Parents need to know where necessary rooms are when traveling with kids

February 15, 2001

Parents need to know where necessary rooms are when traveling with kids

I call it The Inevitable.

Do what you will, but you cannot prevent it.

Am I talking about taxes?

No. Do I refer to death? Heavens, no.

Any time you take children to a public place, five minutes after you get there, they have to go to the bathroom.

It does not matter if I was able to coerce three boys into visiting our facility before we left the house. I practically feel the moment coming. We arrive at a store or restaurant and I get a snappy tug on my coat or a voice saying, "Mom!" in a rising pitch.


I know what's coming next. "I havta go." I really want to say, "Go where?" But I know they won't understand my sarcasm, much less appreciate it.

So, when the warning bell sounds, I begin my search. First, I try to spot a sign, signal, flashing light or bonfire that identifies the nearest restroom.

After a quick visual scan, I move to step two: Ask a clerk or salesperson. A look of desperation that says, "Give me directions fast, and give them to me now or you are going to have a 'Clean up on aisle three.' "

When my kids were toddlers, I used to practice this look in the mirror. The trick is to show how much your children need to potty by squinting your eyes and holding your breath while pleading for the use of a toilet.

Once, my desperate look unlocked private restroom facilities at a western-wear clothing store. Not bad for someone dressed in a conventional blue suit and pumps.

Department stores offer the biggest challenge. A road map of sorts must be plotted. Without the aid of an emergency global positioning satellite system, I'm on my own, bobbing and weaving through overstuffed clothing racks.

At least eight other patrons with shopping carts get shoved aside because I am dragging three kids by the hand to "get them to the church on time."

Finally, we arrive. Now we move to the third step of our quest. This is called the "fork in the road." Do I send three little boys into the men's room on their own or do I quickly blindfold and escort them into the ladies' room, hoping for clear sailing for the next 10 minutes?

But wait, an answer has been provided. Quick somebody cue the choir to give us an "Hallelujah" chorus.

There's a family restroom in the store!

Someone in the retail industry has finally wised up. Someone determined my situation was happening every day. My response: "Thank you and what took you soooooo long? We've been dealing with this since the invention of the blue-light special."

Family restrooms provide safety and security for children and far less embarrassment for the parent and child. The concept is simple, and everybody is happy.

Hagerstown YMCA is taking the concept even further with family/special needs locker rooms. These locker areas in the new YMCA will give Moms bringing in boys for swim lessons the appropriate location to change and Dads no more excuses for helping with locker-room duty.

Meanwhile, either Junior gets an eyeful in the women's locker room or Mom has to stand at the door of the men's locker room and shout, "Are you ready yet?" five or six times.

Family restrooms and locker rooms make sense. They make sense because these days parents need to be cautious. As long as there are little children, there will be panicked parents with coats stretched longer on one side dodging and weaving their way through stores.

JoEllen Barnhart is assistant to the director for Frostburg State University's Hagerstown Center. She has three sons.

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