Usually, if I am out and about with the kids and someone gives out a distress potty call, I steer everyone into the nearest Ladies' Room. Usually at this time, chaos ensues and everyone else using the restroom gets a pretty good earful of "no momma, don't let the potty flush when I'm on it" to "don't touch anything, get off the floor, no you cannot feel the water in the toilet". In the grand scheme of things, it really doesn't matter if my nearly 6 year old son comes into the ladies' room with the rest of my small crowd. In fact, he's pretty good at entertaining his little brother while I help Megan overcome her fear of automatic-flushing toilets. Seriously, it's not like he's going to actually see any nakedness. The ladies' room has an entirely different set up than the men's room.
However, Joshua has recently declared himself a big boy and has been requesting to use the men's room. We've spent quite a bit of time talking about stranger danger, but even still, something about sending him alone into a public bathroom just makes me nervous. We went out to breakfast this weekend, just Grandma, me and the kids. I had taken Megan to use the restroom and then Joshua announced that he was going to the bathroom. So I asked him if he was going into the ladies' room with me or if he was going to use the men's room. He decided to use the men's room. I asked Joshua to look inside and let me know if anyone was in there. He said it was empty, there wasn't anyone standing in there and the two stall doors were open. So I gave him permission to go on in and told him I'd be right outside the door.
As I'm standing outside the men's room door, doing my mini-secret service/paranoid mom security detail, a 30-ish looking guy walked back to the men's room. He jokingly asked if I was guarding the door, and I told him as a matter of fact, I was. Then I explained that my 5 year old should be out in just a minute. I told him the whole men's room/letting the 5 year old out of my site in a public area thing was pretty new to us. He laughed a pretty hearty laugh and then explained that he has a 2 year old daughter. Then we both had a good laugh about how it is definitely easier on the moms to take their sons into the ladies room than it is for the dads to take their daughters into the men's room. I didn't stop him from entering the men's room, but he graciously said he would wait for Joshua to come out, just in case the little fellow had any problems and I needed to come in. Just then, Joshua emerged from the bathroom proudly announcing he didn't want to touch the gross sink, so he didn't wash his hands.
I haven't quite figured out the public restroom thing with the boys when I am out by myself now that I have a big boy.