That’s right. I said it. I use the disabled toilets. I also use the family toilets. And I have no shame about it.
Okay, let me clarify – I use them when Maura’s with me. Because we tend to tag team in the toilets, and we need that extra room to maneuver about.
Sure, we get the stink eye at times. Visually, neither of us fit the universal description of “disabled”. No wheelchair, no leg braces, no walkers. Just us, on our two legs, seemingly normal.
Granted, at this stage, people see how tall Maura is and back off a little. Because why does Mom need to follow her obviously tween daughter into a disabled stall unless something more is going on, right? At least, I hope that’s what people think. Family bathrooms, well, that gets a little more tricky, because as a society, we’ve deemed them special areas for those with small children or babies.
But let me tell you, I adore family bathrooms! Especially the family changing room at the pool. Yes, we could use the locker room, but it’s too big and Maura wanders while I’m in a state of undress that may not allow me chasing her down. The family changing room? I can lock her in, stand by the door and change, all is good!
And yet, I will feel like the world is judging us for using these special facilities, because we don’t fit the visual requirements to use them. Don’t worry, this doesn’t keep me up at night, and if anyone gives me a stink eye, I’m ready with a stink eye of my own that states “Ask me, I dare you!”
Not too long ago, Maura was still in pull ups. She wasn’t potty trained, and pull ups were the only diaper-like thing that fit her properly. Back then, getting the biggest stall possible was a very real necessity. I had to plan outings and outfits around if I’d have to change her. Pants were terrible, because you’d have to take off shoes, then pants, then pull up, then put them all back on again. If she pooped while we were out, then that led to the choice of “Do I try this standing up and not do a good job, or do I lay her on the floor and pray we don’t get dysentery?”
Because those were my choices.
Those are many parents choices.
That was my choice when we went to Legoland. I remember it clearly. It was a huge disabled bathroom, a room all unto itself. I was giddy with the space. But I also realized that there was no place for Maura to lay down to be changed except the floor. So, I took some paper towels, laid them under her head, and prayed we wouldn’t end up with dysentery as I laid her down on the cleanest area of the floor (aka, the corner furthest from the toilet.)
I am so well-versed on all of this because when we went out as a family, it almost always fell upon me to deal with Maura’s diaper changes in public. Because what’s less friendly than a ladies bathroom when trying to change a diaper on a nine year old? Why, that would be the men’s room of course! If there is anyone who is more desperate for a family bathroom than me, it’s my husband when he’s out with Maura. Now imagine you’re the mom of a twelve year old boy with disabilities who doesn’t look obviously disabled…
These days with Maura, we just need room for two. Sometimes, I can let her use a stall by herself even while I wait outside the door like any other mom. But I have also been the mom waiting in a line of women saying “No, go ahead, we’re waiting for the big stall.” I’ve been the mom who has scoped out a bathroom floor looking for the cleanest corner. I was the mom, just last week, who got giddy at the sight of a large disabled-friendly bathroom on an airplane – because I was the mom who had to change her 9 yr old daughter’s wet pants in a “standard” sized airplane toilet. And let me tell you, as that went down, all I could think of was the scene in “Tommy Boy” with Chris Farley trying to change in the airplane toilet – literally at times.
Actually, that scene sort of sums up trying to change Maura in all sorts of situations…
There needs to be something more done. Having a slightly wider stall with hand grips doesn’t cut it for a huge portion of the disabled community. We need more. We need space. We need options other than the floor to take care of things. And we need the public to realize that so many disabilities aren’t seen.