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Tuesday, May 30, 2006

And Now For Something Completely Different

I have a post up over at dot-moms today:

I have kids now who want more freedom than I am sometimes willing to give. Items to keep them safe aren't readily available in the aisles of Target anymore. Unless they are selling micro chips that I can implant in their brains to force them to make good decisions, override their dangerous ones, and track their whereabouts at all times.

What do you all think? Especially you experienced moms of older children. I thought as my children got older it would get easier. I have found that while it has become less physically exhausting, it hasn't become easier. The issues have become more complex, the answers less clear. My hand wringing and mental flagellation have increased. As have my grey hair and need for an occasional alcoholic beverage.

I wrote that I don't allow my children to used the public restrooms alone. There is no discussion about it, though my older sons wish I would relent. I either bring them into the women's bathroom, or depending on the location, open up the bathroom to the men's room and send one of my sons inside to see if it is empty. If the bathroom is completely empty they may use it. But I hold the outside door open with my foot and don't let anyone in. Usually no one wants to go in anyway.

Rob always thought I was being over protective until someone he knows personally had a 12 yr old approached by a man in a women's restroom. Not only did the girl not tell her parents, who were with her at the store, until weeks later, the way that she interacted with the man proved my point that at 12 years old, children just do not have the maturity to always make good decisions.

So, go on over there and read and then let me know what you think. And while you are there read some of the other essays by some other fabulous mothers.


Blogger Jennifer said...

Good topic, Chris. My son is so young that I don't think much about these things. I remember how this was a huge deal for me when I babysat a young Manhattanite to earn extra cash in college. I'd take her and her friends to the movies, or out for food and they would want to use the restroom alone. NO WAY! They were 8/9 years old!

3:16 PM  
Anonymous Kira said...

I let my two oldest sons (ten and seven) go to the bathroom alone. Together, but still... Now I'm hating myself.

3:18 PM  
Blogger LadySeduction said...

As a mom of two teens you hit the nail on the head. The physical exhaustion ends, the mental exhaustion intensifies. The issues become very life changing, as do the decisions. It is so much harder and there is so much less support for us as parents. Lots of judgement as usual.
I am pretty much overprotective freak that is driving my 17 yr old crazy. I am seriously needing therapy to be able to let go b/c it is pretty big fucking scary world to let them go into.
This moment brought to by your local SunshineEarthmamaGoddess!

3:26 PM  
Blogger Ellen said...

But...but but but but but.....

We, us, the careful ones, the obessors-over-safety moms, the blow-on-their-pasta-to-avoid-burns moms, the internet watchful net nanny moms, strap our beloveds into their highly-rated car seats and booster seats each day, where we have a much higher chance of truly hurting (or god forbid killing) our children than they do of ever being molested in a public bathroom.

Why is THAT risk OK to go forward with each day, but others aren't?

I'm agreeing with you, I am protective too, I don't think we can be too protective (unless we are making our kids anxious about evil in the world that may or may not ever touch their lives).

I just really try to balance concern, protectiveness, and not giving in to my natural-born paranoia. I want to believe in the goodness of the world and pass that on to my children, with just a dash of "run screaming if they touch you". Or what we say in our house, "Kick him in the penis if you have to (giggle giggle)"

I really appreciated your article, and believe me, I'm with you. But I do think it is important to not forget about how our cars are the biggest risk we put our kids through and put the other risks into their statistical perspective.

"Statistical perspective." Heh heh. I just sound like a growed-up. What I said out loud right before that was, "This macaroni and cheese is runny." Ah, motherhood.

3:54 PM  
Blogger Mary-LUE said...

I haven't made it over to dot mom yet. I'll head over as soon as I finish typing this, but, as the mother of a 14 year old, I AM SO WITH YOU. My son has been battling us on his boundaries for as long as I can remember. Unfortunately, most of his friends are allowed to roam around our fair city at will. Arghhh!!!

It's bad enough considering what could happen to them but I also feel a HUGE responsibility for the actions of my son. He is a great kid but boys in groups do stupid things. (My friend says that one boy has one brain. Two boys have half a brain between them. Three boys one quarter of a brain. Get where I'm going with this?) When I was growing up, you could do some stupid stuff, get in trouble and move on. Now, if he isn't extremely careful, he could get suspended from school-- or worse--for something that years back would have just gotten him a good scolding.

He gets so frustrated because his friends aren't going to stay within his boundaries. He thinks I don't trust him. I do trust him. . . as far as a parent should trust a 14 year old. I relate statistics, etc. All that gets me is his willingness to announce to a church group that I'm afraid if he is left alone for one minute he is going to do drugs and have an orgy! (That is not what I said, young man!)

So, we pray and struggle and pull out our hair. For his 14th birthday a few weeks ago, we gave him a perimeter within our town that he has to stay within. He is armed with a cell phone and I know so many people in this city if he is up to no good, I'll find out about it.

Now, if I can just put an invisible force field around him to protect him from the 21 registered sex offenders that live within 2 miles of here. (Yeah 21. I've checked.)

Whew. Can you tell you struck a deep, pulsing, chord? Thanks for letting me ramble!

4:27 PM  
Blogger Chris said...


I completely agree with you and I try to put it into perspective for my children. Mostly I say that they are so darn cute someone would love to snatch them away.

And I don't know what the statistics are for being attacked in a bathroom are versus riding in the car. But the difference is we have to ride in the car, they don't have to use the restroom alone.

Also, I am talking about the pretenn age, not holding a fifteen year old's hand while he goes potty ;-)

4:29 PM  
Blogger Michael, Shelby & Charlotte said...

Thank you Chris for writing about this. I am a therapist for child victims of sexual abuse (or I was until 6 months ago when I gave birth to my daughter).
You are doing the right thing without a doubt. I don't think you can be too protective in this world anymore. We have to worry about the computer, bathrooms, daycares, teachers, priests, relatives, neighbors,friends, and the scary but real list goes on and on and on...
Believe me I know not everyone is a sex offender but it is better to be more protective and aware of our children when we know the reality of sexual abuse/child predators. I know too much.

5:12 PM  
Anonymous jessica said...

As a mother of a teenage girl - 14, and a son - 10, and another 6, I can totally relate. Here is the thing though - by not allowing them to make some deicision - they never learn to be "street smart" like we were - you all remember the situations you were in - the ones that weren't safe especially - but nothing bad happened usually because you knew - you knew - your sense told you to get out, get moving, get friend who works with high school and college students sees a peculiar phenomenon - kids who don't quite make it over the fence into being a grown-up. Perpetually stuck in some weird childhood state. Are we doing this? Infantilizing them? I don't know the answer.

5:32 PM  
Blogger Eli's Mom said...

Great Topic. I am not looking forward to the day when Eli feels he is old enough to use teh restroom alone, cuz I'll have to subject him to the same 'embarassment' you are subjecting your sons to. I dont' see any way around it though. My mom was the same way with my brother and I. He HATED it, but until he was about 12, he never set foot in the men's restroom unless my dad was present.

5:37 PM  
Blogger halloweenlover said...

Oh man, you are going to make me cry!!! I can hardly believe I'll ever accomplish the gestating, much less protecting this baby once it is out.

I was totally over protected by my parents and grew up with plenty of street smarts. I think that by being honest with me about the dangers that exist in this world, I was more able to look out for myself. Some of my college roommates who grew up in "safe" towns and had never been taught to be careful made stupid choices, like going to a boy's room at 1 in the morning, assuming nothing would happen. Or one of our friends would run alone at night (we're talking midnight or later), because it helped her to think. I think you are doing the right thing. You'll know when they are old enough to go by themselves, I'm sure of it.

6:01 PM  
Anonymous Ashley said...

It is such a balancing act. And it does get so much harder when they get older. My eldest girls are 13 and 11 years old. With budding breasts and an intense desire to wear tummy bearing clothing out of the house. Being "mean" is why I get paid the big my dreams.

Seriously, what I teach them to do is to listen to their bodies. We started when they were younger. We would ask them where in their body they felt the love for their dog. They always place their hands on their hearts. Then we ask them to place a hand on a place when we talk about the dog being hurt. They always place their hands on their stomach. This listening has helped my kids even when their friends have been pressuring them to "go with the crowd". If they don't feel right in their gut then they stop...most of the time.

Some if it you just have to give up to God. The hope that we will grow healthy babies, that our bodies can feed our babies, that they will survive the perils of toddlerhood is all an act of faith. But it is still hard. Thank you for writing about this. It is good to read the thoughts of so many great moms.

6:06 PM  
Blogger Ellen said...

Chris, I absolutely agree with you. Why, I was just adding cars to our list to make us feel much, much better!

I'll be honest that the bathroom thing hadn't really occured to me, but partially because my 7 year old is pretty intent on staying with me, and the only times I have sent him "next door" to the boy potty I basically have to shake him off of my leg.

In our family we call all of this "listening to your fear brain." Which we tell them not to do, of course, when their fear brain tells them that they can't eat something new or different.

My personal safety craziness is over crossing streets and walking down our urban San Francisco sidewalks. If I have it my way, our whole family will hold hands walking down the sidewalk until my kids are married. I have seen kids almost get hit by cars backing out of garages or pulling into driveways to make a U turn more times than I care to think about.

It really, really sucks when you can't let your kid run or ride their bike down their own sidewalk without shouting, "Look for reverse lights! Look into their garage! Did you look at their driveway?" every thirty seconds.

My kids are very, very scatterbrained. All of the nagging in the world doesn't seem to get them independent in this area.

6:42 PM  
Blogger Kris said...

Great topic, Chris. I will never forget a case a few towns away from me, it must have been 10 years ago now. It was at a Burger King that I went to a lot in the summers, we camped in that area.

Anyway, an 8 year old boy was murdered in the men's bathroom. The 911 operator who took the call was on Oprah about 5 years later, still traumatized, thinking she could have saved the boy if she'd said something different. (His throat had been cut.) She couldn't have.

When that happened, it was a major realization for me, about how dangerous the world is. My boys are only 4 and 6 and they already complain, but oh well. I'm not taking chances!

7:16 PM  
Blogger Taffi said...

It's only been within the past year or so that I've let my older sons (14 and 13) go to another section of the store without me. My sister, on the other hand, let her 7 and 9 year old sons roam the store alone when I was with her the other night. It made me physically ill. Her justification was that "they know the store like the back of their hands, and besides, they'd raise a huge fuss if anybody started to try anything." Um. Yeah.

And yes, the older they get, the less physical stress they give you, but the mental and emotional stress is increased exponentially. It's just not fair. :-)

7:58 PM  
Blogger carol said...

I am lucky -- I'm the mom of 2 girls, so the bathroom thing was never a problem -- we always went together (and still do!)

My girls are 16 and 18 years old now, and about a month ago, one of them said they like me home with them now, more than when they were young! (I only work part-time)

You're right -- their needs change and I think it's important to still be there for them as they grow up. They might not need you to make them a snack, but they now have all these bigger problems to bounce off you.

I think a close relationship with your children keeps them happy and well-adjusted.

As for keeping them safe, I don't think we ever stop worrying. We just always do our best.

8:47 PM  
Blogger owlhaven said...

I have JUST barely started to let my two 8 year olds occasionally go in a public restroom, but only together. And then I stand RIGHT outside the door and at the two minute mark I call in and talk to them every 30 seconds or so till they show up. I much prefer it when their teen brother is also along on the errand to play escort.
And I NEVER let a single 8 year old go in the bathroom alone.


9:07 PM  
Anonymous Elizabeth said...

Hi, Chris!
Excellent topic. My oldest just graduated high school and she is 18. Public restrooms - never ever go alone. I expect she went alone for the first time shortly after getting her driver's license and going to Target on her own, but in general she does the female thing and buddies up. Yes, we had a man molest a young girl in the ladies' room *at our church* last summer. When our girls were little and out with my husband he took them to the men's room and had them cover their eyes for modesty.

In a more general sense, how do you keep them safe as they get older? Talk, and talk, and talk. The best, best, best advice on safety I ever heard was by a speaker at our Montessori in Minnesota. We had some big missing children's stories in the news at the time - still unsolved as far as I know some 15 years later. She said teaching "Stranger Danger" has two flaws. First flaw is figuring out who is a stranger - the neighbor? The store clerk I've never seen before? The fireman coming into my smoky house? Second flaw is that lots of bad things happen from people who aren't strangers. So, instead, we taught our kids: "I have to ask first." Want a cookie? Help me find my puppy? Go with me to the store? This EVEN goes for things like a parent getting the child at the sitter's house - don't leave with Mom until the sitter knows you are going. So, we taught our kids to always know who is in charge of you, and to ask that person before doing anything. I like to think it helped.

9:57 PM  
Blogger Kristen said...

There is no doubt that it gets harder as they get older. My sil never had an appreciation for the issues we had with my stepkids, but now that her kids are out of the baby stages, I think she's starting to understand. The difficulties become less physical and more emotional. It is definitely tougher the older they get, unfortunately.

10:02 PM  
Blogger Cheerio Mom said...

I have never wanted to take the chance on the restroom thing.I have been nervous since the woman was killed at the rest stop in ma.
U never know.I also know of a shild molested by another chils in cape cod at the restroom of the cape codder.U think when u see older kids walk into teh bathroom they will look out for the younger ones.NOT SO!
Never be too careful!

10:20 PM  
Blogger Gretchen said...

Chris, is sending them in 2 or more at a time not an option? Not safe enough? It's what I do, but maybe that's not enough? I was starting to relax a bit with the 11 yo, but I guess I need to reel them back in just a bit. Mostly, of course, I try to avoid having to use the restrooms at all when we're out. LOL

10:42 PM  
Anonymous Maddy said...

This is a very hard subject, I have 11 and 9 year old boys and it's tough. My boys won't go in the women’s rest room so I try and find a giant family room or the disabled bathroom in which we all fit. Sometime it's just two of us and there is no option but to let them go in the men's alone. I stand outside calling out *is everything ok in there?* at the top of my lungs, it's amazing the poor things can pee at all with me shrieking at them to hurry up.

11:05 PM  
Blogger Lilly said...

Well now. Just this year I've been feeling fine letting my nearly 10 yr old son go to some restrooms alone, if the store or place we're at seems unlikely to be a place where a predator might be. But I know that my feeling of safety is an illusion. A predator could be in the most unlikely spot. Darn it. After reading here I'll have to accompany him again. I think the combo of me having a foot in the men's room door while he goes in and my son knowing that he leaves or calls to me if there's anything odd in there will work for me. The fear of the possibility of anything bad happening to him outweighs the good feeling that I was getting from trusting that in some instances he'd be fine on his own.

11:35 PM  
Blogger Lilly said...

I hate to admit it but this post and the comments and the insecure feeling it gave me sent me to snacking mindlessly and as I sat there and ate while staring blindly and thinking about this issue I remembered the very first time I sent my son into a public restroom alone. It was at the pool and he might have been 6 or thereabouts and I thought it would be fine. He came out screaming and holding his eyes because someone had put powdered soap into the hand blow dryer tube thing and then turned it so it faced up. My son had gotten a face full of stinging pink soap powder. I tell you, when I first saw him run out of there screaming I was in shock... He was fine after we'd flushed the soap powder out of his eyes. He doesn't remember this happening anymore and I'd nearly forgotten until I fell into that snack eating trance. Putting soap in the hand dryer was probably just a dumb practical joke on the part of some kid but I guess it's just one more thing for our kids to watch out for... darn it.

11:52 PM  
Blogger harvestmoon said...

Oh boy. I'd forgotten all about this. We usually have our toliet with us at all times and in Mexico, the bathrooms are usually just one stall/toliet, so it is a one-person-at-a-time deal. I can't ever remember a bathroom here that had more than one toliet...

So, something to think about when we're back in the US and not towing our toliet. Seriously, we almost always have a private bathroom with us at all times. Course, we almost always have our entire HOUSE with us too. :)

12:11 AM  
Blogger The Daring One said...

I don't have older children yet and am very scared of this but what I really want to tell you is, I'm watching the home shopping network and it is amazingly inane and therefore bloggable. I thought you'd like to know. Also, how dare you have an advertisement up for some knock-off of Daring Young Mom literature on your site? Also, why am I still awake?

4:11 AM  
Blogger meredith said...

I don't think we can protect our children, or husbands! from all the all accidents that can happen, but it is our responsibility to protect them from the bad people out there. That, we can only do with a constant vigilance.
No, my girls can't go to a public bathroom by themselves. No, they can't walk home from public school by themselves. No they can't play outside where I can't see them. How could I live with myself if somebody very bad got to my girls when/because I wasn't there to protect them.

4:53 AM  
Blogger aka_Meritt said...

At age 12... it's time to let your son go to the bathroom alone... in a mens restroom.

Any time I see Mom's dragging boys into the womens bathroom that are above the age of about 8 I cringe.

I do remember the nervousness, the sick feeling and the courage it took to start to let him go by himself. I was pretty watchful though....

And yes, I admit to standing in the doorway with my foot in the door and although my head was turned away so I wasn't looking in, my 'ear' was in the opening. Most of the time if I turned my head I had a direct view of my son at the urinal if and when I turned my head. LOL.

I also, on many occasions, timed him. He knew he had to be out in under 45 seconds or I'd be coming in. :)

I also Never (NOT ONCE) had a man question me, tell me to move or anything else. I did have a couple smile at me - they knew why I was there. :)

8:49 AM  
Anonymous Leigh said...

Just this weekend I read an excellent book called "Protecting the Gift," by Gavin de Becker. It's about using your own instincts and intuition to keep yourself and your children safe, and I highly recommend it.

9:36 AM  
Anonymous Jen said...

Our son is 6 and my husband and I always accompany him to the bathroom and plan on doing so for quite a while to come. My mother did the same with all four of us. Within the past year my son has started objecting to coming into the women's room with me and we do get some stares - not from the moms but from the little girls - but I'm not relenting - we use the "Family" restrooms whenever they're available. I know within a couple years when he's just too old to go into the ladies room anymore that I'll be waiting for the men's room to empty and standing in the doorway myself ! I've encountered a lot of parents standing in restroom doorways holding conversations with their children and that seems to be a very good idea when they get to be 10+.

10:29 AM  
Anonymous Carola said...

Chris, this is a very important topic. Scars like this are very, very hard to heal. I was a victim at the age of 9. It didn't happen in a public bathroom but for some reason, even now that I'm 30, I feel at risk in these places.

10:45 AM  
Blogger Silly Old Bear said...

We've always joked that we would feel sorry for anyone who messed with our kids (having a hyper/bipolar young man has it's advantages, I guess) but it's really not a laughing matter.

I think common sense is extremely important.

We do feel more vulnerable when we are in the "big city." Just because there are that many more people around and moving in and out (restrooms, by their closed nature, are of course a perfect place for somebody intent on harming another).

I can also identify with the line of thought that they have to learn and grow on their own, you can only protect them for so long. But a little kid really isn't a match (physically) for an adult, so being protective when their small is only natural. But along the way they need to learn that not all adults are Scary Strangers and not all adults are Mr. Rogers wanting to be kind and help them, that there are grey areas everywhere.

10:56 AM  
Blogger InterstellarLass said...

My son is 11. He goes in to the restroom by himself. He has since he was 7 or 8. At stores, I'm always by the door. In restaurants, he goes by himself, unless we're nowhere near the restrooms. I've only had to go check on him once, and he was having gastro-intestinal distress that time. For a long time I watched him without letting him know I was watching him. At home, I don't want to know when he goes.

My daughter is 7. She is not allowed to go by herself. Ever.

BUT, there comes a point where over-protectiveness, I think, can do more damage. A 10-year old in a ladies room? That's not right. And, by not allowing them to make decisions, we prevent them from being able to make decisions in the future. I discuss with my son, randomly "What do you do if". At some point, you have to have 'trust tests' and expand their boundaries and watch (with great anxiety) how they react. If they screw up, you tell them how they screwed up. If they do OK, you're a little less anxious the next time. I wish I could micro-chip-lo-jack my kids, but the reality is I can't. I can't have an eye on them at all times. I can't live in constant fear that something is going to happen. Makes me too anxious and it gives the kids complexes.

My sister, who is eleven years younger than me, FREAKS out every time I let my son go to the bathroom. She's very co-dependent on my mom, because my mom was always by her side. I want my kids to be independent and have the ability to think and make decisions for themselves. But they have to have practice to do it, and I'm of the mind that starting them younger helps them to make better decisions when it comes to the teen years when it's going to be most important.

11:07 AM  
Blogger Audrey said...

Heres an eye opener ladies (and men) My husband was using the public restroom at a gas station on his way home from work a few weeks ago. A man came up to him and started to flirt with my very "straight, and you better not touch me" husband. He was very persistant with my dh, would not drop it, until my dh made it very clear that if he did not move on he was going to be dragged out of that restroom by my dh.

What if this had been my 10 or 9 or 6 year old son. They would have not known what to do in that situation. They should never be put in that situation. Hence forth they do not use a restroom alone ever!

Now on to the street smart comment made earlier. I agree to a dregree. I was put in many situations a small child should never have to deal with. I was molested by 3 different mem who were close to the family or family. Did I know how to react at the young age of 8, no! These things made me stronger, wiser...wiser to the fact that our children are not even safe around the people you think they shoul dbe safe around.

So....I do not allow my 5 boys or baby girl to spend the night with any male relative..its not necessary anyway. I dont allow them to use the public restooms by themselves. I do not allow them to walk away from me in the store, or get on any public chat room on the internet. BUT...they are allowed to swing from the rafters of the house, all ofthem jumo together on a trampoline without a safety net (Gasp) LOL, ride there bikes in our street, its not to busy. I dont make the older ones sit in booster seats (another gasp)They can climb on the tops of the swing set and play with bow and arrows.
Boys should be allowed to be boys while being prtected form the evil in this world. It is an balancing act but it is doable and well worth it.

11:48 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I find this discussion to be so interesting as this balance (between independence and protection) is such a challenge with my 11 year old. He walks to school, sometimes near the rest of the family, sometimes on his own. He uses restrooms on his own. I am near by but not at the door. I try to balance out my mother's parenting which was so so overprotective and envisioned the world as a really bad place and me a s a really vulnerable person and my own sense of what is likely or unlikely to happen.
As a born skeptic, I am wondering about the Burger King story referenced here...
Great blog!

12:02 PM  
Anonymous Mir said...

I allow my 8-year-old daughter to go into a public bathroom without me (provided that I have a clear sightline to the bathroom). She knows the rules (do not speak to anyone, do your business quickly and get out) and also has been learning self-defense at Tae Kwon Do. Between the TKD and her healthy lungs I'm not worried about some stranger overpowering or swaying her.

I'm not saying I'm right and anyone else is wrong, just saying that although I don't let my kids go play where I haven't met the parents and seen the house, I do let her pee without me. ;) For whatever that's worth.

Having been a victim of childhood abuse, myself, I guess I feel keenly aware that impropriety is much more likely to occur with adults the kids already know, who can gain their trust. They are (to my mind) appropriately stranger-wary and I worry much less about a scenario involving an unknown person approaching them.

Great post, Chris, both here and at DotMoms. :)

1:14 PM  
Blogger Jody said...

I am so with you.

My boys use the girls bathroom...with me in tow. If I can't go in with them, I go in, check it out completely, and then my oldest(11) escorts the little ones (8 & 5) in to help them, brings them back out, then goes himself.

Yes, I am confident that I am viewed as sons tell me this all the time. But, sorry Charlie, that is my job, and no one loves those kids more than I do. Part of my whole purpose for being is to make sure they are safe, and I don't take that responsibility lightly. I have friends that dont buckle their kids into car seats, and it makes me CRAZY!

There are some things you can control, and some you can' philosophy is that the ones I can control I have a death grip not allowing them to go to the creek after they stepped on a western cotton mouth.

Excellent subject!

2:02 PM  
Blogger eko said...

My 10yo son has told me some kids call him a "mamas" boy because I am around A LOT. And also lately I am an embarrassment to him (wah!) and I know this all comes with him growing up. But I also know that soon I will be on the back burner of his life - so I am ALL involved now.

Just this year I have begun to let him do some things in this town I consider safe, but will now re-assess that because one just NEVER knows. He will just have to endure a tight rein for a few more (5plus ;-)) years.

His 5yo brother still thinks I can do (almost) no wrong, and whoa that phase passes way too quickly.

I am overwhelmed with ALL that comes with their aging, the *friends* and their issues, other parents, the teachers - the outings, the wanting to go to PG movies, bike alone to school (no way - not yet).

OH, thank you for writing about this!

2:35 PM  
Blogger Karen Rani said...

I don't let my oldest (7) go to the men's room alone. He comes with me to the women's room, like it or lump it. Great post - you've sufficiently got my brain in overdrive thinking about my family's future - I'm calling the adoption agency now. KIDDING!

3:00 PM  
Blogger J's Mommy said...

Great question. My daughter is still young but I have already started setting some ground rules. She's not allowed to walk in the street by herself. She has to hold my hand and she has to sit in the shopping cart when we're out. I don't like the feeling I get when she is down by herself in a crowded store. Anyone, at any time, could walk by and snatch her up. I will not let her go in the bathroom by herself either. Good for you for protecting your children!

3:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is an extremely interesting topic. Let's face it, the fears of society today are not the fears of society when we were children. I did things at a very young age that I would never let my kids do. I believe we are substantially influenced by a fear-inducing media. I am very selective about what I watch on TV and no longer subscribe to the newspaper for this very reason. The world isn't as bad as we are led to believe.

Our parents had a general assumption that everything would be OK, which is why we were able to do so much at a young age. To the contrary, our assumption as parents is that something will go horribly wrong and we have a tendency to overprotect.

The chances of our sons being molested by a stranger in a bathroom are minute. And I think that risk is minimized even further if mom or dad is standing outside the bathroom door and makes it a point to call in there to make sure everything is OK.

Use common sense. For example, I wouldn't send my son solo into one of those large amusement park bathrooms or any other bathroom that caused my Mom Radar to register.

Can I really stop a weirdo from flashing his private parts to my son? No. I figure that's about as far as someone would get anyway while I'm standing outside the door. Do I think that would scar him for life? No.

You know your kids, their personalities and maturity levels. Go over possible scenarios with your kids and what their responses should be. Arm them with knowledge -- that's the best protection of all.

4:01 PM  
Blogger SB said...

I TOTALLY agree with your stance on public bathrooms. I encoutered a REAL LIFE pedophile a few months ago at a Wal-Mart. I was shopping in the little girls' section and I couldn't see my daughter, age 5 and when she popped her head up no more than 5 feet from me, I fussed at her and told her that if I couldn't grab her, someone else could.

This pedophile told me I was absolutely right. He'd just gotten out of prison (early in fact..over-crowding and all) and that Wal-Mart and public bathrooms are a feast for freaks. He said that usually moms are so distracted on getting their bargains, that they don't notice their kid is gone until the damage is done. He told me that it doesn't take 30 minutes, not 5 minutes but a mere 30 SECONDS to molest a kid.

He looked me square in the eye and actually said this: "I can have my hand down Johnny's pants before Mom knows anything is amiss.and then I move on." Leaves the kid afraid, alone and in trouble for wandering off.

He told me that self-checkout lines are great for this, too. He doesn't even worry about getting caught. He said that as selfish as society is, he knows people are watching but they're too involved on their cell phones and TXT'ing...

After THAT episode, I guarded my kids even more fiercely. I am WICKED about my kids' safety. They'll probably need therapy, but I don't care. I am charged with their safety. It's MY job.


who hates pedophiles with a passion

4:23 PM  
Blogger Cheerio's on my butt? said...

Thanks for the insight! I always doubt myself on whether I'm being too overprotective or not. I appreciate it when ther's other Moms out there that are worried like me. With child pornography growing so quickly I just don't know if a person can be too trusting of very many people out there anymore. Never say never on that subject, I say.

4:29 PM  
Anonymous maria said...

I read your post on Dot Moms yesterday and I've been thinking a lot about it. My 16 yr old niece has been so sheltered and over protected that she can't do anything by herself. I want my children to be confident, self reliant and I try to let them do things independently when I think they're ready. My 6 1/2 yr old son has gone in a few public restrooms by himself - I'm not thrilled, but it's a gut thing and sometimes - bad mommy - an expediency thing - my hands are full, there's a long line for the ladies room. There's no right answer. There are so many dangers - will I keep my daughter home from college because I'm afraid she'll get raped walking across campus? will I let my heart kid go on a class trip b/c I don't know if someone will know what to do if he has a crisis, how high can they climb at the playground?

You've made me think and I think that's a good thing - I don't know if I totally agree - but food for thought - sigh - food for more worries.

4:48 PM  
Anonymous twoboysmom said...

I have an 11 year old son and a 9 mo. old son. I definately am more worried about keeping the 11 yr old safe. I can plop the baby in his play pen and he is relatively safe. The older one is constantly testing barriers with us. If I hear "everybody" is doing it, seeing it, wearing it or going there again, I will scream! I tell him I'm not "Everybodys" mom. I'm his mom and I am the one who is responsible for his safety and well being. I don;t want him to grow up thinking just because everybody else is he should, too. I don't want him to follow the crowd. I want him to have his own mind one day (When I am good and ready to let him;)) I know more now than I did when he was a baby. This 9 mo. old will be wrapped in bubble wrap til he's 34. Thanks for the blog It really got me thinking.
I also hope your hubby is alright.

5:37 PM  
Blogger Mary Tsao said...

I don't know how I'll feel when my kids are older. I'm still reeling from the fact that I was flying on planes (with long layovers) by myself from the time I was in 3rd grade. I also walked home alone from school and sometimes it was scary, but there was no option; I was a latchkey kid. Something else you won't find nowadays.

Times certainly have changed.

6:11 PM  
Blogger but Momma said...

My 12 year old is the tough one. He's my oldest and it doesn't matter what's going on with him, I've never had to deal with that before. The other day I said he couldn't watch some video because it had cuss words in it, and he said "Oh Mom, school is a walking cuss word." Or he went to the Orchestra Party the other day and as he left with his best friend (and chaperones) I said "Here's $10." and he said "What's this for?" and I said "Games or whatever, just don't spend it on drugs." I got a BIG EYE ROLL for that. But the bottom line is, safety is scary. I had overprotective parents and so I try to walk that fine line, but it is SO hard! When you have something big hit close to home it's very hard to keep perspective.

6:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

No rule fits all situations. There IS safety in numbers however and that's where mothers of many are luckier. Depending upon size and maturity, you have to let them go sometime. (and, Yes, I know it's difficult) They have to live in the world and your job is make sure they can do that - and that means teaching them to use a public restroom safely. It also means you stand immediately outside the door and give them an exact count as to when you will barge in - no matter what - and that time is usually 30 seconds!

6:30 PM  
Anonymous Ashley said...

Back again. This discussion is fascinating. Blogging rocks!

As the single mother to 4 kids (13-4) this is a topic I have pandered about long and hard. I recently read an article in The New Yorker magazine about how dependent college students have become on their parents. In the age of cell phones, e-mail and Text messaging these students were running every possible decision by their parents. From choosing a major to choosing a flavor of ice cream. The umbilical cord had not been cut. At some point we must trust our kids. I am still struggling with when that point is, but I know that it is their journey, not mine. Again, it's a balancing act.

7:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

For some reason, I (like many others, apparently) can't let this one go. My children (one of whom is a frequent commentator here) would ABSOLUTELY say that I was the ultimate over-protective mother. They did not go to their senior sleep-over because they didn't ask - they KNEW the answer was going to be NO (funny, but I had decided to let them go because, after all, they were going to be on their own in just a few months). I once had a colleague who home-schooled his children so that he could protect them from the "rabble" in the schools. I was aghast; I had contemplated home-schooling because I thought I would be BETTER than the public schools! I wanted my children to experience those problems while I was still an authority figure who could guide their perceptions - turns out I was right! But still, I had concerns about letting them use public restrooms, ride the bus, fly by themselves and on and on and on. Give them wings - but make sure they know how to use them.

8:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Me again (I can't believe I'm doing this!). Pickle, my DH, says the appropriate age to use a public restroom by oneself is 21. Under 21 - go in groups of 3 or 4. Final post!

9:07 PM  
Blogger Amah said...

I am the Mom of a missing son. I let him roam our little town of 2 stop lights at will. He has been gone for 20 years. He was 14 and 6'tall. We still do not have any information on him at all. Do not have an idea in the world what happened. I'm not trying to scare you - but at some point you have to trust that your children will make the choices that you have guided them to. We can't live thier lives for them - we can only hope that we've instilled enough life experience into them to help them make the right choices. For the boys to use the restroom alone is a privacy issue but you can stay close enough to hear if there is a call. The same for the girls. You don't want to protect and make their decisions to the point that they don't know how to make the right one on their own. I've also fostered over 35 children and once they are in school - they may use the public restroom without me in the same room - mind you I am right outside the door - I'm on the protective side - even with others' children. The evil in this world is amazing and they children need to learn to deal with it themselves with you as a backup plan. I may be hated about now - but YES - I feel that you are a little "over the line" on this one.

9:55 PM  
Blogger Happy Mom Tonja said...

Well, at least one good thing about Walmart is their "Family Restroom". Although I've heard that they are rare? They are big restrooms back with the other men/women restrooms, enough room for one family and has a lock on the door.
I have 2 boys ages 12 and 9 and I STILL do not let them go into a public restroom together or alone.
We find anywhere that has the one person restrooms, the kids go in, I stand outside the door. Being a single mom with two boys makes the whole bathroom issue hard too, but we manage.

As far as the whole letting go thing...
I made up my mind LONG ago that I can live with ticked off kids, it's better than living without them. They will understand when they have kids and I want them around long enough for that! I could care less WHO thinks I'm crazy they're MINE and if anything were to happen, my life would be over!

I am very overprotective and I'll admit it. I have to meet the parents of the kids in our neighborhood before I let my kids go to their house and even then, I tell them they HAVE TO play outside! Now that it's nice out, you don't need to be inside, get out and be a kid!!
I also don't allow stay overs unless I REALLY know the parent. Their kids are welcome here though.

There are too many freaks in the world and they are NOT getting to my kids as long as I have anything to do with it!

Call me overbearing, call me overprotective, call me anything you want... I love my kids! Without them I would be nothing!

A thought (from one homeschooling mom to another)... do you think that because we homeschool it makes us more over protective?

10:11 PM  
Anonymous Heather said...

Thank you so much for posting this, seriously. I was beginning to think I was the ONLY mom who didnt allow their child to go to a public restroom alone. I am labled the "overprotective mom" quite often. And thats fine, I dont care. I love my kids, they are the world to me. Im sorry, but the way this world is today, there is no such thing as being overprotective. period.

11:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think around 8ish kids should be old enough to use a restroom alone. There are no statistics for how many kids are murdered or molested in a bathroom (I searched for it) but I would think it would be relatively low. Perhaps walkie talkies would help make sure they are safe? Growing up I was always allowed to use the bathroom alone ever since I was around 5 years old. I was never hurt or anything. The worst thing that happened was when I was 10 and saw some people using drugs in the bathroom.

11:39 PM  
Blogger trendoffice said...

I couldn't have worded it all better and while reading this post I think it refers to me in the near years. It all could have been written by me; although I have two big boys now, I remember doing these things not very long ago. I agree with your all conclusions, including 'the gray hair and the need for occasional alcoholic drink'.
I suspect that the term 'overprotective' has probably been coined by men, but there is one reason I try to not be 'overprotective' - it could interfere with creating self-dependance in children. Especially after certain age.
I like your sense of humor - I suppose this is the secret way you can manage :)

9:44 AM  
Blogger Tori said...

Mine too are getting old...
It scares me because they are girls and there is so much out there to distract.
Advice I always get from mothers of wonderfully rounded young adults that I wish mine could fast forward to, is keep them busy with sports, don't allow dating till 16 and STAY involved.
THose I think I can do...
The not dating bit causes some fear (I was dating AND more by 14!) but I see teens that are too young for serious relationships get so distracted by them. I know I did!
Take each day as it comes...
Or scream wildly and run for the hills...

11:38 AM  
Blogger Angela said...

Good for you. There are some things that just aren't worth the risk, and if you can do some little thing to prevent some very big and horrible thing from happening, then it should be done.

1:08 PM  
Anonymous Maliavale said...

Chris, I am not sure I would have thought of that -- but I am not a mother. It does make perfect sense, however, and I don't see it as overbearing at all. Good for you; stick to your guns.

8:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Someone asked about the Burger King murder...

In July 2002, 30-year-old Alexandra Zapp was killed at an all-night rest stop on Route 24 in Bridgewater, Massachusetts. She went in to use the restroom...IIRC, she had her cell phone with her. She was stabbed to death by a convicted sex offender, who worked at the rest-stop Burger King. An off-duty state trooper just happened to go inside the rest stop and catch the murderer at the crime scene. If you want more details about this gruesome story, read

3:35 AM  
Anonymous Andrea Q said...

Just yesterday, I noticed a sign at the Adventuredome amusement park at Circus Circus in Las Vegas prohibiting boys over 6 from going into the ladies room. I didn't think about it then, because I only have girls, but I'm thinking about it now. This is a "family friendly" area, but it is in the middle of a casino. There's no way I'd let a kid go to the bathroom alone in a place like that. I wonder how many other places have these rules? And if you break the rule, how can they punish you for keeping your kids safe? You've got me hoping my next baby is another girl! ;-)

3:41 AM  
Blogger Chris said...

Did they have a sign prohibiting women from going into the men's room? Because that's where I'd be then ;-)

What was it five or six years ago when that little girl was raped and murdered in the bathroom of a casino? Of course it begs the question of why as a parent you would be at a casino with your child in the middle of the night. But I guess that parent wasn't "over protective"

8:32 AM  
Anonymous Andrea Q said...

My 2.5 year old is begging to go back to the Adventuredome, so I will check the men's room the next time we're there.

I've only live here about 15 months, so I don't know about the murder you mentioned. However, whenever I read the newspaper, it seems like someone's done something horrible to another adult...the crimes seem to be getting more disgusting and bizarre all the time. These days, it seems like we ALL have to more vigilant in keeping ourselves and our families safe.

3:34 PM  
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