You know, facebook is weird.
I feel in some ways like I'm more myself on this blog, though it's a public blog and anyone in the whole world could be reading it. On facebook... I'm a little bit discriminating about who my "friends" are, realizing that no matter what your privacy settings, it's a public space. But still, people who go to my mom's church read my status updates on facebook! What would they think of my mom if they knew she raised a daughter who (gasp!) voted for Obama and, like, doesn't believe that gay people have a secret agenda to corrupt the youth and destroy America!
Anyway, what I wrote on facebook was "How old do boys need to be before you let them use a public mens restroom? Mine do not want to use the LADIES room, MOM cause only little kids go to the bathroom with their moms! Right now I decide on a case by case basis. I'm generally okay with it if they go in together and wait for each other."
I was kind of looking for opinions like, "My kid could be trusted not to put his hands in the urinal at about age six." Or maybe, "I think boys about 7 or 8 years old should be able to manage on their own, as long as you've had some basic discussions about safety."
And a lady (literally a woman who attends my childhood church) replied with a pretty much fear-based response including "it only takes 30 seconds, sometimes less, to regret the convenience of the men's room."
Really? At five and seven years old I can't let them out of my sight into the world for even 30 seconds?
Of course I want my kids to be safe. Of course I don't want to take crazy risks.
But here's the thing...
I want my kids to take for granted that we have confidence that they can handle themselves away from us. Wait, that didn't make sense... I'm not going to let them play on the side of a highway, or leave them alone to play in a swimming pool. But age-appropriate gradual increase in independence? I'm all for that! People PEE. Every day. Going to the bathroom should not be an event.
And ALSO, while I'm on a bit of a rant, I hate the message that men are so untrustworthy, that masculinity is so terrifyingly powerful, that maleness is so dangerous...
I heard that message loud and clear as a young girl and I still hear it today.
"Don't walk alone at night, especially near hedges or areas where MEN could be HIDING, LYING IN WAIT, with their UNCONTROLLED SEXUALITY!"
"Women need to take self-defense courses, and carry mace, and avoid parking lots, and make sure to lock their doors, and check the back seat before they get in the car JUST IN CASE!"
(Another aside-- I hate the flip side of that message that as a women if you ARE walking alone, or not locking your doors, or going to your car in a parking lot that YOU ARE ASKING FOR IT.)
"Men shouldn't be elementary school teachers, it's a set up for a dangerous situation." (I have heard parents state that they would request their child be moved to a different classroom in the assigned teacher was male.)
I understand that there are sexual predators, and some bad Catholic priests, and senators.
I don't know what I'm getting at exactly. Mostly I'm frustrated because I want to give the message to my boys that 1) I have confidence in them, I know they can handle stuff, even difficult stuff, without me hovering over them. 2) I know they are capable and trustworthy to make good decisions. 3) The world for them is a generally safe place and they can generally expect to be to be treated with decency (I want them to recognize when that's not the case, obviously, and stand up for themselves. But I don't want them to approach life with the assumption and fear that people are out to get them.) and 4) Men are okay people, masculinity is not generically bad and untrustworthy.
Am I the only one who feels like men tend to be portrayed as either weak and ineffectual or arrogant, dangerous jerks?
Damn it, it's just a bathroom...