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Fayette-Mom: On his own - five-year-old in the men's room?

Posted August 1, 2011 8:35 p.m. EDT

Jennifer Joyner

I’m having a dilemma with my five-year-old son, and I am turning to you Go Ask Mom readers for advice.

It concerns his going to the bathroom in public places. I am not comfortable with his going into a men’s bathroom by himself. Does this make me smart or paranoid? I’m not sure … all I can go by is the nervous pit in my stomach the last time he insisted on going into a public bathroom alone. First, I had him go inside and tell me if it was empty. It was, so he went inside while I stood outside the door. Sure enough, two men walked up and went into the bathroom.

Now, am I being unfair to those two men, to strangers everywhere? Perhaps, but I couldn’t help it. I found myself calling loudly through the door, “Are you OK?” “I’m right here.” My son came out all proud of himself. I was a nervous wreck.

The next time this happened was at a rest stop. There was no way he was going in that bathroom alone. I insisted he come with me into the ladies' room, and you can image his reaction to that. Tears and yelling aside, I would not budge. He wouldn’t talk to me the rest of the way home.

To be fair, he couldn’t understand why I wouldn’t allow him to go in by himself. How could he know, at five years old, that strangers aren’t always nice, that sometimes people have cruel intentions, and it is my job to protect him from that? Of course, we’ve discussed the whole “don’t talk to strangers” thing — but he’s never really in a position to put that into practice — he is always supervised. Is it really time now, at five years old, to start letting him go out on his own a bit?

I’d love to hear what you experienced parents have to say — please advise in the comments.

Jennifer is a mom of two and WRAL-TV assignment editor in Fayetteville. Her food obsession memoir, “Designated Fat Girl,” came out last year. Read more about Jennifer and her book on her website. Find her here on Go Ask Mom on Tuesdays.