Poolside with the MOB (Mothers of Boys)

pool ladder

My seven-year-old son loves the water. Swim club seemed like the perfect extracurricular activity.

It was all good until his lesson was over and it was time to change into dry clothes.

He doesn’t want to go into the women’s locker room. He refuses to change in the bleachers while I hold up a towel.

No. He insists on going into the men’s locker room. Alone.

As every ounce of Momma Bear in me protests, I let him go all by himself.

“I’ll wait for you here by the door,” I say. He disappears into the abyss.

I wait. And wait. And wait.

Another pair of MOBs are standing nearby watching their sons’ swimming lessons. They look at me and nod.

“Mine doesn’t even have to change his clothes,” says the first. “He only has to put on his sweatpants over his swimsuit. And it still takes him a half an hour!”

“Well, mine came out telling me about all the friends he made in the locker room,”  said the other. “I told him we don’t make friends in the locker room. That was the end of that. Now he changes in the bleachers.”

Friends in the locker room? Oh, dear.

four feet deep

“Honey,” I crack open the door. “You okay in there?”

I wait. No answer. Dare I go in?

Then I hear it. The unmistakable sound of two dozen slippery sea lions smacking the pavement. The high school boys’ swim team has finished their laps, and they’re headed my way.

The rushing stream of soaking wet, teenage boys flows through the locker room door. Panic ensues.

I imagine shouting, “Cover yourselves! Mom on the floor! I’m coming in!”

The thought of seeing a bunch of naked teenage boys is as appealing to me at 41 as it was at 16. I stop short of my raid.

I pace around outside the locker room, scanning the club for a responsible adult male to help. Where are the instructors when I need them?

A clean-cut boy who looks to be about 15 emerges from the locker room wrapped in a towel. Boldly, I approach.

“Excuse me,” I say. He looks at me. Deer in headlights.

my cub

“My little boy’s in the locker room. Yeah, and he’s been in there a long time. Could you go in and check on him? I’d go in myself, but that might be awkward.”

“Okay,” he says.

Towel boy scampers into the locker room. I wait. And wait. And wait.

The door opens and out bounces my cub. Unaided. Unharmed. Happy as a clam. And barefoot.

Where, oh where, are his shoes?


“Cover yourselves! Mom on the floor! I’m coming in!”

Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart.
The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away;
may the name of the LORD be praised. Job 1:21 NIV

Bruce Springsteen, Cover Me.

Enjoy your weekend, everybody.
See you here next week!

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Filed under family & friends, humor, women's studies

23 Responses to Poolside with the MOB (Mothers of Boys)

  1. Anita S

    This was a dilemma for me 20 years ago when my little boy was actually little, and I can only imagine that it’s worse today. There were no family bathrooms then, and at 4 he refused to go in the women’s bathroom with me. I worried a lot, but God was watching over him, and he always came out safe and sound.

  2. Man. It is SO hard to let them go into the Men’s room alone. For me it depends on the place and how big the bathroom is and how many “strangers” are around. If I can stand guard right outside the door, it’s cool. If not, it’s the ladies room for my 6 year old boy. I am amazed at parents who let their children go off to bathrooms and concession stands and walk around stores alone.

  3. Elizabeth Whelan

    Call me Momma Bear with issues!! Just this past Monday I let Matthew go into the bathroom at tennis lessons by himself. I first listened at the door and did not think anyone was inside. I sent him in…I felt sick….waited….I hear my baby cub say, “Hi”. Than a grown man says, “Hi”. I tell myself I will wait for three seconds before I do anything. Nope, no yoga breathing, no time for prayers…I open that door, tell the man “excuse me” (don’t mean it) and take Matthew by the hand out! Sorry I am not “there yet”. May just have to add that to session two in therapy!

  4. Oh my, how I remember those days. Many a men I have seen while scanning the bathrooms stalls and showers for my boys. They had four mins to do their business. After a half a dozen bathroom searches the boys wised up and became quick change artist. And that was the end of my peep show raids. ;)

  5. I don’t recall when I began going into the men’s bathroom by myself. Suffice to say, I know I did so as quickly as possible with as much discretion and privacy as possible. I still do so today.

    Thankfully, I’m a stay-at-home dad with three boys, so some of these issues will be alleviated… but then there’s my daughter… On the other hand, with a brood of four, I rarely – if ever – go out on my own with the four of them in tow. No… that’s not going to happen until the twins are three or four, and that’s another two to three years down the road.

    My wife would be one to try and barge in. She has those fears, as do I about men. But then, as our boys get older, if I wasn’t able to be there with her, when it came time for that transition between taking the boys into the bathroom with her or not, she’d most probably opt to just wait until I could be part of the troupe. Or she’d barge in.

    Or, we just bring lots of towels, sweat pants, etc., and just change back at home. Thankfully our civic pools are mere minutes from home.

  6. That is pretty funny… Myself, when I was a kid, I was just *afraid* of locker rooms, so much so, that even when I was older (in my teens), I would wear a proper amount of clothing under my fencing equipment (UnderArmor FTW), and change in the bleachers. Probably the towel/dress on top of it approach is not that bad then…
    On the other hand, in my experience, locker room “friendships” are not all that bad; and I had several buddies, and a few keeper-friends made in there (that is, when I dared or had to venture in). I’d guess it’s mainly because it’s a lot easier to chitchat during getting changed than during swimming (or even fencing).

  7. Joy

    Oh boy. I struggle with this all the time, giving your baby, that is not so baby anymore, freedom in an unsafe world. Hoping that you’ve taught them well and given them tools to make wise decisions, avoid danger and just be lucky enough not to run into evil. It is just hard core. Love this post, Aimee! Good job.

  8. Krista

    Friend, I have been in that very same position…standing outside a men’s locker room at the pool, waiting for him to come out for what seemed like forever. Until the day that I also observed other swim mommies wrapping a towel around or struggling to get athletic pants on wet, squirming kids and leaving without an extra thought of socks/shoes/dryness/warmth. That’s when I decided that I had had enough and the cold would not kill him between the door and the car. He didn’t seem to care about being a little wet and it made me feel much better!

  9. I relate in every single way. Aimee, the last thing I can imagine is letting go of my twin girls to even go to the bathroom when we go out to eat. Your scenario gave me heart palpitations. I guess it is a horrible part of letting them grow up to a degree, and knowing when it is too much too soon. Great post as always my friend.

  10. fred

    just so you know… If I had been in the locker room when you came in, either the police or the ambulance would have taken you away. You have no more right to be in a men’ dressing room than a man does in the women’s. The idea that most men are out to hurt your son or would tolerate the same is as offensive to me as rape! Justify it all you want, just like ALL women do, but the world is changing, and men no longer are willing to tolerate this behavior and are now find this double standard repugnant. We now call the cops and we press those charges.

    • Fred, just so you know, I didn’t go into the dressing room. The last line was supposed to be humorous. Obviously it wasn’t to you. I apologize as you seem to be offended and that wasn’t the intention.

      Most men wouldn’t hurt a child. However, there are men (and women) who do hurt children each and every day. My feeling of helplessness to protect my son when I can’t go into a dressing room with him provides the tension in this post, or it was supposed to. If you will notice, another male reader commented he feels the same way with his daughters.

      I agree with you; the world is changing. How sad we’d even have this misunderstanding…

    • DJohnson

      Excellent post, brother!