Potty Talk: The Public Restroom Sagas

Quite awhile ago, I noticed that Addison & Mackenzie seemed to have a preference for doing their potty business at home.  Even back in the diaper days, they rarely needed a change if we were out in public.

Neither Jeremy nor I are fans of public restrooms, so the fact that our children seemed to inherently dislike them may have secretly delighted us.  We enjoyed so many fewer trips to germ-infested, perpetually-smelly bathrooms and changing stations during the girls' first couple of years.

Enter: potty training.

I have mentioned several times that A & M have unbelievably good control over their bodily functions.  These were never the children who got too caught up in their play and forgot to use the bathroom...they just had no problem holding it until they remembered they had to go.  We also didn't waste our time asking if they needed to go every thirty minutes; they go every few hours, at a maximum.

When the girls were potty trained, we realized their abhorrence of public restrooms was going to continue.  Great, I thought, less time hovering in a bathroom stall, trying to keep little hands from touching any surface!  Eventually, though, we realized that being out and about without diapers and with kids who would not or could not do their business in a public place could cause a few glitches in our on-the-go lifestyle.

We quickly learned to recognize the signs of a child needing to go potty.  Sitting in a restaurant, just after our food was served, Mackenzie might say, "I'm ready to go home."  We would explain that we just got our food, everyone was still eating, blah, blah, blah....until it finally dawned on someone to say, "OH, do you need to use the bathroom?"  Now, I don't know about you, but I don't enjoy being rushed through my meal by a three-year old who just wants to go home so she can use her OWN potty.  I'm sympathetic to that tendency--really, I am--but I have my limits. 

We realized we couldn't drop what we were doing and run home every time someone needed to go potty.  And what about the times we were out all day long?  What about car trips and vacation?  At times when we were out for extended periods of time, the girls were pushing even their limits to "hold it", which I knew could not be healthy.  It was time to get over the public restroom hurdle.

I started encouraging the girls to try to go when we were out somewhere.  From the time they were potty trained, they would usually agree to go try, but it was usually a short-lived and fruitless effort.  They were scared of the loud flush, or the hand dryer, or any number of other little things that couldn't be helped.  I don't really know what I did differently--maybe I display more enthusiasm and less disdain for the bathrooms?  I do remember encouraging the girls to flush the potties themselves, even when they were loud (and despite those germy handles!) and to laugh over the roar to show that they weren't afraid.  I remember one day specifically, in a Target bathroom, where it really seemed to click for them and they started showing much less fear of the flush and even used the hand dryer.  Major goal achieved!

Since that day, the girls have used many, many restrooms.  They are no longer timid and afraid, and like most curious three-year olds, they now probably request to potty more when we are out somewhere than they do at home.  As my mom says, it's the stage of checking out every bathroom in the tri-state area. 

But you know what?  I'll take it.  We aren't having to stress about making sure the girls go before leaving home, knowing it will be hours before we return.  We don't have to rush through meals to get home to our bathroom.  I might have to trek across the restaurant once or twice, but I can handle that.  Conquering this fear of public restrooms has made our lives so much easier, and for that, I will brave the germs.

Pass the hand soap, please!


  1. We went through a "checking every public potty" phase, but - knock on wood! - that seems to have been relatively short-lived. I have explained to the girls that we'd prefer to go at home. The majority of the time here in town, we're not gone long enough to warrant a trip to the public potty. When we go to the zoo or something, though, the girls are fine to do their business when needed.

    My new trick is asking them to pick a tile (or whatever) to stand on...and/or asking them to put their hands in their pockets...or hold onto their earlobes...something -- anything!!! -- to keep them from touching every last surface. Ack!!! And I can even handle that better than them opening the stall door on me when I'm going potty. That's the WORST!

    All in all, it's not too bad...but I'll be thankful when their hands are a bit less curious. ;)

  2. I have one of each now, which is horrible! One who always needs to go but won't, and another who is eager to check things out. In fact tonight, Emma learned that some potties have blue water, and that yellow and blue make green!

  3. Mandy, I love it! teaching even while peeing :)

  4. Love how you desensitised your girls :)

    Mine will go anywhere - I really like to haul our potty seat with us but sometimes I forget and then it's "don't touch! NO KENDRA" - drives me mad

    I love Mandy's idea about keeping your fingers wherever!

  5. Too funny! Phoebe has issues with toilets that flush on sensors. She was so fidgety they thought she was off and flush on her. I had to start putting my pocket book in front of the sensor every time she went in a public bathroom.

  6. Yay girls! We never had that problem, we just have to go in every.single.bathroom.ever.created. They actually do go, so I can't be that annoyed :)

    I now just have to teach them not to comment on other bathroom users bodily functions. Lexi announced the other day that the lady next to her farted. Oy.


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