Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The royal 'wee'

I have written before about riding on trains with boys. Several times. I seem to do a lot of it. Usually I write about the philosophical/metaphorical/[insert another 'ical' here] aspects of our journeys. But I think it's time we looked at some of the practicalities.

The real practicalities.

I write this as the necessarily-female mother of two boys. If I were the necessarily-male father of two girls I would no doubt have the same problem. Specifically, the whole public toilet thing.

A four-hour jouney on a train, such as we endured enjoyed today, brings with it at least one toilet stop along the way. Usually at a very busy train station, where the toilets are lined with subway tiles (well, they came from somewhere) and the stream of people in and out the door is both neverending and disconcerting.

Mr9 is, in many ways, too old to go to a female toilet. Usually, in quieter, gentler circumstances, I am okay with him taking Mr6 to the men's toilet, while I hover anxiously outside - in the doorway - receiving strange looks from passers-by. They are under strict instructions to scream loudly if anyone so much as looks at them, and conduct their business at nano-warp speed.

Today, we got off at Town Hall station in the city, with Mr6 crab-walking up the stairs because he was busting so much, and me laden down with one large bag and two smaller ones, trying to keep track of the boys, the escalators, the crowds and the everything else. I stopped a station guard-type, in his high-vis vest (thank God for the high-vis) to ask where the toilets were. "Down the end," he said, before adding, ominously I thought, "take them to the Ladies".

Mr9 wasn't happy, but there was no way I was dispatching them alone after that. So we all waited in line, then they waited with all the bags and then we finally managed to get out of there, all swearing we'd never wee again. The only bright spot was that Dyson airblade dryer thingy, which Mr6 took to with gusto.

My point (and I do have one), is that it's bloody difficult travelling with middling-sized children of the opposite sex. Public toilets have taken on 'dens of iniquity' status, whether deserved or not. Accessible toilets are often the best option, but these are locked on stations and other public spaces. And there comes a time when older boys are not happy to be dragged into women's toilets (and women are not altogether happy having them there).

When did it all become so difficult?

So I'm putting it out there. What do you do? Beyond having them cross their legs and hold on as long as they can, how do you manage this situation?

photo credit: slack12 via photopin cc


  1. I so identify - while my 8 year old is ok with using public toilets on his own - and I shout out to him periodically if I think he is taking too long - he refuses to go into a shower on his own. This is causing problems with swimming lessons, where there are no family change rooms - he refuses to have a shower there, or when we get home 'its not fair, why do I have to have a shower, I want to play, P (his sister) doesn't have to have a shower', etc, etc. Maybe not as annoying as a toilet issue, but painful none the less!

  2. Add to that the horror of my 10 year old son Miguel at the Tuileries Gardens telling my husband Charles that he had to to to the bathroom and then taking off in the blink of an eye. Charles frantically looked for him and then a kind woman pointed out the public bathrooms. Charles waited outside and Miguel came blithely strolling out. Charles said: "Why did you take off like that?!?" and Miguel said: "I TOLD you where I was going!"

  3. why would other women have issues with a boy - obviously not an adult, being in a public toilet with his mother? everyone goes into a cubicle?! I'm sorry, but living in the country my kids are SO not aware of the weird people out there (even though we have the stranger danger talk) so I will be dragging my boy into the ladies until he's 6ft 2 and can defend himself. But even worse, is a dad with girls...I think of that poor father waiting outside the ladies in WA for his daughter and the unthinkable happened...I tell him to take the girls to the disabled toilets (a no no I suppose, but better safe than sorry)

  4. It would be interesting to know if there is the public toilet issue of which you write Allison in European countries where unisex toilets are commonplace. I remember travelling in France solo at the age of 19 and stepping out of a public toilet cubicle to see a man entering the cubicle next to mine I got such a surprise to see a man there before noticing the unisex sign. As Sharon points out everyone goes into a cubicle so there should really be no problem but I know there is. Most shopping centres where we live have family toilets but failing that I take my boys ages 3 and 6 to the disabled toilet because the door opens out onto the street and we can all go in together or I take them to the ladies even when they voice resistance.

  5. I am so glad that my boys are now old enough to go into the men's together without an adult, although, because my 13yo is small in size, his large nearly 16yo brother is his toilet escort when his Dad isn't around. If he has to go on his own, I wait outside the door every single time. Sometimes in the past when he was littler, when it's been crowded in the ladies, and I have been made uncomfortable, I have covered his eyes. He doesn't really need to see to wash his hands to be honest. It made it quite comic and turned the situation back on everyone else! :D

    But yes, disabled toilets were a lifesaver when I had a pram, or some department stores had family toilets.... which were a huge blessing. Otherwise, I say, take them to the womens for as long as you feel necessary. Like the other commenter said, we're all in cubicles, who on earth cares?

  6. It's a tough one isn't it? When our girls were younger public toilets were like a magnet! Whether we be at the park, a restaurant, the train station the girls would have to go NOW! I remember wishing I had boys just so their Dad could take them some of the times!

  7. I agree with Sharon, other women wouldn't have an issue with a young boy needing to pee. all you need to do is convince your son that this is truly the only available option.

  8. I have a 10yr old boy (a quite big-for-his-age 10yr old boy) so I know the dilemma well. Depending on where we are, I either do the 'let him go to the mens and hover outside the door' trick (with the same instructions to yell loudly if anyone looks at him funny) or take him in the women's with me which he's uncomfortable with. I've had some funny looks but no-one has said anything to me. As you say, it's not like there's anything to see. I'd prefer to put up with funny looks and ensure his safety until he can defend himself :)

  9. I once sent a security guard in after my 13 year old son at the Perth Train Station when he took too long ... he didn't tell me he was going for a No2!! He's never let me forget it ... and I tell him I'll do it again next time I'm worried about him, and if there's no security guard around I'll go in myself. ... sorry, couldn't figure out how to login with fb ..

  10. Do whatever you need to keep your boys safe!


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