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Trying to Make the World a Bit More Family Friendly

Certain situations in public venues can be awkward for parents and their children.

This weekend I was lucky enough to have a mother and son St. Patrick’s Day and, once again, take my son to see The Dropkick Murphy’s. Yes, for those of you who follow “Life in the Mom Lane,” this was our  this year.

Everything was perfect and we had a great day but I was reminded of something that, at this stage of motherhood, I had almost completely forgotten about. As moms and dads of small children know all too well, there are certain obstacles when you are one parent out with an opposite sex child. 

For us, security at the concert posed a bit of a dilemma. As we approached the entrance there were two lines. One line, all the way to the left, for women only and another, all the way to the right, for men.  Nothing whatsoever in the middle for us. I appreciate the fact that security was tight and I totally understand why the lines are divided but what exactly is a parent to do?

Yes, at 12 years old my son is bigger, stronger and likely tougher than I am. But I didn’t find myself quite ready to send him to the opposite side of the building alone and risk losing him in a very large crowd.

Frankly, I’m not sure that I would have been comfortable losing another adult in the crowd never mind a 12-year-old boy. Seating was general admission and I had no idea what was inside for a designated meeting spot. 

Fortunately, after a brief discussion with the security guard, she agreed and checked him out with me. Hardly a crisis but a small reminder of what life was like when he was younger.  

For moms and dads alike there is nothing worse than being out with a young child who needs to use the bathroom and not knowing exactly where to go. In this case I have to admit that moms, without a doubt, have it easier than dads.  For the most part women “get it” and a young boy inside of a ladies room is hardly a shocking site. Not the same, however, for a father and a young daughter.

Perhaps I have a kind face but I can’t tell you how many times I have been out somewhere and had a dad ask me to “keep an eye” on his little girl in the bathroom. For a father I’m certain that there is no worse feeling than having to trust a complete stranger no matter how innocent they might look. 

These days, however, things are beginning to change and “family restrooms” as well as “family dressing rooms” are cropping up in more and more establishments. One of the happiest moments for me, as a mom, was the day we went to Fenway Park and I realized that they had added two new “family restrooms” over the winter. 

Proving that Fenway really is working hard to be a family friendly environment, they have security at each restroom making sure they are used by those that they are intended for, families as well as handicapped patrons.

Slowly, many establishments seem to be catching on and these days you can even head to the “family dressing room” when its time for back to school shopping. I guess my question here is “what took so long?”

I still remember one of my worst moments as a mom was a day when I brought my son, probably no more than four years old, into the locker room at my gym to go to the bathroom. One woman, clearly not a mom, yelled at me until she was blue in the face for having the nerve to bring a “man” into a women’s locker room. Seriously? A man must have to be at least six or seven years old, right?

I was embarrassed, my son was embarrassed and, frankly, a number of other women in the area were too horrified to speak. Who was right and who was wrong remains debatable but, alas, why put parents and other patrons through this kind of torture?

Kudos to Fenway Park for leading the way. As far as I’m concerned every public establishment should be “family friendly” with appropriate facilities. After all, as parents we want to spend as much time as possible enjoying our kids not worrying about where we can and can’t bring them safely. 

Johanna Swift Hart April 17, 2012 at 06:29 PM
You make some great points, and I agree that family-friendly options are long overdue, especially for restrooms. My son is 9, and although I’m not a big worrier I stand anxiously outside the door every time he goes into a busy public men’s room, largely because of the lack of privacy in men’s facilities. I find myself scrutinizing every man I see going in or out, as though I could spot an exhibitionist or pervert and deter him with my glare, even though I know that’s crazy and more than a little unfair. I was also scolded once by an angry older woman for bringing my young kids into the “women’s" locker room at the Waltham YMCA even though the “girls’” locker room was closed for repairs and there were no family changing rooms. I was dumbstruck by her meanness and selfishness, and had to remind myself that her unhappiness probably had little to do with the presence of my children, who for once were actually behaving themselves. I hope the trend toward more family-friendly options continues. I’m reminded of the attitude of a restaurant owner I worked for years ago. It was a very nice place in a ski town out West, but he had a large supply of crayons and an enticing children’s menu. He’d often say, “We treat kids really well here, because if they have a good time they tend to bring their parents back again."

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