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How I Taught My Kids to Let Me Pee in Peace

Photograph by Getty Images

Here's a confession you might hate me for: I have a 4-year-old and a 6-year-old and I enjoy privacy in my own restroom pretty much all the time. That's right, no interruptions (usually), no banging on the door to let them in for some non-emergency (usually), no "Mommy, hurry up, we need you now!" (Usually.) Call it luck, call me a liar, call me a loudmouth for putting this out there in the first place. But, it's true. I pee in peace.

How did this happen? I taught my daughters the concept of privacy as though it was the most precious and magical gift someone could offer, early on. I innocently opted to give them "privacy" before they actually knew what it was.

I know what you're thinking: No small children should be awarded privacy in the name of safety. I agree. I'm one of those mothers who is a firm believer in talking, asking questions and sifting through backpacks and drawers to make sure we know exactly what is going on with our kids, which is why I merely let them believe they had privacy back when they were toddlers—so that I could keep my own bathroom private later on.

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It all started when both my girls were still in cribs. After they'd wake up from their naps, I'd act out a whole funny show of knocking on their door to ask if I could come in to get them. Knock knock knock! "Are you awake, little ladies? May I come in?" I'd say while standing outside their cracked-open bedroom door. "Yes! Come get us!" they'd shout back, giggling. So I'd go in and get them. It was a game of perceived respect for their private time in their room.

Privacy was fun. Privacy was empowering. Privacy meant you were capable. Privacy meant you were just like Mommy.

By the time my first daughter started potty training, I decided to keep this game going in the name of demonstrating what going to the bathroom should really be like (i.e., a solo activity.) Sure, I'd sit with her and encourage and hold her hand when we first started, but after she got the hang of it and became proudly comfortable about being a "big girl," I'd send my daughter's 3-year-old tushy into the bathroom, say, "I'll give you some privacy," with a big fat grin and close the door so that I could peek in through the crack between the door and the wall again.

She'd laugh, sitting on the potty by herself just like a grown-up. "Let me know when you're done and need help," I'd say from the other side of the door. She'd call for me when she was ready, and that was that.

Privacy was fun. Privacy was empowering. Privacy meant you were capable. Privacy meant you were just like Mommy.

The same potty training process followed with my younger daughter. I really knew I was onto something when one of her preschool teachers told me that she firmly requested "privacy" from all others while in the restroom at school. The teacher got a big laugh out of a toddler wanting to use the loo by herself and I got a surge of parental pride.

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It never dawned on me that our shenanigans about doing certain things solo would add up to me being able to use the bathroom without interruption. But that's a side-effect I'll gladly take. So I guess what they say is true: Kids do follow actions more than words.

Do my kids ever knock on the door when I'm doing my business? Of course. All kids do and mine are no exception. But once I say the magic P-word ("I need privacy, I'll be out in a second!") they usually get the message and retreat. It is fabulous. Peeing in peace is not overrated.

Now, do I have issues with middle-of-the-night wake up calls and interrupting children when I'm on the phone? Hell yes. I'm still trying to figure those out. Maybe I should just sleep and talk in the bathroom?

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