Sunday, July 7, 2013

I'm a Snitch


I receive birthday money every year from my parents. Maybe that makes me sound like I'm twelve, but I always look forward to it. The intention is for me to spend the money on myself, which is a rare occurrence, and most years I've been pretty good about doing just that. (Occasionally, other life necessities have taken precedence over indulgences.) This year, I decided to use my birthday money to renew my membership at the Y.

I used to go to the Y several times a week and found it to be a welcome opportunity for alone time and recharging when my life was consumed by baby and toddler life. But when I got my full-time job two years ago, there just didn't seem to be the time to go and the monthly fee was being wasted.  Circumstances have changed, though, and I now have both kids by myself all the time, 365 days a year without breaks. I decided I needed to allow myself an hour a couple times a week to kick my own butt in the gym. With this long holiday weekend off work, I've already been three times in five days and it feels fantastic.

One of the benefits of our particular Y location, and one of the reasons that my kids go to the childcare without complaint while I exercise, is the outdoor pool that all three of us enjoy once I've exhausted myself on the treadmill and weight machines. 

In order to access the pool, everyone first must walk through a locker room. There is a women's locker room and a men's locker room. If your child is of the opposite sex and over the age of six, he or she is supposed to depart from your side for the few moments it takes to journey through the locker room and meet you on the other side. While my daughter is of the same sex as me and therefore this rule does not apply to her, she is seven years old and I would have no problem with trusting her to navigate from one end of the locker room to the other by herself.

I share all of that to bring you to the point of my story. A couple of days ago, the kids and I walked into the women's locker room after a couple of hours outside at the pool. Standing at the lockers was a mom with her two boys, who appeared to be around nine and eleven years old. The older one was as tall as his mom, and she wasn't particularly short. The mom was pulling together the towels and other accessories they would need for their time poolside while the two kids roughhoused and asked when she would be done.

I get that there are circumstances involving special needs of children and I'm very sensitive to that. Of course age limits do not apply then. But, let's assume that such needs were not a factor, which appeared to be the case here.

The way I saw it, I had four choices:

1. Do my best not to care that boys of that age were in the women's locker room and just move on with my day. My daughter already had poked me and then pointed in their direction, so their presence was obvious to her as well.

2. Adopt the passive-aggressive approach. which would involve something like me whispering loudly, "Wow, those boys look awfully big to be in here, don't they? Do you think they're only six?" Admittedly, not the most mature approach.

3. Walk up to the mom and politely ask her if she was aware of the policy that boys seven and over needed to use the men's locker room. How do you do that without seeming completely annoying and self-important?

4. Snitch.

I decided on the last option and, to be fair, it wasn't a straight out snitch. It had been a year since I'd been to the Y and when I last was a member, there were signs on the doors of the locker room that clearly stated the age policy. Those signs were no longer there. So, I walked into the membership office right next to the locker room and said, "Has the rule about opposite sex kids in the locker room changed since last summer, because there are some boys in the women's locker room who look much older than the cutoff?" I honestly wanted to know the answer and if enforcement was a side effect, so be it!

The Y worker jumped out of her seat and ran right to the locker room, saying as she went past me, "No, the rule hasn't changed, and we take it seriously." To reinforce that point, the next day I saw the same employee stop a dad who was about to take his two girls, who appeared to be around the same age as the boys I mentioned earlier, if not even older, into the men's locker room. The employee reassured the dad they would be fine in the women's locker room, and I saw with my own eyes that they were happily reunited by the pool moments later. (Side note --  I would MUCH rather my eleven-year-old girl walk through the women's locker room solo than spend any time in the men's locker room.)

Since this incident, I have asked several friends of mine with boys who range in age from seven to thirteen what they thought of their sons joining them in the locker room. I just wanted to make sure that I wasn't being unreasonable in my opinions as a parent who isn't faced with such circumstances yet. I don't go with my daughter into public restrooms anymore, so I guess that's similar at least. All agreed that their kids take care of bathroom needs and locker room walks without them. And, in the case of the Y, I'm not talking about showering or anything that requires extended solo time . . . I get why that would be an issue . . . I'm just talking about walking through to the pool.

If anyone out there is reading this, I want to know what YOU think. What would you have done in such a situation? Or, are you a parent who takes older kids of the opposite sex with you in the locker room and you think I'm totally off base for taking issue with it?

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