When you gotta go……

by valerie

Toilets and Philosophy. Yes, we’re going there, so bear with me for a minute….

Ok, so you’ve got a kid who really needs to use the baño. Oftentimes, finding a public washroom can be challenging enough. So let’s say you do manage to find one (congrats!), and then you find yourself faced with another hurdle — gender*. You’re a solo dad or mom, and you’ve got a young child of the opposite gender. ¿Que hago?

(*This post assumes gender binarism for example purposes only. Non-binary gender folks can face additional challenges, and I can’t write this post without directly acknowledging my respect and support for this population.)

Some public toilets are single-user and not gender specific – that helps a lot. Like when I attempted to get my daughter to use the public toilet on the street in downtown Reykjavik, Iceland. “I will NOT pee in a pole!” Apparently, beggars can be choosers.

Reykjavik Public Toilet
Public toilet in Reykjavik, Iceland. To be fair, the pole Leina was presented with was far more urban and raw than the above shows….

But let’s assume you have a multi-user toilet facility, it’s gender specific, and you have a willing child (now don’t you regret not peeing in that pole, Leina?!). Only you can determine when your child is capable of using the facility solo and, of course, much also depends on where you are and the conditions of said facility. If you are uncomfortable having your child go into the washroom solo, for whatever reason, my advice is this: take them into your gender-identified washroom. Seriously, no one really cares! There may be times when this option is impractical – if so, I’d follow up with this advice: ask for help.

Gender Neutral toilet sign

Now here’s where I merge toilets with philosophy. Like the above, when we assume other people around the world understand our needs and our responsibilities, we can approach life from a new perspective. Instead of a ‘stranger danger’ approach, what if we saw humanity as basically good? That the number of wonderful people in this world far outweighs the number of ‘bad’?

I have met some absolutely incredible people when traveling, and having children along has opened even more doors to human connections — because instead of just seeing me as a walking wallet (tourist), my kids act as a bridge for people to see me as ‘mom’, ‘cook’, ‘homework helper’, ‘counselor’, etc.

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Instead of telling my kids “don’t talk to strangers!”, I actually encourage them to talk to strangers. I mean, obviously you’ve gotta be smart, and know when something doesn’t feel/look/sound right. But when you make good, human connections our world expands and deepens in such delightful ways.

Asking for directions, seeking recommendations for local restaurants, striking up conversation with someone on the bus…..And if you have a child who is old enough to use the washroom themselves, but you both still need a little bit of guidance, ask someone nearby to help you out. When traveling in Iceland, I’ve had men offer to take my son through the washroom/shower room routine at the local pool. At 10 years old, he was confident enough to do it solo, but I just loved how that option was present.

So don’t be afraid to ask for help – using your senses and your smarts, you’ll discover so many beautiful humans out there!

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I let a gaggle of children use my camera while I braided their hair; this is an example of the footage they gifted to me

2 thoughts on “When you gotta go……

  1. OMG this post is cracking me up! We just bowed out of a trip to China because I was trying to figure out how to manage a potty training toddler and a preschooler while using the squat toilets (without them peeing all over us) and it made my head spin. I have 2 boys and I figure they will be using the Women’s restrooms for as long as they need!

    Liked by 1 person

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