Written by Cal Wilson

In The News

Old enough to hold his own?

A sign in an Oklahoma mall banning boys over the age of six from going into the ladies WC has sparked an internet furore. Cal Wilson adds her penneth worth.

Manneken Pis - Bruxelles - Belgique

Photo by Myrabella/Wikimedia Commons. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

There’s a photocopied notice that’s been shared all over Facebook in the past few days. It reads:

Boys over 6
years of age use
Men’s restroom

Thank you

What looks like a rather dull haiku is actually from an outlet mall in Oklahoma where it seems six-year-old boys are the scourge of women’s toilets. My son is nearly six and I wouldn’t let him in a men’s bathroom alone: quite apart from worrying about anything more sinister, he’s a danger even when he goes in our bathroom alone.

A couple of months ago, while he was performing his ablutions, he put the plug in, turned on the tap and then went off to kindergarten without another thought. I got home seven hours later, and discovered our hallway had turned into a swamp.

I don’t think our insurance would cover a flooded shopping mall.

I recently had swimming lessons at the same centre as my son. In a place that’s literally awash with children there’s a sign that says: “No boys over the age of seven allowed in the girls changing rooms”. After the very awkward day a school-aged boy sat and watched me get changed behind my towel I think that’s fair enough. The facility has a family changing room on offer and there’s also a foyer area where the ladies on reception can keep an eye on your child if you need to park them for a couple of minutes.

Toilets are a bit different though: there are doors and it’s not like you’re taking your clothes off in public view (if you are, you may need to reconsider your bathroom technique).

Six just seems way too young to navigate the gents. What if something goes wrong? What if there’s someone creepy in there? What if he locks himself in, or can’t find any toilet paper, or gets washed down a urinal? (It’s a long time since I’ve been in a men’s room; I may have remembered the scale wrong.)

When discussing the issue with a friend, who has a boy the same age as mine, she decided that her son was allowed to go to the men’s toilets unaccompanied…when he was 14. She then said, “No, no, I’m kidding,” and revised it to 18. Then to, “When he’s married. With a family of his own.”

Obviously it depends on the maturity of the individual child but I’m thinking around 10 or 11. Until then I’ll happily put up with any disgruntlement or disapproval and take him into the ladies with me.

It’s great that family bathrooms seem to be on the increase, although, while you try to plan ahead and arrange pit stops at those places, small boys do not have an early warning system. The Manneken Pis fountain in Brussels was probably just meant to be a statue of a boy standing still but he got caught short while being sculpted and, well, there you go.

I’m always so grateful if we hurry into the loos and someone says, “Would he like to go first?” Everyone generally seems very understanding of the situation and provided your child is well behaved I don’t really see the issue.

When I finally feel like my son’s old enough to go to the men’s by himself I’m going to make him wear a GoPro camera on his head, like a miners lamp, so I still can keep an eye on him.


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Written by Cal Wilson

Cal Wilson is a Kiwi who calls Australia home. Comedian, Writer, amateur Cat Lady.