Public restrooms, bathrooms, powder rooms, lavatories, latrines, comfort stations: whatever you want to call them, they're terrifying for children. While I can't speak for the men's restroom, I can say that more than a few women's restrooms have scared the crap (pun intended) out of my kids. In fact, there are so many things you'll find in a public restroom that'll scare the you-know-what out of your child, that you'll likely find yourself questioning your decision to leave the house at all.
I can't remember the first time I went into a public restroom with my mom, and now that I'm a parent I'm starting to think that's a good thing. Not only are there loud noises and a lot of people to contend with, but it's rare to enter any public space where you do your business and have it be pristine. And, in my experience, when your kids have to go "real bad," they'll be subjected to a bathroom straight out of your worst nightmare.
Learning how to go to the restroom, whether in a public space or at home, is part of growing up, and I'm more than happy to help facilitate a slew of teaching moments that will (hopefully) help my children navigate crowded, loud, messy restrooms. But part of that process means knowing what I'm in for, which will undoubtably include some of the following:
There's always "that person" who doesn't know how to flush their waste. Or there's that faulty toilet that simply won't work.
When you take littles to a public restroom to do the deed, it always becomes a game of "which door is the winner?" Then, and only then, will they understand why it sometimes takes mommy so long to get in and out of there (because we have to wait on a toilet that's not disgusting). Choose your stall wisely, people.
Menstruation is typical and natural and there's absolutely nothing wrong with it, but kids can get a tad freaked out when and if they see blood. You live and learn, children.
Maybe it comes with my age and life experience, but the thought of anyone having sex in a dirty public restroom is, at least to me, absurd. I would have to douse myself in hand sanitizer before I even considered it. But at least people are having safe sex, and at least my kids can learn about condoms is a sex positive way. Right?
From the look to the smell to the amount of area covered, vomit in a public restroom is, well, gross. There's nothing worse than realizing your over-enthusiastic child has accidentally stepped in vomit.
You wouldn't think a public restroom is a place someone would clean out a hairbrush — or whatever it was that happened to illicit actual piles of hair on the concrete bathroom floor — but I've seen it... and so have both my kids.
We'd rather not see it ever again, TBH.
Automatic Hand Dryers
My kids can't be the only kids who are terrified of those loud automatic hand dryers, right? For a while my children refused to enter a bathroom if those things were going off... and they are always going off.
My kids know they didn't turn a knob or lever, so why is the water coming out all on it's own?! It's magic, my friends! And who knows just what kind of magic it could be...
A Loud Toilet
Can someone explain to me why a toilet flushing needs to be so loud? My kids were terrified of the sound, and often covered their ears the entire time they were in the bathroom since multiple toilets were being flushed all at once. Poor things.
A Toilet That Won't Flush
If I've said it once, I've said it a million times: literally everything about a public bathroom scares the crap out of my kids, so please at least try to flush the toilet. And if you realize the toilet won't flush, don't use it again. Come on, people!
A broken lock isn't a huge deal if you can choose a different stall for your "big girl" to use. But when you realize that every single lock on almost every single stall is broken, your shy child is sent into a panic.
A Wide Door Gap
I'm not a fan of the big gap between stall doors. I think every public restroom should be properly enclosed for the sake of privacy. When I take my son in now, he's big enough to go potty into a stall next to me, but he's not old enough to go into a bathroom by himself. I don't want other people watching him through that gap and once he realizes he's being watched, he'll never go to the bathroom again. Talk about scary.
Other Kids Who Look Under The Stall
You're not cute and you're freaking my kids out, dude. Bye.
Toilet Paper Everywhere
Why? Why does this happen? If you can't find a way to send that toilet paper into the giant opening that's filled with water, you need to refine your potty skills.
No Toilet Paper At All
Of course, there's nothing worse than a public restroom with no toilet paper. My kids are always afraid they'll be stuck in a, um, "no wipe" situation I am powerless to fix.
(Hint: always bring some wipes or a small roll of toilet paper in your purse or bag. Problem solved.)
I don't know about you, but I don't like playing the "it might be pee, it might not be pee" game when I go to the bathroom.
"Out Of Order" Signs On Every Stall
It never happens unless one of my kids is having a sudden emergency, but alas, it happens. Nothing like rushing through an airport as soon as you land in the hopes that you'll be able to find a stall that's in working order.
People Who Ask "How'd It Go In There?"
While I appreciate the kindness, my kids know not to talk to strangers. So really, just don't. They're trying to pee, and when you're a child that requires some concentration. Leave them be so they can do their business, and you can do yours.