August 19 09

Meet Sam.


We know this because Sam was wearing a name tag. Sam was a little boy who liked to steal trains from little girls in the children’s book section of Barnes and Noble. Sam was also an unaccompanied minor. Sam played bullied without any parental guidance (and I’m pretty sure that B&N is a PG kind of place) for a good hour while our girls desperately tried to take back the Thomas and their big brother/cousin defended their honor.

and then, out of nowhere, came Sam’s mom. and Sam’s mom said this: “Sam, Mommy is going to go potty now. I’ll be back in a little bit. and then we are going home.”


Really, Sam’s mom? You are really, seriously leaving your small child ALONE in a Barnes and Noble while you go off to potty alone? SERIOUSLY?

Sam’s mom baffled me almost as much as Patricia Heaton.

Now, this actually is a good segue into a question I have been meaning to ask.

(anyone know a good cleaning lady in the Atlanta area?)

oh, wait, no, that wasn’t it. but I DO need answers to that…

but, my boy is almost 7. Yes, he does still have a blanket, but he is now at the age where he is too old to be coming into public bathrooms with me. He doesn’t want to have anything to do with girls, and he certainly doesn’t want to drop his drawers in front of me, and the whole turn-around-and-face-the-wall-to-give-me-privacy thing no longer works with him. But, I am hesitant to send him into the bathroom alone.

I mean…there are FREAKS out there.

and I don’t mean freaks like little boys who want to wear their batting helmets all the livelong day


no, I mean REAL freaks.

Today at Target, where I had a cart full of perishables and two little girls in tow and we had to make a mad dash for the bathroom from the absolute FURTHEST place from the bathrooms and I panicked a little bit because dude refused to go into the ladies’…so, I opened the door to the men’s room and said in a REALLY loud voice…

“Josh, I’m standing outside waiting for you. With two VERY large bodyguards!”

as if this would deter any sick pervs who were hanging out in the bathroom




but seriously…what do I do?

I am terrified to allow him to go to the bathroom alone. But he is NOT going to go into the bathroom with me.

I suppose I could get Sam’s mom to take him to potty. heh.

  1. Can’t he just go into a stall next to you? Or does he not want to go into the ladies with you at all?
    .-= NaomiJesson´s last blog ..No More Monkeys Jumping on the Bed! =-.

    Comment by NaomiJesson on August 19, 2009
  2. He doesn’t even want to go into the women’s bathroom AT ALL…

    Comment by ali on August 19, 2009
  3. It isn’t easy raising kids today. I think you did a very good thing today. What the hell was Sam’s mom thinking. Has she ever seen the news!!!
    .-= Deborah Pucci´s last blog ..HOME FROM VACATION =-.

    Comment by Deborah Pucci on August 19, 2009
  4. That is a tough question and I’m curious to know what others have to say. you did the best you could, under the circumstances. Thank goodness for family washrooms. In some places, they have a rule about using the gender appropriate bathroom/change room after age 7. But they’re still so little then. What do you do?

    Comment by Tamara on August 19, 2009
  5. Man that’s a toughie! I have two girls and will hopefully never have to face that problem. (Yeah, I know, some help I am).

    Also I don’t know of any good housekeepers in Atlanta, but if you move to Milton I do.

    Comment by Mom On The Run on August 19, 2009
  6. My sister was a child development teacher, and she had what I thought was a great solution to this problem. She said the Mom can wait outside the Men’s room door, but tell the son to sing a song loud enough for her to hear the whole time he is in there. Then tell him if he STOPS singing, you are coming in to get him. It’s an idea that doesn’t seem weird to other people, and might make you feel more comfortable that he’s not even talking to strange men in the restroom.

    Comment by Meg on August 19, 2009
  7. Wow. Life would be so much easier if I were like Sam’s mom. It would save me a lot of time an energy to not have to watch my kids. Maybe I could even leave them in the car and go in to do errands. Yep, it would be awesome. Until the kids got kidnapped. or hurt. or someone called the police. and then it wouldnt be so awesome.

    about the bathroom thing-my boys are 5 & 6 and they sometimes go in the men’s room. I send both boys in together and i stand outside the door.

    but one option is to send him in and have him check to see if it’s empty…if its not, wait till the possible creep leaves.
    .-= Shosh´s last blog ..Pictures and a contest =-.

    Comment by Shosh on August 19, 2009
  8. Thankfully, my 7 year old has the benefit of his older brother going in with him, where I quite believe they are the world’s fastest bathroom users because they’re in and out like they’re pulling off a heist and the alarm just sounded. But when I don’t have that back up, I stand right there outside the men’s room. Seriously, my kid is in and out so fast, I don’t think he even has to go most of the time, he just wants to see what it looks like in there.

    Oh, and as the one who works back in the BN children’s department, I kind of seriously despise the Sam’s parents out there. It’s crazy how often kids are dumped back there, and those kids are ALWAYS rude and loud.
    .-= fadkog´s last blog ..…and school comes along just to end it =-.

    Comment by fadkog on August 19, 2009
  9. seriously, sam’s mom is totally insane! I can’t even believe it! Not only the leaving your kid alone at a B&N but leaving him alone with his name on his back so a kidnapper can be like, “hey Sam, your mom told me to take you outside… she’s waiting for you in her car…” I mean, what an idiot.

    Comment by rayli on August 19, 2009
  10. oh and the scary freak in the bathroom scenario… was that from a jodi picoult book? in a restaurant? sounds familiar.

    Comment by rayli on August 19, 2009
  11. HI! first time commenter here, but reader for months now—I have a 17 yr old and a 19 yr old, and while I can’t remember exactly how I handled this, I can tell you that you I recently read something about this very same thing on another blog.

    And no, I can’t tell you whose blog that is/was because I’m in the midst of swiss cheese brain aka perimenopause.

    One of the key things I took away from this blog post though, is that even if you stand right outside the bathroom door, that will not be enough of some pervert is in there, and does a show and tell type thing–which is almost as perverse as actual touching. It really got me thinking, I would not have thought of this angle.

    Also, if you ever see Sam again, and he’s “home alone” or at B&N alone, you can take his little hand, and walk him to an info booth, and have the employee announce that there’s a lost parent.

    Get this woman on guard. She’s a nutjob, and she should be shaken, hard, or at least, shaken up a bit. She might lose her kid one day, and we might be reading about it in the paper!

    Comment by julie on August 19, 2009
  12. Yep. Kids are too difficult for me.

    Comment by slynnro on August 19, 2009
  13. Okay, I’m laughing because I didn’t even notice that she left him there alone – I was laughing at the “GO POTTY.” Who shouts “mommy’s going to go potty”!? IN PUBLIC. Like, around other adults. Is that just me? Otherwise, you’re doing great with the whole bodyguard strategy. I’d keep that up. Yup!

    Comment by Haley-O on August 19, 2009
  14. I seem to recall addressing that issue by making my son stand outside the ladies’ room while I went in and hollering to him repeatedly (“Are you okay?!” “Yes.” “Still out there?!?” “Duh. Yes.”) Once I came out I’d send him into the men’s room and repeat the drill with him inside and me outside.

    As far as Sam is concerned, it’s a shame you couldn’t rely on some bookstore employee to confront the mother, but my experience with bookstore employees (having been one myself) is that they are much more interested in discussing books and not too keen to confront out-of-control customers.

    Comment by feefifoto on August 19, 2009
  15. I’m pretty sure at one point I was told that if any strangers did something weird or scared me, I was to scream in a really big voice. Besides that, I think my parents and babysitters relied on the notion that if there were other people in there, they would stop something.

    Comment by Tutugirl on August 19, 2009
  16. With my son, I’d crack the men’s room door open, and yell obnoxiously “anyone in there?”… if not, I’d send him in. With the explicit instruction to use the stall/urinal closest to the door, and to ANSWER me when I called him – which I did, repeatedly. No answer meant mommy was coming in. Only had to do that once in the beginning, and he made sure to answer me every time afterwards. I also had no issue playing the bitch and letting any men walking UP to the restroom know that they could use it when my child came out, and not until then. I got some weird looks, but it worked.

    A lot of places now have a single bathroom for handicapped or family use – which means only one person at a time, and you can stand right outside the door.

    Comment by Kay on August 19, 2009
  17. At the Target we go to, there’s a pharmacy with a single-person bathroom next to the waiting area.

    I didn’t know it was there for a few years, until I had triplets, of course. It’s so much easier to corral in a locked room than a tiny stall.
    .-= loren´s last blog ..Get me away from her =-.

    Comment by loren on August 20, 2009
  18. Not to be all DRAMA, but I am literally stunned that a mother would leave her child unattended in a public place like Barnes and Noble. STUNNED. It gives me the heebie jeebies.

    Comment by whoorl on August 20, 2009
  19. Recently saw a article on this exact thing in Dear Abby so you might google to see if you can read her archives. Basically though I would attempt to go places that have the family bathrooms. If that’s not possible then I would send him in and make him keep talking to you as he is in there going potty..the second he stops talkin..he get’s walked in on. Otherwise I did once ask a man that worked at a local store to go into the bathroom and see if anyone was in there before I sent my step son in. Call me over protective..but I’d hate to have to kill someone myself because they touched one of my kids…I’m just saying. Oh and by the way…I think that woman who left her kid unattended should be smacked senseless..oh wait she already had no sense..ok she should be smacked anyways.

    Comment by Catherine on August 20, 2009
  20. I would have your son use the handicapped single toilet where-ever that’s an option.

    Comment by Kelly on August 20, 2009
  21. I have the same issue with my daughter, except it’s started earlier because men’s public washrooms are so nasty.

    In fact, when we were going to visit my parents at the beginning of the month, I considered taking VIA (post-strike discount + free kid = mega deal) but decided not to solely because I couldn’t take her to the bathroom on the train.

    Comment by SciFi Dad on August 20, 2009
  22. Try Angie’s List ( for your search for a housecleaner. I use them for everything, and it’s totally worth the membership.

    Comment by Avitable on August 20, 2009
  23. Sending my children in to a public bathroom is one of the things that makes me the most uncomfortable as a parent. I was just starting to think that maybe I could allow Julia to use bathrooms on her own if we were at the pool or at a restaurant and then I read about a 10 year old girl who was raped in the bathroom at her community pool (in the states somewhere, I think Cali). And that scared the fuck out of me.

    I read through these comments pretty carefully, because I have wondered what I will do with Oliver when he gets to the point where it’s not cool to use the ladies bathroom. I like the idea of having him sing to you from inside the bathroom. I’m also in favour of walking right in to the men’s bathroom and checking it out first before he uses it. Seriously. I have no shame. I don’t give a fuck if it bothers people…I only care about my kid being safe.

    Comment by mamatulip on August 20, 2009
  24. I think you totally did the right thing. I know some moms who have their guys talk to them and warn them that if they (the boy) stops talking, mom is coming in.

    Either way, I think you handled the situation perfectly. I can’t imagine how scary that must be.

    Comment by ClassyFabSarah on August 20, 2009
  25. I don’t have kids but I think the reader who made the suggestion about having Josh sing to you the whole time he’s in there is a great one. Good luck with the cleaning lady search!

    Comment by Jen on August 20, 2009
  26. So my son is almost 6 and has refused to use the ladies room though sometimes I can coax him into it. But when I can’t I tell him I am giving him to the count of 15 and then I’m coming in. He is really quick (I think most males are) and I know this doesn’t give him time to wash his hands, but I would rather use a little hand santitizer later than deal with pervs AT. ALL.

    Comment by Sarah on August 20, 2009
  27. I used to be in charge of the kid’s department at a B&N, and let me tell you – EVERY DAY there was a “Sam’s Mom” or dad or both that considered it a day-care. I always tried to stop them before they left and tell them, hey, I’m very busy and not a babysitter – you need to supervise your children. More often than not I was ignored or told ‘they’ll be fine.’ And inevitably, the kid was either a bully or a destructive force of nature. Employees can only do so much before “Sam’s Mom” threatens to sue, so if other customers were willing to step in and report an unattended child, it sure made our job easier!
    As for the bathroom, one thing I’ve seen friends do was ask a store employee to accompany their child or verify that the restroom was empty for them. Might be easier, if your son doesn’t like the singing idea.

    Comment by jen on August 20, 2009
  28. And by two big bodyguards you mean your boobs, right?

    Comment by sam {temptingmama} on August 20, 2009
  29. My 4 year old refuses to go into the women’s restroom with me anymore. His dad and grandpa introduced him to the magic of urinals and he was hooked. But he’s only four!! I let him go in the men’s room but reiterate the no talking to strangers rule and I count the seconds until he emerges.

    Comment by Jill on August 20, 2009
  30. We had a similar experience with a kid at the train table at chapters, except his mom was right there, ignoring him. It was outrageous! The kid would just grab and tried to keep all the train to himself and other parents were getting frustrated and they were correcting THEIR kids for trying to fight back against this mini tyrant, and his mom sat there reading her art book. Oh, it was almost funny, it was so ridiculous.

    I stand outside the bathroom door when my 8 year old is in there and if he isn’t out in the normal time I open it up slightly and yell in.

    Comment by Chantal on August 20, 2009
  31. The pervs aren’t in the rest rooms at Target, everyone knows they go to Wal-Mart.

    Comment by Hockeyman on August 20, 2009
  32. These 2 things happened to me yesterday – unaccompanied 2 year old with ALL the Thomas trains at Indigo. No parent in sight. Then my 5 year old insisted on going into the bathroom by himself at BestBuy. I stood outside it and kept calling his name “How are you doing in there?” “How much longer” etc etc. We also had the talk before he went in – do NOT talk to anyone, do NOT look at anyone, go into a stall and shut the door. Still freaked me out.
    .-= Teri´s last blog ..Husband of the Year? =-.

    Comment by Teri on August 20, 2009
  33. Why would some woman leave her kid ALONE in a public place? Like Sir Topham Hat is going to protect her some if someone comes along to try and kidnap him?

    My oldest nephew is 8 and my mom just took him and my 7 year old nephew to a Cubs game. They both won’t go in the ladies’ room. She had to send them into the bathroom ALONE at Wrigley Field with a bunch of drunk guys. Thankfully there was a man there with his grandson that said he’d keep an eye on them.

    I think you tell them to scream bloody murder if anything strange happens. And to just be quick, pee and get out!

    Comment by Kristabella on August 20, 2009
  34. I have no answers on the the bathroom deal; so far the boys will still come in with me.

    But Sam’s Mom is an idiot. That whole thing totally freaks me out.

    Comment by Angella on August 20, 2009
  35. I am *almost* as bad with math as Patricia Heaton. But unlike Sam’s mom, I’m a little more… careful and attentive.

    I’m also glad I don’t have a boy, because this bathroom thing would freak me out too.
    .-= agentninety9´s last blog ..A mother is a mother is a mother… =-.

    Comment by agentninety9 on August 20, 2009
  36. I know what you mean – the bathroom thing is tricky. My daughter is 6 and sometimes wants to go by herself. When we’re at Target which we have spent a lot of time at, there is a family bathroom which is just a single bathroom. So if I let her go alone she goes in there where she can lock the door and be alone. Family bathrooms are the BEST innovation in bathroom technology since the toilet! It’s unfortunate that more places don’t have them. I think the best thing to do is to educate your son (and your daughters of course) about how to protect themselves and be aware of others in those situations so they can be safe.

    Comment by Shannon on August 20, 2009
  37. Kids should come with catheters. (And I probably shouldn’t be allowed to breed.) (Nor should the woman in B&N.)

    Comment by Moose on August 20, 2009
  38. Hummm, could you enroll him in karate and get him a special restroom-use taser? And teach him to scream “BAD TOUCH!” if someone so much as shuffles a toe under his stall?

    Comment by Jemima on August 20, 2009
  39. We used to drive to MD once a month to visit my mother, and we often had to stop at the Maryland House on I-95 for a potty break. My son HATED that he had to go into the ladies’ room with me. But he was 7 when we started making the trip and no way in hell was he going into the mens’ room while I was in the ladies room! That kid could be gone before I knew it!

    Comment by Joanie M on August 20, 2009
  40. Your fears are definitely warranted. This story was on my local news just a couple of nights ago. Makes me thankful for having 2 girls… but not so much when their Dad lets them go into the women’s restroom alone. I know… probably less likely an occurrence in there, but still…,0,944155.story

    Comment by Sarah on August 21, 2009
  41. I remember this when my guy was around 7 and am going through it even bigger now at 10 he is riding his bike or walking alone to his pals’ houses. I think what you did was absolutely the only thing. I stood outside, sometimes I even stuck my foot in the door so I could talk to him (this, of course, depends on the location of the urinals). But, before any of this, we had “the talk”. I didn’t go into detail about what could happen but went over the basics on safety, trusting your gut, your body is your own, etc.

    Major, major transition time here. The world is a scary place but, for the most part I believe, people are good.

    Good luck!

    Comment by Jen Maier on August 21, 2009
  42. If you’re worried about who might be in there, have him take a quick peek to see if there’s anyone else in there. If there is, tell him to come back out and wait with you until the coast is clear. If not, just stand there holding the door open and wait for him to finish. Kind of a pain, but it works.

    Comment by dad on August 21, 2009
  43. First, I can’t believe anyone would leave a child that small to play there. When Parker was 5, I didn’t sit *right* with him while I played with Thomas, but I was always within line of sight of him.

    Payton is 8 and I’ve let him go in the bathroom alone for a while now, though I do just like you and stand right at the door.

    Comment by Heather, Queen of Shake Shake on August 22, 2009
  44. ok .. I have that problem too son is 8 ..and my big problem is public places esp if I have to go too. I did a dumb thing though .. at the freaking Statue of Liberty of ALL places and I feel like a Sam’s mom truly I do. So he needs to go, and dh is holding the space in line for the monument AND he’s too lazy to take him (I always insist now) but anyway, we go and the womens and mens are beside each other, so I send him in the mens, I in the womens and do the fastest pee of ALL time .. come out quickly to await my boy from the mens and lo and behold he’s crying frantically and too women are saying, oh .. I think your mom is coming now!
    so .. I don’t know what to do now, my biggest problem is not so much sending him in to do his stuff and me waiting at the entrance to the mens .. but what about when I have to go. I’m so sad I made him freak like that ..

    btw .. any chance there was a much older (teenage) sibling sitting on the sidelines that you didn’t notice. I just can’t imagine a mom woudl be that casual ..

    Comment by Sarah on August 22, 2009
  45. I have a seven-year-old boy who won’t go in the ladies room anymore either. When he goes in I yell “Is anyone else in there?” He answers yes or no. If he says yes, I yell back, “Don’t talk to them” Many men have given me weird looks when they leave the bathroom, but a few have laughed. I could care less how freaky I look to strangers.

    Comment by Jennifer Collins on August 23, 2009
  46. Devin is 9, so we’ve been through this. Here’s what we do:

    Before he goes into the bathroom, we determine.. um.. how long it should take, based on the, um, er, well, ya know.

    Then I wait right outside the door. I tell him not to talk to anyone or let anyone talk to him.

    If for whatever reason he is in there longer than he needs to be, I can open the door and ask if he’s in there and what’s going on – but that almost NEVER happens.

    Comment by Miss Britt on August 28, 2009
  47. ?????? ???

    Comment by ??? ??? ??? on July 20, 2013
  48. 2013?

    Comment by ???????????? ????? on August 7, 2013
  49. ???? ??????? ???

    Comment by ???? ??? T??? on August 7, 2013
  50. Hi there! This post could not be written any better! Reading through this post reminds me of my previous room mate! He always kept talking about this. I will forward this post to him. Pretty sure he will have a good read. Many thanks for sharing!

    Comment by laminate wood flooring on April 11, 2014

Allowed tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>