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Fierce Mommy: And It Was All Yellow…


a blogumn by Stephanie Myers

Last week I was introduced to a phenomenon that bothers me more than a little bit and I’m not sure if it’s just me.  My son Aidan and I went over to the Children’s Playground in Golden Gate Park to enjoy the return of sunshine and balmy weather after a week of interminable rain and gray. While on the swings, I saw a boy, about 5, come out from a stand of trees that ran along the swings.  As his dad plopped him into the swing next to ours  I overheard his mother ask, “Did you go pee in the bushes?” in a way that one might ask “did you go in the potty?” They continued to remind their son that when he needed to go, he could just go….anywhere in the bushes.

I was sure for a moment that I misheard.  I mean, I’ve only ever heard of this kind of thing twice before.

mexicantilepeeOnce in the movie Kids, and once in a novel.  One of my favorite books, The Nanny Diaries, touched on it when, during the mother-nanny hand-off at the park, the nanny asks the mom where the bathrooms are and the mom answers, “Oh, anywhere.” to the disbelief of the nanny.

Now Aidan is in the middle of potty training, so I know what it’s like to be in desperate need of a bathroom. And yes, the closest bathroom to the Children’s Playground could stand to be closer.   However, it has never occurred to me for a single minute to tell my kid to go pee in the brush in public.  It’s never occurred to me that peeing outside is meant to be anything other than something you do on a long road trip when it just can’t wait.

It has never, ever, crossed my mind to encourage my son to think that the outdoors is akin to the toilet at home and not try to help him become more aware of when he needs to go.   If he thinks that he can drop and pee wherever we are, well, i don’t see that playing too well when we are out anywhere there aren’t bushes or trees handy.  What do you want them to do when you’re shopping at the supermarket?  Wander away to the floral department?  How exactly do you expect the kid to be able to recognize they have a full bladder with enough time to make it to the bathroom if in any other situation you tell them they can just wait til the last minute and go in the bushes.

When we go out anywhere other than our home (during potty training) Aidan wears a pull-up just in case he doesn’t make it to the bathroom in time.  We still have bathroom breaks before and after and I check in with him throughout our playground visit.  I wonder if parents should be teaching their boys (or girls) that its perfectly fine to whip it out in such a public place.  And other than in a honest emergency (or camping),  isn’t it more than a bit counter productive to potty training to encourage and reinforce peeing outside?

Another part of the problem I have with the public peeing is that, more often than you’d think,  there’s no effort to shield, and there are often adults without children sitting on benches in plain view.  I was similarly bothered over the summer when kids would routinely strip off bottoms as well as tops and then walk across the playground to play in the water fountain. Sure there are signs posted around the playground proclaiming that no adults without a child are allowed…but really, who’s checking?  I don’t want to teach my son to be ashamed of his body, but I’m inclined to be more cautious about this type of behavior in public and err on the side of caution.

Having been through the potty training thing with my daughter, and now with Aidan, I don’t buy the reasons parents give in defense of it.  I sort of feel like the moms turn it into a “Tee hee, boys will be boys” thing. I am aware that boys often train later and with more difficulty, but still…if girls can survive without doing this, why can’t boys? I’m probably reaching, but I think this is how we get frat boys peeing…well, anywhere.

A part of me (very small) can understand why mothers allow their kids to do this. It’s easy.  You don’t have to get up and shlepp over to the nearest bathroom.  You don’t have to plan for an outing and bear in mind where the nearest bathroom is…because the bathroom is the nearest tree or fence.  Reading different message boards about this little practice,  parents even admitted to just letting their kids pee in their own yard…which, yeah its your yard but really?  Is your kid going to magically understand when you suddenly ask them not to do that when you host a barbeque at your house?

I think it’s inappropriate. It’s disrespectful of everyone else who has to see it going on, smell it later, explain to their own kids why they’re not allowed to do the same, etc. etc.  More than that, where do we draw the line? Can 5-year-olds do it? How about 6? How about older? How about adults? I know there are a lot of things that little kids can do that become inappropriate at older ages, to be sure but I think it’s more than appropriate to teach children to respect public property and other citizens’ feelings.   To me that means using a toilet, not any tree you feel like. I think is bizarre and inappropriate for it to be done in an urban, non-emergency situation.

Aidan is now nearly 3 1/2 and doing so well with training he’s walking around in underpants whenever he’s home or at daycare and he’s got enough of an awareness of himself to let me know when he needs to go visit the bathroom….and he hasn’t peed at the playground once.

. photo credit: David Dennis