*Parts of this story were exaggerated for dramatic effect.
Anyone who has ever cared for a preschool-aged child knows the feeling of dread that comes over when said child needs to use the bathroom and there isn’t one in sight. Three-year-olds don’t understand the concept of waiting for anything, let alone a toilet, so you plan accordingly. You make sure they go before you leave the house. You bring extra clothes, just in case. You scout out the bathroom situation of every park, rec center and play space.
No matter how well you prepare, inevitably you will face potential potty pitfalls. Such was the situation I found myself in while attending the New York Renaissance Faire.
For the unfamiliar, the Renaissance Faire is a huge, outdoor spectacle with interactive performances, food, shops and music. Crossing from one and to the other could take nearly an hour when you factor in little kid legs and distractions. It is a ton of fun.
What’s not so fun is having a kid who needs to go and being as far as possible from the public restroom. Sure, you could just take him to the nearby port-a-potty, but that’s not going work when you have a child who thinks every toilet must be sparkling clean for his royal tush.
I have to get my son to the flushing toilets before he doth protest too much and methinks I will have to get him some new clothes. I strap him into the stroller and weave my way past the cosplayers (wait why is,that guy dressed like a storm trooper) and the overly enthusiastic Goblin who is probably a drama major at SUNY Purchase and is currently auditioning for the role of John number two on Law and Order SVU. Mama’s got a situation here!
Then I see it. Behold! The miracle of modern plumbing in the midst of the ambiguous fantasy world of the seventeenthish century. I push my son over to the women’s side. One look at the queue of ladies in their best renditions of Gwyneth Paltrow in Shakespeare in Love, and I know it is a big fat nope. Fifteen ladies times 15 corsets, hundreds (I’m guessing) of Spanx and other nether regional contraptions equals one big mess for the mom with the boy who’s got to go NOW.
What is a lady to do?
Wishing I borrowed a male face from The House of Black and White, I take my son over to the men’s side. Spoiler Alert. No line. A girl is not desperate for a toilet anymore.
I usher my son pass the urinals, trying not to make eye contact, while still making it very obvious that I am with a small child and I am not trying to sneak a peak at their junk. There is free stall. The universe is kind. We have made it to the potty without incident.
I was too focused on getting in and out of the restroom quickly to notice if anyone was staring or glaring at me for being in the men’s room. I appreciated the kindness and assistance of the bathroom attendant, who understood why I was in the men’s bathroom. I realize a father with his young daughter may not have been met with the same understanding. I know I am lucky to be able to recount this story in a humorous, positive fashion.
The bathroom debate centers around the rights of individuals to use the restroom of their identifying gender, regardless of their physical attributes. Opponents claim this will enable male predators to easily access female victims. While I do not dismiss concern for women and young girls, I am worried what stricter enforcement of public bathroom usage might mean for families.
Last year, the Oklahoma City Moms blog posted a photo to its Facebook page depicting a notice stating boys over six years old must use the restroom. My oldest still has a few years to go, but even now, I don’t know at what age I would feel comfortable with him going into a public restroom alone. What I do know is I don’t think a sign should make generalizations about what is developmentally appropriate for children.
I am grateful for the existence of “family” restrooms, but the best solution is unisex bathrooms. Yes, bathrooms anyone can use regardless of their anatomy. Not only would they end the anxiety of being a parent of opposite gendered children and transgendered folks alike, but they are actually more cost effective to construct.
Any woman who has snuck into the men’s room (guilty) at the bar because the women’s room line is awful knows how much we need this.
Methinks it’s time for a Bathroom Renaissance.