I've been thinking about this again lately. Yessssss, about public restrooms. And who, in their right mind, as in lucid and not on crack, thinks about public restrooms on a regular basis? Probably all of you, if you're parents. Well, correction, mothers. I kinda doubt my husband loses much sleep over the topic...
A few months ago, I published this post about Public Restrooms and the 6-Year Old. I expressed concern, worry, and, yes, near-paralyzing fear, about allowing my daughter to exert her independence and (gasp!) use a public restroom stall on her own without me completely sanitizing it first. I knew it would have to happen one day, but not anytime soon, if I could help it. The responses that post drew were thought-provoking and very, very helpful. Thank you to all of you that commented. It got me thinking, could I really do it? Is it really all that bad, and is using a public restroom toilet seat without wiping it, putting a strip of toilet paper on it and balancing on one cheek only *really* going to make her sick or kill her?
The answer to the second question is most certainly no.
I gained a lot of perspective that day, particularly moved by a commenter with Crohn's Disease, who said she/he is not often afforded the luxury of time to inspect and clean a toilet seat before sitting on it. Actually, that comment really humbled me, and I have to thank them for giving me a bit of a kick in the butt (oh, the irony!).
About a month ago, just a day after ending Samantha's use of Miralax in favor of the natural remedy, Fruit-Eze, the two of us were shopping in Target. It was apparent she'd been having some cramping as a result of the changeover, her tummy getting used to the new stuff. After checking out, we decided to get something to eat at the lunch stand, but after placing our order, she suddenly doubled over and said she needed to use the bathroom. Luckily, it was only a few feet away, so off we went. Before she went into the stall, I told her I wanted to wipe down the seat, but she pushed me aside and said no, went in, locked the door, and did what she needed to do, on her own.
And you know what? I was completely okay with that. No, I was better than okay with that. I was at peace. I was proud that she knew her own urgency, proud that I could recognize that and step aside, proud that all I required was an extra careful hand-washing for her afterwards.
Fast-forward to this past weekend. The three of us were furniture shopping at Bob's Discount Furniture. Now, ordinarily I wouldn't mention the name of the random furniture place we were shopping at, but this place was awesome. There was a cafe-area with tables, huge candy-dispensers, ice cream, Teddy Grahams, coffee and hot chocolate, all free. A children's movie played on a flat-screen suspended from the ceiling, making Samantha one very happy little girl, and making Mommy and Daddy feel comfortable, and just a little liberated to look at the furniture nearby without needing to keep an extra-watchful eye on her. Next to the cafe was a big sign that said "Restrooms." At one point, standing just out of earshot and looking at some furniture (naturally!), I glanced over and saw her walking towards the Restrooms arch. She began to head to the right, then stopped, no doubt due to the sign that said "Men" on the door, then backtracked to the left and into the Women's room before I caught up with her to congratulate her for her initiative, and to make sure she was okay. She went into the stall (the seat was still up from cleaning, so I instructed her to pull it down), closed the door, latched it, and relieved herself, freeing me up to use the stall next to hers, a luxury I have not ever been able to enjoy, needing to always have her right there with me, begging her not to open the door to the glory of my dropped trou.
I am growing here.
She is learning independence and privacy.
I'm forever reminded of a blog post by Dave Hingsburger that I read last year. It really affected me. He recounted entering an unlocked unisex public restroom (the kind that has a single toilet, rather than stalls) and seeing a woman with Down syndrome, naked from the waist down, sitting on the toilet. Instead of being horrified that a man had just come in, she looked at him and smiled. No modesty, no fear.
That is something I vow will not happen with my daughter.
The education of us both starts now. It is never too soon.