LET THOSE BABY BIRDS FLY
Originally published March 16, 2015
This post has caused quite the concerning discussion on Facebook. It all started with this sign posted outside a women’s restroom:
Seems reasonable enough, to me at least. We’re talking boys over 6 – so 7 year olds and up – being asked to use the restroom they’re supposed to use. Now, depending on where we are, I can be a little wary of letting Ethan go it alone in the bathroom. After all, there are some not-nice people in the world, and if we’re in a really busy place, I might bring him with me instead. That’s a big maybe, because he’s 7, after all. Logan usually still comes with me if it’s just me and him, he’s 5. If Ethan is with us, they’ll go into the men’s on the buddy system. If Ryan’s around, he takes them into the men’s. Obviously.
So, I’m reading through the comments and realizing that there are moms – a LOT of moms – who absolutely refuse to let their boys go it alone in the men’s room. The reasons are varied, but overwhelmingly it’s because there are so many “perverts” in the world. That strikes me. Really? I mean, I know pedophiles are out there, but you honestly think they’re all lurking in men’s rooms just waiting to attack your unattended child? That’s a terrifying world you live in.
I guess…I mean, I know that’s one of our worst nightmares, as parents. That someone might hurt our child. But, we all know, rationally, that when that happens, it’s almost always someone who was close to them. A teacher, a coach, a relative. Not strangers on the street – not usually. I can understand the reluctance to let your child face strangers without you. But, that’s kind of a part of being a parent. You have to show them how to walk in this world without you. I’m not saying send your toddler into the men’s room alone, obviously, but you have to decide when it’s reasonable to start letting the cord out a bit…or cutting it completely.
By 7, your child is in school. They’re going on field trips and going to camps. They’re going to friends houses, going out with their friends’ families, participating in activities. They’re doing these things without you around – and there’s a good chance they’re going to the bathroom in a public place during some of these adventures. At 7 (or, you know, at 4 or 5), they should be perfectly capable of wiping, cleaning up after themselves, and washing up without your help. I guarantee their teachers are not going into the bathrooms with them, nor are they making the boys go into the women’s room. So…this is already happening. Wouldn’t it be better if you had prepared your kids for this – taught them how to behave and (God forbid) what to do if a stranger approached them? Wouldn’t it be better if you had already allowed your son some autonomy in this area, rather than making him figure it out on his own when you aren’t around?
It’s hard, so so hard, to let them grow up – but that’s our job. We like to think that we’re protecting them because the world is so much worse than it used to be…but the reality is that it’s not. It’s busier, there’s more to see and do, but there have been terrible people in the world since the dawn of time. If there are more of them now, it’s only because there are more PEOPLE now, and a percentage of them are terrible. A pretty small percentage. Part of preparing them for the world is trying to prepare them to avoid – or deal with, or get away from – those people so they can stay safe. I know my kids would be kicking, hitting, biting, scratching and screaming bloody murder if someone tried to take them or touch them. And I’d be right outside the bathroom waiting for my boys, so whoever was trying to hurt them wouldn’t get very far before I killed them horribly. Just saying.
I know I’m just as bad as the next mom when it comes to being a bit overprotective. We’re moms, it’s what we do. But we have to give our kids the chance to show us they can be responsible – and if not now, when?
So, teach your kids about strangers – teach them all the dirty, nasty tricks people will use to get them to drop their guard – and teach them how to keep themselves safe. Teach them that if they get lost, they need to find someone who works at the store (and how to figure out who those people are), or to find a mom with kids. Teach them to run, to scream, to kick and hit and never stop fighting. Teach them to talk to you, that you’ll never be ashamed of them, that it’s never their fault.
But above all, teach them that the world is actually a pretty amazing place, and let them run ahead to discover it. They’ll always turn back around to show you the things they’ve discovered.
Being a Mom