Apparently this is my week of thinking about things that are statistically not that risky, but that wind up in the news just enough to freak a mom out. Today I ran across a news story about a six-year-old boy who was molested in a park restroom during soccer practice.
As a mom of four boys, the idea of someone preying on them in a restroom (or anywhere, for that matter) is horrifying. On the other hand, as a mom of four boys, my options are limited when I’m out with them in public and they “gotta go.”
What’s a mother of a young boy (who’s decidedly past the preschooler stage) to do? Of course stories like these always come with a rash of judgments against the mother, who “should never have let her child out of her sight for even a moment!” But it’s not always so easy. Five is the cutoff age where I’ve felt comfortable bringing my boys with me into a public restroom unless there was nobody else in there; some of my boys have started balking at using the ladies’ room well before their sixth birthdays, and often there are rules in place that limit how old a boy in the ladies’ room can be. While family restrooms are becoming increasingly available, you won’t find them at most parks, restaurants or big-box stores.
Stranger molestations in restrooms are extremely rare, and anyway, whether a child is 6 or 10 or even 13 doesn’t seem like it would make much difference in the case of a motivated pervert who happened to catch them in the right place at the right time. So we use the buddy system whenever possible, and when we can’t, I let the boys go in alone and chalk it up as one of those “risks with a lower-case ‘r’.” I’ve also done a lot of coaching with my kids so that they understand that it’s always right to trust their instincts and get the heck out of a situation that’s making their mental alarm bells ring.
If you’ve got boys and you’re out without another male to accompany them, how do you handle trips to the bathroom? Do you make them wait until you get home, bring them into the bathroom with you even if they’re technically too old? Or like me, do you try to remind yourself that statistics are on your side, do your best to prepare them, and let them go in alone?
Helicopter Parents or Free-Range Kids: How protective should parents be in these cases?