right time in the right place, is worth all that effort.

None of it is forever.


One of the ideas we've been working on in my program is that value is something to be created for all to enjoy, that value is for all the stakeholders, not just the shareholders. (This does not preclude making a profit, any more than science and faith preclude each other.) Work is good. Creating things is good. We build because we're human, and we can.

In the same way, we parent because we can. And we do it as we go, with love. No business plan–a mission statement instead. Success is not measured by what our children become, but by who we let them be now and by who we let ourselves be now. We hold on loosely to create the ties that bind.

None of it is forever. Except love.

Is the sickness early this year?

Whose kids have already gotten sick from school or daycare this year?

Who's already gotten sick themselves this year?

(I raise my hands to both questions.)

Is it just me, or does it seem like the colds and stomach flu have been passed around earlier this year. Both of my kids were sick by the second week of school, and I'm sick now after a work trip last week.

Is it possible that the germs are jsut on a different cycle this year? Or are all our immune systems weaker? Or is there something else going on? Or am I just imagining it?

Do we have any teachers or epidemiologists in the house who can give us some perspective?