When a parent of the opposite gender takes their child to the bathroom, which door is the right one?
I took my two young daughters to the Children’s Pavilion at the Denver Public Library today, for a special toddler story-telling session called “Tales for Twos.” As usual, the room was packed with little ones and their mothers—and me, the only father and the oldest male in the room by at least 27 years. It was a blast, filled with dancing and books, and followed by a crafts project afterward.
We finished up our construction paper pizzas and wandered the stacks looking for new books to read at bed time, stopping to tackle a wooden puzzle of the alphabet, pausing so my youngest could wrestle with a stuffed dragon, as she’s known to do from time to time.
While hunting for a copy of Curious George Rides a Bike (for no particular reason other than I like the picture of George riding his bike “bronco style”), my oldest daughter started doing the dance. You know the dance. Yes, there she was, doing the pee-pee dance, which I’m certain would be popular on MTV if it had a different name. I asked the reference librarian where I could find the nearest bathroom and she proudly proclaimed, “Right over there, and it has a little toilet for her, too!”
I’ve grown to love little toilets more than is clinically normal, but I resisted the urge to hug the librarian out of gratitude.
Normally, I pull my daughter into the men’s loo, scuttle them past the urinals and we take care of business in the privacy of a stall. When I’m lucky, I’ll find a changing table for my youngest daughter and we’re ready to rock in one trip.
But here, in the Children’s Library, I faced another problem: the signs read “Boys” and “Girls.” For the sake of consistency, we headed into the Boys Room. And sure enough, while my two girls and I sardined ourselves into the little stall, in walked two older boys with their grandfather. The old man tooted loudly “See? It says ‘boys’ right there, so this bathroom is for boys only!”
Yes, we finished up, washed hands and left the bathroom without incident, avoiding exposure to unfamiliar genitalia or screams of disparity from either party. When I asked the librarian if they had a protocol for this sort of thing, she replied “Gosh, I don’t know! That’s never come up before. You definitely cannot go in the women’s bathroom, I know that.”
I’ve seen mothers get into mens bathroom with the occasional shout of “Watch out, Mom coming in!” but fathers are male, and thereby lumped together with other males, and as we all know some males are dangerous sexual predators, so NO MEN IN THE LADIES BATHROOM. Period.
For a father who knows this will happen again—and will grow more complex as my daughters further discover their gender—that answer doesn’t settle well with me. The issue still feels unresolved.
So I ask you, my friends, what’s a boy with girls to do?
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