Free Range Challenge #2

You might remember my dilemma a couple months ago when I finally decided to go to the bathroom alone, leaving my 5-year old in the coffee shop by himself while I did so. Well, this week I was faced with the other side of the coin. We were settling in at the public pool and I had just begun nursing Fox. Turtle's lessons were soon to begin when he realized he needed to pee.

Uh... okay... I'm not going to interrupt nursing an infant to have to carry her all the way across the whole pool area back into the locker room so that we can supervise Turtle peeing. "Can you wait?" I asked him. Nope.*

"Hmmm... Well, all right, how do you feel about going to the bathroom alone?"

"I don't know. You need to come with me."

Clearly, both of us were a little nervous at the prospect. I thought it over some more. He knows his way into the locker room and where the bathroom stalls are and back out to me, no problem. He doesn't need any help with the whole process itself. There is access to the main exit out to the street once he's in the locker room, though. And it's all behind closed doors where I can't see or hear him if he needs help. And there's random other people in there.

But, he could just walk in and go directly to the bathroom quickly and come right back out to me and I could keep my eye on the time. I could remind him not to get distracted doing other things. He's motivated to stay with us and to do his lesson which is about to start. He's not a bolter in general either. So, there's no good reason why he would wander off out of the locker room and into the main office/exit area.

And here we are at a nice safe family friendly public pool. Who is really going to bother him or grab him or anything like that? What's the likelihood? Just about nothing. In fact, anyone seeing him walking into the stall will assume his mom is one of the ladies sitting feet away in the locker room. No one has any reason to believe he is all alone or to "prey" on him.

"OK, look, why don't you walk in there, just go straight to pee, don't do anything else, and come right back as fast as you can. I know how long it takes, so if you are taking too long, I am going to get up and come in there to find you because I'll be worried about you. So, please don't get distracted and stay in there long because then I have to stop feeding Fox and come find you."

Then I proceeded to quiz him on what he would do if someone bothered him. He said he would ignore them. I pushed- but what if they keep bothering you or grab you? (Ugh. I can't believe I even said that, but I felt I had to.) He said he would run away and yell. I reminded him he could also ask a worker for help. All the pool workers/lifeguards/teachers wear recognizable red swimsuits and have clipboards.

He agreed to go on his own and so we commenced his first trip to a public restroom where I wasn't standing right outside the door.

I watched him walk all the way around the pool and up to the locker room doors and then stop, clearly in trepidation. He faltered for a few moments, then turned around and walked all the way back to me. Mission aborted.

"What happened?"

"Mom, I am not allowed to go in the women's by myself without a mom and I don't want to go in the men's. I've never been in the men's before and don't know what it's like."

Agreed. "Sweetie, you need to go in the women's, where we always change our clothes and you know where the bathroom is."

"But they don't let boys in there without a mom. What if they say something to me?"

OK, so I'm worried about his safety and he's worried about breaking the rules and getting in trouble. I convinced him no bathroom police were going to say anything to him at all and he should quickly go in the women's. I can see how this is going to become a whole new issue as he gets older, though, and that doesn't fly anymore. I am going to have to trust him going into the men's room on his own when we are out and about. Sigh.

So he returns to the mission. As soon as I see him disappear through the women's locker room door, I am watching the clock and thinking about how long it takes to walk to the stall, open it, get in, lock it, pull down your bathing suit, do the deed, and reverse all of that. I am thinking ahead already to my options if he takes longer than I think he should. Crap- when should I begin to worry? After 3 minutes? 5? At what point do I get up with the baby and head in there if he hasn't emerged?

As I feel the seconds tick by and am already formulating my emergency plan, he pops right back out the door and starts heading back to me exactly on schedule.

Whew! Another milestone for both of us.

*(This is the part where, okay, I'm totally going to admit it, I did consider briefly whether I should just counsel him to pee in the pool. Seemed like a really easy option and a way out of my dilemma. But I realized he's too old for that. He'll end up telling someone that I told him to do it! OMG then I'll be really embarrassed! So, I went the braver (nobler?) route instead.)

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