By: Shannon Ralph
“I see penises.”
Imagine this line delivered with the same lack of inflection use by the little boy in The Sixth Sense who said “I see dead people.”
This is the reaction I received from my son recently when I let him use a public men’s room. Never mind that we were in a restaurant and his “I see penises” comment was issued rather loudly.
At the dinner table.
Surrounded by people trying to eat.
Never mind all of that.
My point is that my little boy came back to the table disturbed at having seen penises at the urinal in the men’s room. My son is eight years old. I am sure, by comparison, his own penis would seem altogether lacking.
But penis size is also not the point.
My point—and my struggle—is that I am trying to decide at what age it is appropriate for my son to use a public men’s room alone. Being one half of the parents in a lesbian family, I can’t accompany him to the men’s restroom, and he has reached the age where accompanying me to the women’s restroom no longer possesses that same sweet aura of mystique it once had. He rarely wants to hold my hand anymore. Peeing in the stall next to me really isn’t high on his TO DO list.
Now, I know some perfectly lovely men who whip it out at the urinal on a daily basis. Men I respect. Men I love. Men I trust completely.
But I am leery of sending my son off to the men’s room all alone with strangers. I mean, I am pretty certain most of the men who use the urinals in the men’s room are, like my friends, there for one purpose only. And they are probably as inclined to get out of there quickly as my son is.
But I don’t know these men.
I don’t know these penises my son speaks of.
I have no control over them.
And I think that is my biggest problem with the men’s room. At eight years old, I still want to control the world my son inhabits. I want it to be a place full of happiness. And love. And comfort. And butterflies. And puppies. And fuzzy bunnies. And unicorns that fart pixie dust.
But most of all, I want it to be a safe world.
I assume, as a general rule, men’s public restrooms are safe. But I look at my son—a tiny blonde wisp of a boy—and I just can’t bring myself to take that risk.
At some point, we have to give our beloved children over to society. We have to hand them to the urinals of the world and pray that they are okay.
But that time is not now.
That place is not the men’s room.
Maybe next year, but for the time being, my son will continue peeing in the stall next to his mommy.
I’ll happily pay his future therapy bills.