My dearest restaurant, gas station and store owners,

I am writing to address a very necessary problem with your public bathrooms. I am the mom of twin boys and a four-year-old. The twins are potty-training.

I don’t know if you have ever had to squeeze four people in to a one-person bathroom stall, but I am here to tell you that it is not easy, much less fun.

The problem with your public bathrooms, dear owner, is that, despite all efforts, they are not child friendly nor are they clean.

And this, my dear owner, is why:

My three small children and I enter the public restroom. Most public restrooms have the toilets lined on one side of the room and a hallway to enter each stall opposite. I have to shepherd all of my little boys down this long, narrow space, to the very end, where the biggest stall—the handicapped stall—is. I pray the handicapped stall is open when we get there. (I have long since abandoned all feelings of guilt for occupying this stall.) Along the way, my small boys are peeking under every stall, at each occupant’s feet. “Hi!” they wave enthusiastically.

“Get up,” I whisper.

“Keep going,” I hiss.

“That is so rude! We don’t peek at people when they are peeing!” I direct.

We finally arrive at the coveted big stall, and I rope all three little guys in.

This is normally chaotic, as there are fights and complaints over who is going in first, who gets to use the toilet first, etc. Usually one of the twins throws himself on the (ugh! sticky, urine covered!) floor, refusing to go any further, because he has just been outwitted by his older brother. We step over him and continue to move in. We leave the door wide open. There is no room for all of us if we shut it.

Often, if the handicapped stall is smaller than most, we can’t fit at all, even with the door open. This is when my preschooler will opt to pee in the stall next to me. Again, with the door wide open. Why not? He has nothing to be shy about. And I’m too busy to care.

Once I get the twins in to the stall, the shoes and pants have to come off. They are potty-training. Little boys cannot be encumbered by all these clothing articles while they are concentrating on where to shoot their urine stream. Hmm . . . where to put the shoes and pants so that they remain clean?

Oh, and, my dear owner, have you ever had a small child naked on a public bathroom floor?

It goes something like this:

“Don’t touch the potty Brent! It’s dirty!”

“Alex, get up off the floor! You are sitting in pee!”

“Brent, we have to get your shoes on again before you flush the potty—the floor is covered in pee!”

“Alex, pick up your blankie . . . you are dragging it through the pee!”

“Oh good Lord ALEX! You just dropped your sippy cup in that puddle of urine!”

“Brent, puh-lease! We have to get your shoes on first! I know you want to flush the potty, but do you see all that pee on the floor? You will get your socks all wet!”

“Alex! You just sat in the pee again!”

“Richie, back out of the stall please! You are freaking Brent out! He thinks you want to flush his potty!”

“Brent, get your hands off the potty!”

“Richie! Back up!”

“Okay, Alex, it’s your turn . . . ”

And so it goes.

Until, finally, “Richie, can you shut the door? Mommy has to go potty, too.”

“Poop or pee?” inquires little Richie.

“Pee, Richie.” Mommy answers. Because let’s face it, even if mommy does have to poop, she’s not announcing that to the whole bathroom audience.

And then, “No, Alex! Leave the door closed! Mommy has to go potty!”

This is usually where Brent starts crying and demands, “Mommy hold me!” So up on to Mommy’s lap he goes, while she pees.

And then Mommy yells, “No, Alex! Stay in here! You can’t crawl out under the door! Someone might take you!”

So Alex gets up. Then Richie yells, “Shut the door Alex! Mommy doesn’t want everyone to see her butt!”

True, true.

When my business is done, the three boys fight over who gets to flush my business down the toilet. I usher them out of that stall as fast as I can. “Here, Alex, let Mommy hold you. I don’t want you to drag your blankie through the pee again!”

“Sorry, Brent Baby, I have to hold Alex.”

I shepherd them down the long walk again, to the sinks. We HAVE to wash our hands after all of that. Only . . . the sinks are amazingly high. With no place to perch a small child. I awkwardly pick one up, prop him up on my raised knee, and lean him over the sink. His gut or thighs—I can’t tell which—get crushed in to the edge of the sink and he complains. No matter. I force him forward further, to “catch” the soap at the back of the sink. After a few tries, he catches it. We wash his hands the best we can.

The other two are jumping up and down, antsy for their turn.

“Boys, get away from the door! Someone is going to open it and hit you!”

One of the twins is crying in frustration because he wants so badly to be next.

And then we have to dry hands. Only . . . there are no paper towels. Only a blower.

Dear sweet public restroom owner, have you ever tried to put tiny little two-year-old hands under those high-powered blow driers?

It totally freaks them out! Your skin all but separates from your hands, and they are supposed to willingly subject themselves to that?

After a few fearful mal-attempts, we give up and shake our hands the best we can. This doesn’t work. I show the twins how to wipe their hands on my pants instead. Because no one, dear owner, provides paper towels anymore. They are, apparently, unsanitary.

With still wet hands, we . . . err . . . graciously exit the restroom. My preschooler literally whoops with joy and runs down whatever hall led us to the bathroom in the first place. Once we reach our destination, I become aware that every eye is on us.

We must have been extremely loud.

So you see, dear public restroom owners, your bathrooms have seriously malfunctioned.

They are neither clean nor family-friendly.

I would greatly appreciate it if you could address the above-mentioned concerns in your restrooms.

Thank you,
Shannon Lambert

Shannon Lambert

Shannon Lambert lives with her husband and six boys (Yes, SIX!)  in Northern Minnesota. Her days are an interesting combination of chaos and fun (with a touch of occasional sheer panic!).  When she's not busy laughing AT her boys you can find her writing ABOUT them at