Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Change-room protocol

I imagine this can be a heated subject but I'm opening up the can of worms regardless.

There is a point when boys should not be in women's change rooms and girls should not be in men's change rooms. This is why most facilities have a family change room or "alternative needs" change room, so that families of mixed genders can change together. For me, that age is around the end of senior kindergarten... around 5 years old. You may think it should be a bit older or a bit younger. That's fine. Maybe you think that we shouldn't set an age and let a family of all girls with one brother, change in the women's change room regardless of their ages.

I forcefully disagree.

No matter how hard we try to make the human body natural to kids, they reach an age when boys giggle about vaginas and girls giggle about penises, never mind if they actually see one... the fits and giggles my girls have over seeing Henry's penis is mind-blowing. Sometimes, even though we've always used proper names in our house, Emily actually calls it his "thing."

Mind-blowing, I tell you and yet totally normal from what I've heard from other parents.

We have an open family that discusses everything. We've been resolute in telling the girls that human bodies are wonderful things, that men and women have different parts, that there is no reason to laugh at that, that it's okay to see each other naked, that you should never be embarrassed about your body, etc etc etc. And yet, while my kids totally bought into that for the first several years of their lives, lately it's been all fits and giggles.

Clearly, this is just part of growing up... a part of human nature.

And so, this is why there is an age limit to sharing change rooms and they should be respected.

And why I was very surprised to find a 9-year-old boy in the change room at the pool this morning. And also why I was very disturbed to find him watching one of my girls shower after I'd returned to our locker to fetch the soap and shampoo. He had no direct supervision, no one keeping an eye on where he was, his mother helping her daughters shower a few aisles over. I became enraged mama bear and told him to leave.... NOW and what he was doing was TOTALLY INAPPROPRIATE (would any of us honestly stand in the doorway to a shower and watch anyone we didn't know shower? That's just creepy no matter your age). Maybe he was just curious, yes. But I had to ask him to go two or three times amidst a number of weak excuses about thinking that was his shower and it left me feeling angry and disturbed.

Which is why I met with the pool manager afterward and asked her to post more signs about the family change room and age restrictions. It's also why, if I see him there again tomorrow (which I likely will), I will be keeping a giant eye on that kid and do what I should have done today.... march him right over to his mother and give her an earful.

My public service announcement for today comes down to this: please don't flaunt the rules of the gendered changed rooms lest your other gendered child becomes creepy and weird. His or her curiosity should be addressed at home, not in a public change room where I then am put in the position of protecting my kids in a place where they should be allowed to feel secure about their bodies and the ability to walk around without covering up. Given his age, his mother should have been all over him to stay by her side instead of allowing him to roam free weirding out all the other women and girls in the change area.

Or better yet, they should have used the family change room.


Julie said...

better yet, he's 9! let him change in the men's change room on his own while you stand at the door and wait for him.

totally creepy and weird and so not OK. I'm actually surprised that he would even want to go into the women's change room.

I'm already feeling a little weird bringing the jellybean into the women's change room, and he's only 4. I wish our pool had family changing rooms.

little b said...

Definitely weird, no matter the person's age. I'm kind of looking forward to hearing about what happens next time, if there is a next time.

Shan said...

Yeah that would have made me very uncomfortable as well. Hopefully the next time you go is uneventful.

Julie - I'm surprised he wanted to go as well. At 9 Abby is all about doing as much as she can without me hanging around.