To pee or not to pee (in public)—that is the question. At yet another T-ball practice last week, a young dad took his four-year-old to the nearest bush and dropped his pants so he could pee. His wife was also there, but she stayed back with the other parents watching her older son play ball.
Now, this may not sound like a big deal to you, but it was to me—because the bathroom was within eyesight, a mere 30 or so yards away. Would it have been that hard to walk the little guy to the restroom and let him tinkle privately?
I am the mother of a boy about to turn 7, and I have never been in a situation where I’ve had to let Javier pee in public—not that I wouldn’t if I had to. I believe there are times when you truly might have no other choice, like if you’re on a highway and the next rest stop isn’t for another 30 miles. But we weren’t on a highway, and the bathroom was—literally—within walking distance.
A couple of years ago I was at a McDonald’s drive-thru and the line was so long, the mom in the car in front of me scooted out with her son and let him pee in the bushes near the passenger side of my car. She didn’t want to lose her place in line, and I guess parking and taking him inside to the bathroom was just too time-consuming. I shook my head in confusion then, too.
Seriously, I understand all too well about emergencies. I had one at a mall once. Javier had a massive, unexpected blowout and my mom had to leave me in the bathroom alongside him and his too-dirty-to-put-back-on pants, so she could buy a clean pair of shorts. It turned out to be the most expensive pair he ever wore—$45—because the nearest restroom happened to be at Bloomingdale’s. OK, fine, that wasn’t in public, per se, but the $45 shorts, the stench in the fancy bathroom at Bloomie’s and the panic that swept over me as I tried to figure out an action plan was no less dramatic —should I toss them out here and leave the stench behind, or walk through the store and toss this mess in a garbage can outside?
Nonetheless, I’m not talking about cases of extreme emergencies, folks. I’m talking about times when it’s just not necessary. Here’s what I worry about:
1. I don’t like the message that peeing in public sends about public nudity at a time when I’m constantly reminding Javier that his private parts are just that, private. They are not meant for anyone but mom, dad, and the doctor to see nor touch. The time to lay the foundation for how he thinks about his body is now. I want him to respect it as well as demand respect for it.
2. There are hygiene issues. People frolic and picnic right next to some of these areas. Think of it this way: There are laws about cleaning up a dog’s poop at most public parks, shouldn’t it be obvious that humans doing anything even remotely similar should also be frowned upon? Just so you know, public urination is against the law in some states. If you don’t believe me, ask the Philly mom who was recently cited $50 for letting her two-year-old pee on a patch of grass.
3. It’s kinda gross. No one likes to watch another person pee or poop, not even a loved one, so why a bunch of strangers? I realize this one mostly applies to crowded areas where folks can see what you’re doing, but still. Remember the Sex and the City episode where Carrie’s politician beau wanted her to pee on him? The tolerance for this is pretty rare.
4. Consider the gender factor. Rarely do you see a mom or dad asking a little girl to squat down behind the hedges. So why is there a residual tolerance for little boys doing it? If we trace history to the time when doing this in public was perfectly normal, I’m sure we’ll all find it was long before public restrooms were invented. I’m sure the cavemen would have loved themselves a port-a-potty, had they had a choice.
5. Finally, and perhaps most important, we live in the era of Smartphones, when every Moe, Dick and Harry has a camera and video at his or her fingertips. The last thing anyone wants is a visual of their kid peeing in the park or sitting on a potty going viral, like it did for a mom in Utah—or worse, ending up the object of some sicko’s affection.
I know parenting is a messy, hectic, contact sport that often requires you to think on your feet and bend the rules. Some would argue that a public, messy accident is much worse than a little incognito urination. I totally agree there are times when this is simply not avoidable, but I firmly believe that the vast majority of the time, it most certainly is. If you don’t believe me, ask Kate Middleton. She recently filed a lawsuit against a magazine for printing topless photos of her sunbathing.
What’s your take? Is letting kids pee in public OK with you?