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The Competent Parent: Opposition in public bathrooms

Headshot2011Welcome to our weekly online series on parenting advice with Annapolis, Maryland, expert Dr. Deborah Wood.

Opposition in Public Bathrooms

Dear Dr. Debbie,

I recently experienced downright hostility at a public bathroom at a state park at the beach. I am a single father and my daughter is now 8. Rather than send her unaccompanied into a women’s bathroom, I typically wait until the men’s room is empty and we go together.

Since we were at the beach, the stop at the bathroom included changing into swim suits. I hadn’t noticed that a man and his son had entered, and apparently they hadn’t noticed us at first. When the man did, I was lambasted.

I did my best to keep my composure for my daughter’s sake and thought I should head off a complaint about us to the park ranger with a complaint of my own.

Had there been a “Family” room for changing, that’s where we would have been, but there wasn’t. The ranger’s suggestion was to bring along an adult female to accompany my daughter to the women’s room. This is an unpractical and downright discriminatory solution.

On Our Own

Click here to read last week’s post about victim prevention.

Dear On Our Own,

Your complaint about discrimination is as legitimate as was the man’s discomfort about what must’ve felt like an invasion of his privacy.

If you voice your dilemma to the people in charge of restrooms in public places, maybe there will be more thought given to opposite sex family members or caregivers using the restrooms at the same time.

Your family composition is not as rare as it once was. Even families that have male and female adults would face the same predicament if the same sex adult is not around when nature calls. An opposite sex parent faces an unnecessary challenge when public restrooms offer no access to them. And besides children, there are many elderly and disabled folks who need accompaniment in the restroom. An ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliant bathroom with one toilet would be large enough to accommodate two people plus a wheelchair. Places that are popular with families, particularly those with young children, would serve the public best if they had as many “Family” restrooms as their visitors might need. A state run beach should set a good example.

Please speak up about this situation. Many will thank you.

Dr. Debbie

Deborah Wood is a child development specialist in Annapolis. She holds a doctorate in Human Development from the University of Maryland at College Park and is founding director of the Chesapeake Children’s Museum. Long time fans and new readers can find many of her “Understanding Children” columns archived on the Chesapeake Family Magazine website. You can find her online at drdebbiewood.com.

What do you think? Leave your thoughts in the comments or submit a question to Dr. Debbie at editor@chesapeakefamily.com


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