Raising Mary: Privacy


WHEN YOUR KIDS HAVE AN ALL-ACCESS PASS

Our stay-at-home mom Tracy Cooper is starting to rethink the open-door policy on her bathroom.

I don’t bother locking the bathroom door very often when I’m at home alone with my girls. When
I do, my two-year-old dissolves into a tantrum, throwing herself against the door and speaking in tongues. She’s only tiny, but holy bleep, she’s loud. I may get privacy by locking the door, but certainly no peace and quiet. Mary’s not much better. She doesn’t object if I close the door, but she’s so accustomed to opening it and barging in when I’m ‘visiting Mrs. Murphy’, she gets downright offended if she discovers it’s locked. That’s what you get from a four-year-old with an all-access pass to Mommy.
I’ve brought this on myself. It started with plopping Mary as a baby in the portable swing just outside the shower curtain, so I could check on her even as I washed my hair. It never occurred to me to keep her out of the bathroom when I had to go. The first time it ever became annoying was when she was a toddler. She pulled aside the shower curtain to say “hi,” making me cold and letting the water out on the floor. (After a few times, I tilted the water stream her way; that showed her. Ha!) When she started talking, her access to the bathroom became more of a teaching opportunity. She’d ask what I was doing, and it was a chance to teach her how to brush her teeth and model proper toileting procedure. Then, there was early potty-training and I was in her face all the time, keeping her company, helping her clean up and wash her hands.
When Adelaide came along, I’d leave the door open to listen in case Mary bugged the baby in the living room. As Adelaide grew and I was potty training Mary, it just seemed easier to keep the door of our small, main-floor powder room open while she wandered in and out. Now, Mary lets her diaper-wearing little sister know when she’s going to the bathroom. Adelaide happily follows her and hangs out while Big Sis takes care of business.
The biggest reason I haven’t allowed myself a lot of privacy from my girls has been convenience, but I have another motive. I think it’s good for mothers to model to their daughters acceptance of one’s body. Soon enough, they’ll feel the pressures to look this way or that. When they see me coming out of the shower, I’m careful never to show or voice unhappiness with my own body – even though there’s plenty I’m unhappy about! The truth is, I’ve been fine with this situation up until now. (Which is funny because I’m quite prudish in other situations, such as stripping down in front of other women in the change room at the gym.) But Adelaide is getting old enough not to need constant supervision, and Mary is old enough to reinforce the importance of her own privacy. I find myself having more split seconds thinking: “Really? I can’t even have this moment to myself?” I have twinges of jealousy, too, toward Tom, who, as the guy in the family, gets his privacy when he’s got to ‘go’. It’s decided, then. I will demand privacy from my offspring! (Just as soon as Adelaide is past the tantrum stage.)

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Published June 2010

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