Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Public Restrooms and the 6 Year Old


Holding my 53 lb., 6 year old child out in front of me, high above the height of a toilet while simultaneously squeezing my own oversized derriere through the narrow opening of the public restroom stall, shifting her weight about a foot to the left to avoid the protruding toilet paper holder, her legs dangling dangerously above the filth-coated cesspit we're trying to avoid, the door squeezing my middle as I do my very best Houdini-like dislocation of multiple body parts to get in...

You get the picture. 

I'm guessing that unless I'm just off my rocker, and a complete germaphobe, or that you yourself just have absolutely no regard for how horribly disgusting public restrooms really are, then you've certainly been there many times before with your own child.  Heck, even without my child being with me, I still manage a very similar dance routine on the path to relief. 

Me (taking a deep breath now that we are both firmly entrenched within the closed, locked stall):  Now, Sammi, what do you not touch?

Sammi (enunciating very clearly and carefully, so obviously painstakingly-schooled by yours truly):  Don't. Touch. Anything.

Me (crouching precariously over the yucky object of fear and terror):  Right.  Good.  No!!!  Don't touch that - it's dirrrrrrty!  Just. stand. still.  Let me pee first, then you can go, okay?  Wait - don't open that door!  Don't even touch the doorknob, okay?  Sammi!  When I say "don't touch," I mean "Don't. Touch."  Good girl.  Thank you.  Ewww, you touched the wall.  Sammi, please don't touch anything else, okay? Hey, GET OFF THE FLOOR!!!

Then, finally, it's her turn.  Wiping the toilet with a giant wad of balled-up paper, probably way more than is necessary, carefully laying some flattened sheets on the seat in preparation for the certainly freakishly-clean, certainly germ-free buttocks of my certainly perfect child, I lift her carefully, gently, trying not to disturb the alignment of backside on paper.

Until she innocently shifts her body to better align her backside on the seat itself, and the paper all but disappears into the cesspool...aaaaaaand...her bare bum actually comes to rest on and in direct contact with the bare seat, and bike shorts and underwear actually touch (gasp!) the underside of the porcelain beast. 

I cringe inwardly.  No, wait, that's a lie.  I cringe outwardly, obviously, sighing loudly as I contemplate ways to keep her clothing from touching her body/my hands/the car seat/air afterwards until I can rush them all into the wash (I'm pretty sure you can wash air...). 

And let's not even talk about Sammi's sensitivity to noise.  Heaven forbid the rest room has those auto-flush toilets that not only suck urine and feces down into their depths, but threaten to implode the entire universe around you with the loudest SWISH of water you've ever heard.  Sammi can't get her hands over her ears fast enough.  Yes, those very same hands that had touched the wall/door/littleflappyfemininehygeineproductdepositbox...  *Sigh*  (Can't we just wrap her in cellophane with holes in all the appropriate places?  Boys sure do have it easy!!)

I do cover the auto-flush sensor with toilet paper when I can.  I read in Parents Magazine once that it's a good idea to bring Post-It notes to cover the ones that are wall-mounted.  Brilliant idea, but the likelihood of me remembering to stick a packet of Post-Its into my bag as I run out the door is pretty slim these days.  As a matter of fact, I've thought about it, and told other people about it, for about 6 years now, but have yet to do it myself.  I'm lucky if I remember my ID. 

And then there's the automatic hand dryer.  The slow, inefficient, old-fashioned ones are just fine.  She doesn't mind them.  She'll even laugh while she dries her hands.  The modern, turbo-dry, jet-engine ones, the ones that are so amusing to watch as they blow the veins across the backs of your hands, are not, even remotely, fine.  Amusing when you're by yourself.  Terrorizing when your child is screaming, crying, alternately trying to dry her hands and cover her ears.  I usually pony up my skirt as a towel at that point and hustle her out of there, for which she is grateful. 

Trips to public restrooms often result in a) mommy yelling, b) Sammi crying.  It's a wonder she hasn't developed a complex, a phobia of public restrooms everywhere.  I'm thankful she's flexible and not yet scarred for life.

My next goal is to figure out how to become brave enough to allow her to go into the stall by herself to do it on her own, like she does at home, or at school.  My thought is that I now have to wait until her feet can touch the ground so she can put her butt on the seat without using her hands to pull herself up.  So does that mean I actually have to go into the stall with her until she's 8?  Or do I send her in with a box of antibacterial wipes and teach her how to clean the toilet herself before she touches it in any way?  Oh, the dilemmas...

We're fresh off a 12+ hour road trip two weeks ago, followed a week later by an 8+ hour trip, followed by a 4 1/2 hour trip just this past weekend.  While my kid has a bladder of iron, I do not, and took every opportunity to make sure she used the rest stop bathrooms nearly as often as I did, just to be safe.  How about you? How do you deal with it and keep both yourself and your child sane (and germ free, of course...)?  Am I the only one in this predicament? 


Anonymous said...

Oh, those turbo jet engine hand driers! Who's brilliant idea was THAT?!? My child is terrorized. And the auto flush toilets are nothing but a nuisance. I gave up long ago on trying to avoid germs on the hands. Sigh...it's a wonder my kid hasn't died yet.

Christina Allred said...

LOL!! I used to worry about all that stuff, truly. Then I realized how often my kids lick, sniff, touch, wipe, and hold all sorts of other equally disgusting things, and I TOTALLY GAVE UP! Now I just comfort myself with knowing they wash their hands afterwards and use hand sanitizer after the yuckiest restrooms too. So far, we haven't acquired anything exotic or apocalyptic. So far.

Lisa said...

OMG - are we sure we weren't seperated at birth? I could have written your story, inlcuding the giving tons of people the post-it-note tip but never remembering to put them in my bag, except for one thing I finally decided what I don't know hurts less than watching her touch everything so I let Cate do it alone unless it is totally awful. Afterward we wash her hands, arms, any other exposed areas with a ton of soap. The other day I actually let her go to restroom alone - given I could see the door & knew she could reach the sink. She went in, was successful I guess & came out with damp hands & arms. I almost cried.

teal915 said...

I am the same way. Public bathrooms skeeve me out. I have Madison convinced. She is in and out, no questions asked. For a long time, she was terrified of the automatic flusher. She would refuse to use a toilet that had one, even if I covered it. With Austin, however, as I have to do with many things, I just have to let it go, let him do it on his own, and not think about it. He has no aversion to disgusting things. I just insist he wash his hands really good. I have found, with him, that what I don't know won't hurt me. When I use a public toilet, I don't sit down, I just squat. It's good for your leg muscles too, a nice work out lol.

Alicia Llanas said...

how i think im the worst mommy ever
because i dont think the public restrooms are the worst-dirty-full of virus place, well not every restroom, but with two kiddos we have met every restroom in every store, mall, grocery,house etc.

what i think also, is that im not with them in school, i dont see what they touch, where do they sit/walk, if they are cautelous enough to be carefull, so i try to not freak out much in public restrooms.

we do use the wheelchair restrooms sometimes, when the other ones are too small to fit both of us.

Also Elias goes all by himself, in the ladies room of course, im still nervous and dont know when to let him go to the man's restroom

anyway, Elias loves the hand-dryer, once he saw a 16 yr old girl getting her hair dry with that, and of course he loved it, and he has to try it in his hair each time.

Eva in the other hand, when she came home with us almost a year ago, she was 4 and she was afraid of certain sounds, one of course was the hand-dryer, but sorry, i did what i thought it was best and i put her hair also to dry , ha! at first she was scared, but after several trips she was fine with the sound :p

in a walmart near our house has the best hand dryer i have ever seen, my kids were a little scared at first, i even was too, but after the experience we though it was fun enough to try it over and over, lol, even me :p

Cate said...

oh god. yes. all of it. Abby is obsessed with the wall trash cans. Flappy lid! let's open and close that a million times! ARGH. The one high point is that when it's my turn, she claps and cheers for me. that's nice. especially for anyone else in there.

Anonymous said...

sigh. i totally get that people are freaked out of public restrooms. i get it. they don't smell great, they look dirty, sometimes they are dirty. i have an irritable bowel disease - crohn's. there were times when i hardly made it to the bathroom in the mall. one time i didn't. i learned to love the sacred public restrooms, just because they were there. i've been using them for years now, and i haven't contracted any crazy diseases. i haven't even had a cold in 2 years. germs aren't the best - but maybe teach sammy that they aren't the worst, either.

e.Beth said...

i've been going in public restrooms for 43 years now, and i sit on the toilet seat. i'm still alive. i bet we all did it when we were kids, before everyone got so terrified of germs. i don't have kids, but i do have nieces and nephews who i have accompanied to public restrooms in the past, and they pee and wash their hands and that's it. what does sami do when its just her and steve out somewhere?

Runningmama said...

Omgoodness, you sound just like me! I thought I was a little neurotic, but this confirms other people feel the exact same way I do about public restrooms. My only child that is potty trained is a boy and I have to admit, sometimes we find a good tree out in the middle of nowhere so we can avoid an encounter with the "cesspool"! And, now that Emily is potty training, I have been thinking a lot about what I will do in this very situation...boys are so much easier when it comes to this!

Rochelle said...

Can't.stop.laughing! Totally agree with the idea of it all but my reality is just getting them to go in the potty without one of them falling in or licking the darn thing (only at the zoo, of course..those toilets are especially clean!)
So we make it quick and scrub down are hands and arms when we are finished.
Our girls have gotten over the fear of the super blaster hand dryers, thankfully. Whose idea was it to put those things in that could power a jet across the Atlantic with one wave of your hand?

Becca said...

Anonymous #2 - Sorry. I totally see your point, and I know that this is totally an issue I just need to get over. Belive me! And the educated part of me tries desperately to tell me that exposure to things like that actually help to build immunity to diseases (I'm not the best house-cleaner, either, so I'm sure Sammi is getting plenty of exposure there in the meantime). All the opinions here (and you, too, Beth!) have definitely helped me to feel better about this, which I was kind of hoping would happen when I was writing this post. I need to let go a bit, trust Sammi to be a big girl, remember that no one has ever died from a toilet seat, and my kid is generally really healthy anyway. Didn't someone do a study once (was it Oprah?) where they swabbed a public toilet seat and a shopping cart handle and the cart handle was waaaaay more germy? Not surprised! LOL But thank you for putting it into perspective. :-)

Becca said...

Oh, and Beth - Steve and Sammi are rarely, rarely out during a time when she needs to use the bathroom. Seriously, both of them have bladders of iron. And when they have been, it's usually been at therapy or a doctor's office, where the bathrooms are much less highly-trafficked.

Chromosomally Enhanced said...

Here is the deal! Teach Sammi to pee standing up! Maddie is learning that way only because she wants to be like her brother! I think that is the route I will take...especially when Maddie is on the floor with her tounge out! Because she must touch, smell, and taste everything! Besides if they can pee standing up...no need. For a restroom! Just a bush or a tree...love this...and cannot stop giggling! Smiles

Team Lando said...

Becca, you need more teacher friends. I almost ALWAYS have Post-Its in my bag! I need to remember your tip for when Ellie is potty training....

wendy said...

Sounds so much like Claire and I! especially the toilet papering the seat only to have her move and it all falls in!!! She doesn't mind the older push button hand dryers it's the really loud ones she doesn't like.

Kacey Bode said...

Oh my God. I could have wrote this post...all of it. Blech. I hate hate hate taking Ella potty basically anywhere except my house. I try to always wait for the handicap stall if there is one because that at least prevents me from my pants touching the door when I'm trying to situate her. And the don't touch anything thing...Ella still is not getting that leaning up against the wall or door IS in fact touching something and makes me want to puke. But ya know what....the bathrooms at school gross me out far more. I've seen the kids go into them (at least the pre-k one) by themselves and they are nasty little buggers. The airplane bathroom definetely was awful, I had to open the door and step out to be able to bend over and help Ella pull her pants up. Ahhh motherhood...so glorious : )

Meriah said...

I can't help but laugh here, Becca!!

And to be honest, I think I always just imagined I'd do with my kid what the Chinese do when faced with public western style toilets: squat on it.


They put the kid (and themselves) directly STANDING ON THE TOILET SEAT, squat, do their business, step off and then wipe the seat of their footsteps.

In Hong Kong, almost all fancy places have 'no squatting" signs on the toilets!!

But really - you know, Asians think we are barbaric dirty freaks for even thinking of putting our butts on something like a toilet seat.

Karrie said...

I hear what you are saying about public restrooms.....they are disgusting! I will never forget the day that I took Taylor to the bathroom and, like you, told her not to touch anything. So what does she put her hand into...the tampon bin! Let's just say I scrubbed her hands raw after that one!