Dad Harassed for Daughters in Men's Room

ladiesroomWho hasn’t been in this situation? Your child has to go to the bathroom, and the only one to take them is the opposite-gender parent. So which bathroom do you use?

If you’re Donovan O’Neil, you take your toddler daughters into the men’s room. After all, he’s a man. So why was he attacked by a security guard?

Because a man in the bathroom reported him to security. Over the presence of a one-year-old and a three-year-old in the men’s room. And security took the random guy’s side!

Perhaps O’Neil should have left the girls outside while he went and peed alone. Then security would have had a real concern on their hands.

I’ve found it comes down to a certain age when kids need to start using the gender-appropriate bathroom. It’s as much for the kids own comfort as anyone else’s – most thirteen-year-old girls I know would be pretty freaked having to walk into a men’s room and see them all lined up at the urinals. But for a three-year-old, there is no sexual aspect to using the bathroom. It’s a matter of “I have to go potty . . . now” and actually DOING it. And if she’s with dad, or he’s with mom, that means using the adult’s corresponding potty.

Let’s face it – most places don’t have the family bathroom, that separate extra-large room for unisex use. And when the opposite-gendered parent is present with a child, the only choice is to use the “wrong” bathroom.

Lucky for me, I have a daughter. I don’t have to worry about the stares. But just last weekend, my daughter whispered “I have to go potty” into my husband’s ear while I was in the midst of swiping my credit card. Her eyes practically swimming with tears, it was not a time to say “hold on until we get through the transaction.” But with my signature required, I had to stay where I was. And so my husband took the four-year-old girl into the men’s room. He didn’t make a big deal of it, he just did it.

There are times too when he has to use the bathroom at a restaurant, and she decides “me too,” and hops up to run off with him before I have any say. Just starting to differentiate the signs between “ladies” and “gentleman,” we’re still comfortable with that arrangement. Especially because I wouldn’t send her into a restroom alone. At four, that is not an answer.

It’s not an answer for years to come – look at the New York lawyer who dropped her daughter off on the side of the road for a moment then came back to get her. What kind of outcry did that get? And what was always brought up was the fact that this was a relatively safe and busy part of town, a business district. And what is a mall? Leaving a nine-year-old outside the mall restroom while you run in to pee is equally unsafe.

But parents are placed in a clear Catch 22 when they’re faced with adults who can’t separate the sexuality from the bodily function. O’Neil and his daughters were safe inside a stall when the security guard came pounding on the door. They weren’t out staring at men’s penises in the center of the bathroom. And if they were, so what? They are one and three!

Besides the unnecessary sexual issues, there seems to be a lack of willingness to simply work with parents. On vacation, we entered a convenience store off the highway only to find the ladies’ room was out of order. So my husband blocked the door to the men’s room while my daughter and I used it. There were only two stalls – all taken up by the three of us (she and I shared one), and still we were glared at. If I was a man, my daughter a boy, we would have filled those two stalls the same way. In essence, we were not blocking access anymore than we would have if we’d been male.

A woman over at the Berkeley Parents Network expressed concern over a rule that her seven-year-old son use the male locker room at her local pool. The women who responded told her that having her son in the room while they changed would bother them too greatly, so she needs to get over it. How about just letting a mom come in with her son after everyone else is done? I can respect that by seven, little boys are beginning to become curious, and a changing room is slightly different from a regular restroom. But you can’t criticize one parent for letting her children walk around unattended and then expect another to simply force her young child into an unfamiliar place by themselves.

What bathroom do you use with your kids?

Image: Cool Lines USA

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