To Pee or Not to Pee (in public)? Does age matter? Gender?


“Dear PoPville,

I just witnessed [Sunday] a mother of a 5-6 year old girl take her to a tree in Logan Circle park, drop her pants, and instruct her to urinate in public and plain view of all. Shocked, I politely spoke with the woman to let her know that it was in my opinion inappropriate. Let alone hypocritical as we forbid, by law, homeless people and drunk adults from public urination in our neighborhood — a constant challenge we all encounter. She turned the conversation to one of sexism and public health, stating that it would be okay if a little boy urinated in the park and commenting on how urination is different from defecation, as the later would be a public health issue and require that the human feces be picked up if she had needed to do that. Further, as someone who lives “a couple blocks away” she ranted on how there is a shortage of bathrooms in the area. Evidently she did not see a one block walk to her home, Starbucks, Whole Foods, or Chipotle as convenient as dropping her girls pants in public. Having approached her politely to offer my opinion and distaste, she started waving her hands in proclamation that “we are done here.” And the conversation ended.

Can we arrest adults for indecency and public urination while allowing parents to lazily teach their children it’s okay to pee in a park, 20 ft from people?”

216 Comment

  • Not really sure you got the whole story – the girl was 5 or 6 and kids do have emergencies. It’s not like she just did it in the middle of the sidewalk and it could’ve been a one time deal. Did the mom offer any reasoning or are you just drawing your own conclusions about their circumstances?

  • I personally believe urinating in public, as long as it is not on someone or someone’s belongings, should only be a finable offense. There’s nothing sexual about it and sometimes when you gotta go, you gotta go. I was driving back home on 16th street NE around Isherwood Street and witnessed a middle aged man, facing the street on the sidewalk, just letting loose. It’s disgusting but I don’t think he was hurting anything. I have also witnessed people openly peeing in my alley. It’s just pee.

    To quote Kent Brockman, “I.P. Freely”

    • My window faces in alley 3 floors up. In the summer, it’s nearly intolerable to leave my windows open because the smell of pee is very overwhelming. THAT is what’s wrong with peeing in alleys. Find a toilet.

    • So, you don’t see it as a public health issue? Ok.

      • Urine is sterile. Health wise, this is like pouring a beer out in the alley. So, while it might smell, it’s not technically a health issue.

        • Farragut

          Urine is not actually sterile. Look it up.

        • Even if urine was sterile (spoiler alert: it’s not), it still smells incredibly bad.

        • Urine is sterile while it resides in the kidneys. It contains trace amounts of bacteria, though, once it leaves the body. As HaileUnlikely pointed out below, though, it may not necessarily be a public health issue.
          I think this one’s up for debate. Is there a medical professional in the house?

          • Pee is sterile when it leaves the body, but is an ideal breeding medium for bacteria, which makes it smell almost immediately.

      • HaileUnlikely

        From a public health standpoint peeing in public is nowhere near as hazardous as spitting in public. Not to say that I think it should be encouraged, but it appears that some sort of visceral “ewww yuck” factor is overriding serious analysis here.

        • Actually, I think you may be right on that one. My “ew yuck!”-o-meter was turned up to 11, so the logic was difficult to hear.

    • Tsar of Truxton

      I think the reason that it is a sex offense in some places is more of a slippery slope type argument. If you allow people to pee, then what happens when a “flasher” whips it out in front of a woman and uses the defense that he just had to pee and there was nothing sexual about it even though there was. It is more that it is too easy to use peeing as an excuse for other forms of explicit activities. Personally, I think it would be nice if there was some discretion in the laws (e.g., drunk person in a corner of an alley with no one around, should not be charged with a sex offense), but I can see why it would be hard to enforce.

      • I would be far more concerned with SEX OFFENDERS, than this being a sex offense. I used to live accross from a park and would regularly do a “pedo petrol” to scatter the pervs from the park. The police just couldn’t keep up. Some guys would actually be hiding in the bushes.
        Seeing a child urinate is exactly the sort of trigger for a pedophile to begin a spiral of poor choices.

    • I think more cities need more public restrooms, and the resources to keep them relatively tidy.

  • Maybe the child has uromysitisis?

    • Uromysitisis poisoning is very serious, especially for six year olds. These pesky millenials have no idea about uromysitisis!

  • OMG no… just no! I am a mom and do not allow public urination from my boys or my girl. In the extreme event of an emergency, I would (peeing on a tree is better than in the pants for boy or girl), however, I have also tossed a soaking wet 5 year old in the car and driven 10 blocks home from the spray park to avoid an accident or peeing in public. Gender issues have nothing to do with it IMO. However, I wouldn’t have publicly chided the woman either. For what it’s worth, if you do decide to question a parenting choice – whatever that may be – be ready to get an earful back. As parents, we don’t have to just stand there and listen to your opinion politely.

    • Because being a parent gives you the right not to be polite ?
      OP had his opinion and seemed to have voiced it in a rather fair manner. I’m growing tired of people who believe kids give them some extraordinary right to do whatever they want or receive whatever privilege they ask for

      • May I approach you in a “rather fair manner” when I see your bra strap/ boxer shorts hanging out? Is it my opinion that showing your underwear in public is in poor taste.
        How about when I hear you talking on the phone, and using lots of curse words? Foul language offends me, it’s in my auditory space, and I don’t see why I shouldn’t interrupt your conversation to let you know about my opinion on your behavior.
        Fair, right? And you’ll be totally receptive, right?

        • justinbc

          Another ridiculous comparison. Urinating in public is illegal. It’s very different when someone is upset that a parent is advocating a child do something that will get them arrested later in life than when someone has a bra strap showing. Now, if you had said that person just had their breasts hanging out, which is also illegal in most places (those merits can be debated elsewhere), that would be a reasonable comparison. But you don’t see people walking through Logan Circle with their breasts out, do you?

          • Swearing in public is illegal.

          • gotryit

            Well, I lived close to Logan Circle some number of years back and I saw… well, never mind. But you may want to find a different rhetorical question.

          • Swearing in public is only illegal in a few states and then really just a few municipalities in those states. And it’s never enforced because they are antiquated laws that nobody knows about until they get published on a listacle. A really terrible example

          • I actually did get arrested for public swearing a few years ago! But it was in Fairfax County, where they still act like it’s 1800.

      • OP shared an opinion and got an opinion back. I challenge anyone in this city to give anyone their opinion about anything and expect to get “well, golly gee, I just hadn’t looked at it that way. Thank you mister for enlightening me!” As I said, it’s not something I would allow or encourage my child to do but in the most dire of circumstances. I would absolutely give the parent the benefit of the doubt in such a circumstance that it was a dire circumstance, not just assume “eww gross, wtf is that person doing”

        • I would tend to agree. If it’s just one kid, one time, I’d give them and the parent the benefit of the doubt, find it unpleasant but probably an emergency, and move on. I wouldn’t approach them about it – and I think the reaction this elicited was possibly at least 50% embarrassment over being called out on an unfortunate emergency decision.

          If I saw the same woman/child do it regularly, or if there was an epidemic of young children peeing all over the city – then I’d complain and write a blog post about it.

  • Yeah, I will never understand this. As a female, I have never peed in public. Even when very drunk and very late at night or even with a UTI, I always manage to find a bathroom. And, as a kid, my mom always managed to find a bathroom for me when I had to go, even in “emergencies.” Honestly, it’s just laziness. Pure and simple.

    • +1. Last time this topic came up, I was really surprised at the number of people who were defending public urination BY ADULTS and/or admitting to public urination themselves.
      I can maybe understand a parent allowing a little kid to urinate in public if there were absolutely no bathrooms around… but it seems like it should be an option of last resort.

    • My family was really outdoorsy growing up and we were definitely told to pee behind a bush or tree if we were out hiking in the woods or something. Public urination should be a last resort, but sometimes that really is the LAST resort. I would rather someone relieve themselves in an alley or behind a tree than wet themselves.

  • I was in New York over the weekend, and walked by a mother encouraging her little boy to pee on the sidewalk, the result of which was that people passing by would need to walk through his urine. I was pretty grossed out, so I personally don’t think it’s OK for little boys to pee in public any more than little girls.

    • Right but we have to walk through dog pee routinely.

      • That’s because my dog doesn’t have the option to pee in the toilet. And he pees in the grass, so as long as you stay on the sidewalk you’ll be ok. And, well, he’s a dog. Lots (I’d even say most) animals pee outside. So if it’s a problem for you, you might want to stay in your home. But good analogy, comparing a kid to a dog.

        • I’m not comparing a kid to a dog. But 1 or 2 kids peeing in Logan Circle or any park is not even close to the 100’s of dogs that pee there every day. In the grass. Where people like to sit.

      • And squirrel urine, and raccoon urine, and rat urine….

  • Jesus. NO its NOT ok for kid that age to pee in the park. WTF lazy parents. And yes I am a parent of a 2.5 year old and we are still in the throes of potty training. I understand that it its hard to find a bathroom. But FFS your kid is in kindergarten most likely, unless there is a diagnosed medical issue then no this is not ok. Wait, even then its not ok. The kid should be in a diaper because he is not potty trained. Parenting is hard, exhausting, I get it. But I am seriously floored by how freaking lazy all these otherwise type A parents are in this town. Teach your kid. I know we have some low standards in this town but folks, please take advantage of indoor plumbing. Its truly a civilization game changer.

    • I don’t trust the letter writer, who obviously has no children and knows nothing about children, to have correctly estimated the age of the child in the story.

  • No, it’s not ok in the sense that the child should not get the impression that the world is her/his toilet, but OP was dead wrong to get in this poor woman’s face about it because the reality is that children that age sometimes ignore their bladders until they absolutely have to go immediately. Sometimes a parent just can’t avoid this situation, and no purpose would have been served by making the kid pee her pants on the way to Whole Foods.

    • PDleftMtP

      Sort of my reaction. If it was an emergency emergency, pee happens, but there are also lazy and entitled parents who don’t feel any need to rein in their special snowflakes out of consideration to others. Impossible to know which this is from a random blog post.

    • This is the correct response. I don’t have kids and I don’t know much about them, but in a park it could be a “just go” discreetly or undertake a futile rush to a public bathroom while the kid pees her pants. The real problem is the shortage of public toilets in this and every other US city.

    • I totally agree with this. I have a potty-training two year old and will run my pregnant butt down the street carrying him (we look very awkward), but if we were in the middle of Logan Circle, where I don’t think there’s a bathroom for a couple of blocks and he said it was an emergency… yes, my son could pee in the park. Could the mother have reacted better and explained if this was the case? Yes. But I’m also guessing that OP isn’t doing a fair assessment of his/her role…

  • Allowances ought to be made for very young children. I don’t know any parent who PREFERS having their kid drop trou in the open. But most businesses have a “restrooms for customers only” sign. Little kids don’t always give you enough warning to get them down the block or time to plead with a dead-eyed barista.
    I think the real “distasteful” behavior here is the person who would criticize a stranger in public and in front of her child. And the mother was right: urine is sterile.
    Also, puh-leeze, when has anyone EVER been arrested for public urination in DC?? Unless it was just the excuse to harass someone the cops already had a beef with.

  • Yeah, I wonder if this was a potty training emergency.

    • If the kid was truly 5-6 years old like the OP said, it was likely not a potty training emergency. Kids that age have accidents sometimes, but they should already be potty trained.

      • I used to be a camp counselor for kids that age, and even at 5 or 6 there are some conditions that cause problems for toilet training.

        • Yes, but those medical conditions are exceptions to the norm. I taught young kids in extracurricular activities for many years, so I have some experience with this too. Most school districts will not even allow a child to attend if he/she is not potty trained, and they are going to school by 5-6.

  • there are bigger fish to fry, lady.

    • I think it’s this attitude – constantly expressed in this city – that is holding DC back from being truly great. Why can’t OP care about “the bigger fish” as well as this smaller one?

      • Yep — it’s not an either/or thing.

      • You think making sure parents don’t let their toddlers pee in the bushes would help make this city great?

        If 80 lb dogs can piss in front of my house everyday, I say leave the small children under 5 to do whatever they… can, with the help of their parents.

        I bet the OP also thinks that opening a pack of cookies to placate a kid in your shopping cart *before* you pay for it is shoplifting.

        • That’s not what Anon is arguing. It’s more the idea of “We shouldn’t worry about smaller quality-of-life concerns — litter, graffiti, etc. — until we’ve eliminated murder/robbery/homelessness/etc.” It’s a false binary.

        • Blithe

          How would you describe eating cookies that don’t yet belong to you? I’m actually a stickler about this. I’d either bring a snack (toddler), wait until I owned the cookies, or send an older kid to purchase the cookies if I thought the urgency was reasonable.

  • Ten years ago when I lived on Logan Circle, this was a daily occurrence – kids and adults. It was not quite at the peak of Logan’s gentrification and the circle was very different than it is today. But even then I thought it was awful. It is one thing if you are homeless and frankly have nowhere to actually go to use the bathroom (and no, most businesses refuse to allow homeless people to use their bathrooms free of charge, which most customers are happy about). But if you have a home and live nearby, yeah, there’s no excuse for it.

    I also had the issue with people using my alley constantly to use the bathroom then. I cannot count how many times in the middle of the day I’d look out the window and see someone copping a squat in the alley beside parked cars. I agree there’s nothing sexual about it, but it should definitely be prohibited. If there’s an emergency, I’d imagine you could still find a less open adn public space than Logan Circle to urinate.

  • As a kid, I remember peeing in public (I’m female), but I think it was only on the side of the road or in a parking lot where there weren’t any bathrooms nearby and we had a long drive home. I don’t remember ever going in that public a place. My mom would say it was ok, because little kid pee doesn’t smell as bad as grown man pee. That said, I don’t think it’s okay for either gender of any age to pee in a public place. No, it isn’t toxic, but the smell is disgusting and I don’t want to step in your pee and trek it through my house or God forbid I’m wearing sandals, get it on my foot. That’s nasty.

    • This. It was only allowed on long car trips when I was desperate and there was no way we would make it to a bathroom. The last time I did it I was maybe 6 or 7 and we’d been in dead stopped traffic for hours.

  • At 5-6, I’d find it hard to believe that they couldn’t wait to go somewhere else. At 3-4, I think that kids awareness of emergencies and ability to hold it is a lot more limited. I’m guessing that OP probably doesn’t actually know how old the kid was. That said, we try try try with my 3 year old to always identify the last opportunity to go, and his current state of bathroom affairs is always present in our minds. But we still on occasion wind up having to find a tree.

  • In a national park or something that’s fine. In an urban area it is never okay for either gender to pee in public at any age under any circumstances.

    • Why? What if they use a travel potty? Is it the pee/poo or the act that you are so sure is wrong?

    • really, under no circumstance? Would you rather that kid pee her pants and then have to walk to school or the grocery store. Or worse yet have to take a long bus ride home. As someone who’s 3 year old has had an accident just before getting on the bus I can tell you peeing in public would have been the better option.

    • Actually, I’m pretty sure that Logan Circle is maintained by the National Park Service, and is technically part of Rock Creek Park. So, no problem at all!

  • When I was living in China, this was perfectly normal. In fact, for most children from babies through potty training years, their pants are split up the backside and their parents will simply pick them up and hold them on the street as they “go.” Literally anywhere. Not condoning the behavior. And while urine may be sterile, it is still incredibly foul to navigate around it.

  • 5 and 6 years old kids still have emergencies. Its just pee. Pet owners take their animals outside for the express purpose of peeing outside several times per day. Get some perspective and don’t question a parent’s judgement on the matter.

  • I’m kinda shocked by the number of people saying a child peeing in public is OK. If the kid is young enough to have ’emergencies’ that can’t wait until they get home, shouldn’t they be in a diaper? I don’t have kids but I would certainly do a double take if I saw ANYONE peeing in a public park in an urban space, but a five to six year old especially.

    • Blithe

      Most of us are not saying it’s “okay”– as much as saying that it might be a better alternative to having a sopping child. I wonder how many of the people who are shocked have actually spent time caring for small children. The amount of time between “I gotta go NOW” and “Uh Oh” can sometimes be startlingly brief.

      • This is pretty much the most reasonable post here. No one says it’s ideal, or desired, or even really accepted behavior. It just happens sometimes, and is better than alternative things that could happen. But all the child-haters are determined to make it sound as if we entitled parents are instructing our children to do all their elimination as publicly as possible, mostly out of laziness, but also just because we think we’re Better.
        (FWIW, I don’t recall a single instance of having my children pee out in the open. Not one. But just because it didn’t happen to me doesn’t mean I can’t understand how it would happen to others. We had quite a few close calls.)

        • Come on, now, there’s no reason to generalize all people who dislike the idea of public urination as “child-haters.” That’s quite a stretch.

          • Ok, then, parent haters. Because this isn’t about public urination. If it were, we’d be talking about lots more than one very small child, and her rightfully annoyed mother. Go ahead and read the comments.

          • WDC, I often agree with you, but in this case, I think you’re seeing more animosity toward children/parents than is actually there.

          • What I’m seeing is a staunch refusal on the part of many to grant benefit of the doubt to the parent, or the kid. I’m seeing lots of people saying what 5 year olds *should* be capable of, and a lot of that from people who freely admit they’ve never had a 5 year old. But point out the value of actual experience with actual 5 year olds? Claws come out, and all of a sudden it’s all about being “sick of entitled parents” and “people who believe kids give them some extraordinary right to do whatever they want”, and don’t forget! “Having a child does not elevate you to some holier than thou status among people.” In case I might have slipped back into smug entitlement since the last round of this.

          • The mother in the original case sounds like an odd specimen. Granted, she probably had her back up because the OP was criticizing her, but I’m still surprised she didn’t just say “The kid had to go” and leave it at that.
            I think most folks on here would be willing to give the benefit of the doubt to parents in general. It’s the behavior of the mother in the original post that’s being called into question — it sounded like she was rationalizing having the kid pee in public as an acceptable alternative choice (“boys do it, and it’s not feces”) rather than as a last resort.

        • justinbc

          Nobody is talking about you or your children. We’re talking about this lady. In this scenario. Stop taking it so personal as a “defend all the parents” mentality, and try to actually read what it is that people are upset by in this scenario.

    • “I don’t have kids but…”
      Really? But you seem so confident judging those who DO…
      (And good point, Blithe, about the dog pee. IT’S EVERYWHERE.)

      • Yeah, I am judging. Sorry, it’s gross! Also I’ve been a kid before so can I speak from that personal experience? I never peed in a park as a child. Is that better?

      • “I don’t have kids but….” you feel completely and totally able to judge this parent. That makes TOTAL sense. Thank you so much for your commentary on parenting!

        • You’re right. Because I don’t have kids I shouldn’t have opinions about urinating in public. Entitled, much? Give me a break

          • You are welcome to have an opinion, just note that your opinion and your lack of experience regarding that opinion are related. You, as a non-parent, are hardly qualified. Think about it. If I’m going to consider the opinions of two people on any topic, the person with the least amount of experience on the topic is far less qualified to give that opinion and far more likely to be wrong. This is why, for example, I would put a lot more stock in someone’s opinion about climate change if they have the education to back it up rather than someone who gets there information from Fox News.

          • THIS +10^9

          • “Never mind going to the bathroom before we leave, Snowflake; if you have to pee, you can do it in the park.”
            –said no parent, ever.
            (Not having children, you might not be aware that “did you go to the bathroom? Go to the bathroom!” is universal. Since I DO have children, I know that this is one of those things that can happen, despite the best intentions of parents and children alike, and that no one chooses it, and that clueless basics wailing about how “GROSS!” it is are so, so tiresome. And again, what about the dogs. Hm? Is no one going to address how a single peeing child is somehow so much more worth of outrage than the thousands of peeing “furchildren”?)

          • justinbc

            Dogs do not have the intellectual capacity of humans. There, can we stop with that comparison now?

          • You don’t get to shut down a conversation because you’re on the losing end of it. Dogs are extensively trainable. You ever try to train a three year old human? We know that you have not. Kids are unpredictable, willful, and SO SO MUCH MORE WORTHY of tolerance than any dog.

          • justinbc

            Losing? There is no “winner” in an internet argument about a scenario that the only person who witnessed it isn’t even participating in. By the only account we have, this child is 5 years old, whether or not you choose to believe that. We are discussing THAT scenario, not some other one you’ve dreamed up where the child is now 3. A 5 year old child is significantly smarter than a dog, and more capable of not only communicating their needs, but predicting them.

          • justinbc

            Also, for what it’s worth, the answer of “no” is “winning” against “yes” by a margin of about 4 to 1 right now.

          • +1 I’m so sick of entitled parents thinking that just because someone doesn’t have a child, that person needs to put up with everything a parent decides to do with their child or instruct their child to do.

            What you allow your child to do affects others. Being a parent doesn’t give you a free pass to never be criticized.

        • No offense, but the childless share the world with you, contrary to what most people with children think. We have just as much of a right to say what is or isn’t appropriate as anyone with a child. Having a child does not elevate you to some holier than thou status among people.

          • I don’t know any parent who says it does. But it makes us more qualified to opine on a story involving a child.

          • It does not make you more qualified to decide whether urinating in public is okay or not. You share the world with others and having a child doesn’t mean you get to decide how the rest of us live when you leave your house.

          • +100 This is a parent vs non-parent issue. I’m simply stating it’s not sanitary/socially acceptable to urinate wherever you please. This isn’t a hard concept and really not update for debate.

          • left out “not’ a parent vs non parent issue.

          • This whole thread should be posted to STFUParents. Sanctimommy/daddy posts abound.

          • justinbc

            I had no idea that was a site, but thanks for sharing. LOL @ that “momma bears” post.

        • justinbc

          Thank you so much for your commentary on commentary!

  • Blithe

    I wonder how OP feels about the fact that pets and other animals pee in the park all the time? I also wonder if the OP is correct in his/her estimate of the child’s age. Small kids often have urgent needs that cannot be effectively dealt with by walking a few blocks, chatting with the manager of a restaurant where one is not a customer, and waiting for someone to locate the restroom key. So given the choice between having the child duck behind a tree and having the child urinate on herself, I think the mother made the best choice that was immediately available to her. I think the OP was WAY out of line in confronting the Mom and the child, who was likely discomfitted enough without being set upon by a stranger.

    • justinbc

      Maybe the child was actually older than 5, rather younger, and the OP is rounding down?

      • If you wanted to make a point about something that got your back up and present your position in the most sympathetic light, would you offer your adversary any benefit of the doubt? You would not. No one would. Guaranteed the OP rounded WAY up on the age.

        • justinbc

          So you’re guaranteeing something about a person you don’t know retelling a story you weren’t there for. And you see no irony in that situation?

        • My supposition that they rounded up on age is based on the fact that most 5 or 6 year olds would be pretty embarassed to have their pants down in public.

      • Blithe

        Could be. I just had the impression (my assumption, I know) that the OP was guessing about the age, and my response would change a bit depending on the age of the child. The older the child, the more warning I’d expect (hope?) the child to be able to give to the parent regarding the urgency of the situation. And I’d expect (hope) that peeing in the park would truly be a last resort option.

    • Sometimes dogs hump in public, but I’m not giving the thumbs up to public sex.

  • justinbc

    It’s no more ok for boys than it is for girls, I think that much we can at least hopefully agree on. As for the particular incident in question, it’s always hard to asses from the recountings of a stranger what’s actually occurred, but I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt and just chalk this up to ironically bad parenting (in that Logan Circle has replaced its bums with strollers, but the pee will always remain).

    • Blithe

      It’s no more okay for boys than it is for girls — but boys sometimes get a pass because they can be a bit more discreet about the process. (Reason number 3,472 why I avoid “camping” trips.)

      • I wonder if there’s something going on with the mom in question — it’s odd to me that part of her defense was “it would be OK if a little boy urinated in the park.”
        I think there’s too much acceptance of men and boys urinating in public (I suppose on the grounds that they can do it more discreetly, as Blithe notes)… but surely the way to combat this double standard shouldn’t be to encourage women and girls to urinate in public too!!

  • HaileUnlikely

    I agree that it is gross, but as far as threats to public health are concerned, spitting in public is infinitely worse than peeing in public. My doctor/nurse/EMT friends all say that they would much rather get peed on than spat on, and these are people who are subject to both with above-average frequency. Thus, I hope you never spit in public, and feel free to chew out parents when you see their kids spit in public.

    • *walks into starbucks* “Hey, do you guys mind if I spit in your bathroom sink?” Gimme a break. We need to ban public smoking and coughing and sneezing if we’re going to ban spitting. That being said, when I have to spit in public (mostly while running/cycling), I do make sure it’s fairly discreet and try to spit in the grass/mulch instead of anywhere paved.

      • “[W]hen I have to spit in public” — Again, there is a double standard here. I have never spit in public. I imagine most women on this board have never spit in public. Nobody “has” to spit in public — it’s just that many men have been acculturated into thinking that public spitting is OK… for them.

        • I’m a lady and I’ve had to spit in public before. Mostly while running.

        • With you, textdoc. I have never spit in public. I don’t believe there is such a thing as “having to” spit. What makes a person “have to” spit? As opposed to “want to”? A full bladder means you “have to” pee. I don’t see any connection to simply being unwilling to swallow your own saliva.

        • I’ve spit in public too. I think more women do it than you realize.

          • Nasty. And in no way comparable to a little kid who needs to pee. You do not NEED to spit, and you most certainly don’t need to do it in public. Gag.

          • HaileUnlikely

            Basically agreed, but my point was that virtually nobody would go reprimand another parent if they saw their 5- or 6-year-old spit in public, and from a public health standpoint, that is much worse than peeing in public, even though fewer people would likely be grossed out by seeing a child (or adult) spit than pee.

    • HaileUnlikely

      p.s. Those of you who have “never” spit in public, I have a fair amount of difficulty believing you. You may well be telling the truth, and I have no difficulty believing that you do not do this habitually and may not have done this in the past few years even, but never? Gold stars for you all.

  • nightborn

    I would understand if it were an emergency… otherwise, no. If it were an emergency and not something this lady normally does, I bet she’d be apologetic and at least a little embarrassed. Ew, what a pig.

  • Any dog in the city can pee in that park, why not a kid? Good grief. Let’s stop pretending we are not human beings. I am sure it was a desperate situation. It’s better than having the kid’s bladder explode.

    • Do you really not see a difference between a dog peeing on a tree and a 6 year old peeing in public?

      • There is obviously a difference, but I don’t have any problem with either of these creatures peeing on a tree.

    • justinbc

      1) dogs cannot speak any known human languages, 2) humans are smarter than dogs, 3) the bladder, biologically, will almost universally force urine out of the system rather than bursting, unless there’s something wrong with its normal functioning

    • This is actually a good point. Urine from both is gross. We would be better off with a park that was adults only–no children, dogs, or anything else that doesnt know how to find a starbucks.

    • Can we stop with the dog analogy already? Are you saying kids/people should also be able to poop wherever they want? Hump wherever they want?

      • I just wish people got this upset over people letting dogs pee on public grass. Why should we let animals do this when people should not..

        • The point is, It is not right to give more relief to animals than it is to humans, though a case can be made that dogs are getting more of a break these days in Washington. There are certainly enough parks for them.

          I have said on this blog before that anyone who says they have never, ever had to pee in public is probably not telling the truth….

  • I am seriously stunned by how many people think its ok for a kid this age to pee in a busy urban park. I do have kid and already posted. Assuming that the OP is right and the kid is 5 or 6 years old, it is not ok. When does it become wrong, age 8 or 9? 22? A kid that age is not potty trained and should be in a pull up. I have a kid, she is not potty trained and its clear its going to be a bitch to get her there. She will pee in her pants before I let her know that this is ok. Not to shame her but because I am really trying to take the time to teach my kid. Wow. I feel like most folks on Pop will go on and on about a toddler in a bar but peeing outside your house is A-ok. I learn something new about my DC community every day.

    • Whoa. Seriously? You would force your child to soil herself rather than let her go behind a tree? That is… that is some CPS worthy cruelty. (And yes, that IS what you said: “She will pee in her pants before I let her know that this is ok.”) My heartrate actually increased thinking about the monster who could be THAT cold to her own kid. To any kid.

      • save the drama. My kid would be in a pull up at that age if she wasn;t potty trained. We are in the middle of it now and she has accidents. News flash, most kids who have accidents don;t give you warning. THey just go in their underwear. We just clean up, change and keep it moving. and just keep practicing. No shaming, no judgement and no punishment. But as the parent, I know if she is ready to be out and about without a diaper or a pull up. Again, if the letter writer is correct and the kid is 5 or 6 then I blame the parents for putting their kid in this position. They arent trained and the parents shouldn’t pretend otherwise.

        • Hello, ye olde wizard of potty training (after pointing out that you haven’t yet succesfully accomplished it). For a pretty long time after kids are well trained, they’re announce to you that they have to go. And your time to get them to a toilet does not allow the luxury of traveling several blocks to a local business – it’s mission impossible time, and you probably have under a minute. Pop quiz, hot shot. What are you going to do?

        • Not for nothing, but putting your 6 YO is a pull up is a horrific idea, certain to do more psychological damage than being called out for public urination. At that age, kids will rip your kid apart if s/he is wearing a pull-up.

    • I am equally stunned by how many people think it is not okay for a small child to pee in a park.

    • +1

      I’m grossed out at the number of people here who think it’s ok for kids and adults to pee in public and who think sometimes adults “need” to spit in public. Guess this is why so many alleys and basements in DC smell like pee, and why I can’t go two blocks without stepping aside to avoid yet another gob of spit.

  • That park is soaked in dog urine, and so why do you care that a 5 year old, who obviously couldn’t hold it, also urinates? It’s so funny that a human’s urine is somehow a “public health issue,” but not the urine and defecation of dogs, squirrels and of course rats.

    • +1

      I’m thinking it’s not about the urine. But the people complaining don’t even have the self-awareness of what their visceral reaction is about. To me this discussion is pretty close to arguments I’ve read in which some people think public breastfeeding is unsanitary.

  • Love the multiple “urine is not sterile” comments. Also the Seinfeld reference. Well played. I have two girls, 6 and 3. While it’s always my goal to have them relieve themselves in appropriate, private settings, it’s not always the outcome. Emergencies do arise. At the same time I don’t want to live in an id-driven, pee and let pee world. I think a little understanding and empathy goes a long way. We all know the difference between a parent and child who are stuck in a bad situation and someone who just doesn’t give a darn.

  • Unacceptable. I’m completely shocked anyone would think public urination is a-ok especially in this situation. Sure, emergencies happen, but if that was the case wouldn’t the mom in question be apologetic if not slightly embarrassed? Also Logan Circle park is in no way a secluded area…5 mins or less to a business that would surely let a child use the restroom or a least hide behind shrubs. I don’t want to walk or sit accidentally on fresh pee and I’m sure that mother wouldn’t be happy if her child walked onto a stream of pee or climbed up that urine tree.

    Is it harmful…no…but its not really respectful either.

    • Blithe

      If I were dealing with a child that had an urgent need that I tried to address the best way I could under the circumstances, and I were accosted by a stranger sharing his/her opinion, possibly humiliating the kid, I wouldn’t be embarrassed. Frankly, I’d be pissed. And again, obviously I don’t know the specifics of this situation, but sometimes with small children you don’t have 5 minutes for a jaunty walk to a business. Since the parent took the child to a tree, it would seem that she was making an effort to come as close as she could to hiding behind a shrub.
      This is a bit of a derail, but this convo makes me appreciate why, when the vestiges of segregation were still very much with us, my parents stowed a potty in the car.

      • “Frankly, I’d be pissed.” — No pun intended? 😉

      • I agree with the general sentiment of “not ok generally, but sometimes emergencies happen.” However, couldn’t help but giggle at being “pissed” at being lectured by someone while my child is peeing in public because of an emergency situation. I’d also go mama-bear on the lecturer. But I’m giggling at the word choice 🙂

  • It would have been better if the mother shielded the spectacle with a blanket or something. I don’t think the pee is a huge deal, but no one wants to see a child’s bare rear or other parts.

    • Actually some people DO want to see it, which is exactly why you should be protecting your children in public rather than having their bare parts exposed.

    • THIS is what this bullshit fight is about, for half of the anti-toddler pee. And I say, that’s your freakish problem. Because little kids are entirely non-sexual, and are still learning to go potty outside of diapers. So demanding that they not do what they have to do as part of that process, with negligible impact on the environment (in that same spot, you bet a dozen dogs several times the kid’s size, piss every single day), because of your own freakish issues with child nudity is about as ridiculous as demanding a mother breastfeed a newborn in the toilet so you don’t have to see a piece of her breast. Get therapy.

      The other half of the anti-toddler public pee voices just might truly be ignorant enough to think that a 4-year old allowed by her parents to pee in a bush is on a slippery slope of delinquency and a lifetime of public urination or that a toddler’s pee is just as voluminous and smelly as an drunk adult man’s.

      • +1, to each of these excellent and well-stated points.

        • Not exactly. They’re making a lot of assumptions that aren’t true. It’s kind of disturbing that their mind even jumped to those conclusions in the first place.

      • +1,000,000

      • agree. i am from europe and children run around naked. i was one of them and there is nothing sexual about it. if anyone thinks it is wrong then there is something wrong with them.

        • It’s not sexual, just unsightly. This shouldn’t be happening for the same reason people shouldn’t be leaving old couches out on the sidewalk. Considerate residents try their best to keep their neighborhoods, and especially parks, for being ugly.

      • It’s my freakish problem because I don’t enjoy seeing disgusting things like a child’s bare butt? Get your mind out of the gutter– this has nothing to do with sex.

  • I have no problem whatsoever with small children (and I include 5 and 6 year-olds in my definition of small children) peeing in a park on occasion.

  • I think the more important way that this thread is “so very DC” is the rigid and legalistic thinking that is evidenced in both the OP’s letter and in the comments section. People take a totally binary view as to whether peeing in public is OK.

    I would rather not live in a urine-stained dystopia, but if something like this happens, it’s not that big a deal. I lived in Germany for a while, and people (read: drunk, not-homeless adults…those are the people who populate my life, I guess) pee *everywhere*. Businesses in the US are way, way more accommodating to non-customers using their facilities. In Germany, there are no toilets. Only city streets. And it wasn’t that big a deal. In fact, it was pretty convenient. Then again, it rained all the time and never got that hot, and there was way more green space to soak it up.

  • Based on some of the comment threads on posts (e.g. breastfeeding at baseball games and urinating in public), I’m amazed that PoPville readers have happy hours instead of fight club.

    • Emmaleigh504

      lol Mybe you can be vice president in charge of setting up Popville Fight Club.

      • Emilie, the first rule of PoPville Fight Club is that you do not talk about Fight Club. So, I’m not sure how to go about organizing it 🙂

  • I get that not everyone has kids, and it’s a choice, etc. But is there anyone posting here who was never a child? Maybe you took to potty training really well and never ever peed in public (let’s throw college in there too), but I bet there was some time when you were a little sh!t about something, and the right thing for people to do was to realize that you were just a child and needed some leeway.
    Now take that concept and pay it forward to other people’s children.

  • My 2 cents:
    There shouldn’t be a difference between boys and girls in this situation – but there is.
    It’s not OK for peeing in public to be anyone’s default.
    That said, sometimes young kids misjudge their bladders, even 5-6 YOs. If it’s a bona fide emergency, I’m not going to get bent out of shape about this.
    In this situation, the Mother was lazy, and in my opinion, in the wrong. There are a multitude of public restrooms less than 2 blocks away, and most 5-6 yos have sufficient control to wait 5 minutes.
    I am . . . skeptical that the OP was just as polite as polite can be when raising this issue with the mother. I don’t know this to be a fact, of course, but people have a tendency to over-represent how polite they were when describing a confrontation they initiated.
    Comparisons between dogs and kids are inevitably stupid, whether it’s “a dog can pee here, why can’t a kid?” or “a kid can come into this restaurant/store/whatever, why can’t a dog?” or “My dog is just as important to me as your kid is to you.” Stupid comparisons detract from your argument.

  • The poll results are skewing very anti-pee. I have to wonder if a survey of the general population would show a similar result, or if popville readers have a particularly puritan tendency. In a park where the urine will quickly soak into the soil, and when the urinating child is next to a tree that is at least partially obscuring the view? Pee away little ones, life is short. Pee away!

    • You’re trolling right now, yes? I certainly hope you are.

      • Well, kind of sort of trolling. I am genuinely surprised by the staunchness of the objection to the child peeing, and since I normally feel relatively in sync with at least a plurality of popville commenters, I could not help but express my curiosity. But yeah, I guess that was kind of a troll comment so, if the stiff resistance to little kids peeing in a park keeps up, I will just keep quiet from now on unless I have something new to add.

    • Emmaleigh504

      I think Popville does skew to the puritanical.

    • I didn’t vote because the poll was too simplistic. I don’t believe that it’s ok for a kid to pee in a park. I think parents should make every effort to get their kids to the appropriate facilities. (And I know that most of them DO.) But I know that the reality is, urgencies will arise, and all the bratty millennials can lay the hell off. I don’t come to your happy hour and tell you how to drink your small-batch bourbon, do I?

    • I would imagine the results skew in that direction because people are answering with an assumption that this should not be the default. If it were worded, in an emergency where the child cannot get to a private bathroom, is it okay, you’d likely see the numbers shift to pro-pee.

      I’m mostly in shock by how many people in the comments seem to be okay with, in general, children openly peeing in public wherever and comparing this behavior to that of dogs. We aren’t dogs. We wear clothes and poop in toilets and don’t sniff each others’ a$$es in public. We don’t hump strangers’ legs. We expect there to be some boundaries when living in a shared society. Urinating openly in public is one I think we should cross rarely and only in extreme emergencies.

      The most telling point in the OP’s story is that the woman admitted she lived nearby and did not really defend this as an extreme emergency nor did she seem to take any care to shield her daughter from public view while telling her to urinate by the tree. Taking that as true, I think this woman seems outrageous. And seems outrageous some people here think the OP embarrassed the little girl by bringing it up. The only person who embarrassed that girl was her mother for making her urinate in public. I doubt if this was the sidewalk corner on 14th and P where this was happening, very few people here would defend it.

    • The poll results are what they are because (i) many people vote no because they don’t think peeing in a public space should be the default (“Don’t worry about peeing before we leave, Aiden, you can just pee in the park if you need to go.”); and (ii) the PoPville demographic skews to the childless (i.e. “outraged and entitled millennial”) rather than the parent (i.e. “outraged and entitled yuppie parent”).

    • They skew clueless childless.

  • The other day I saw someone whip out what I assume was a travel potty training toilet and sit their kid down on it on the sidewalk (not in the middle of it, which was nice). Is that a thing that happens? I’m not judging, just honestly curious if this is something that parents do on a regular basis?

    • I think this often happens in/next to cars when one often travels by car & has kids in the middle of potty training. I’m a bit surprised to hear about it on the sidewalk, but that might be the next-best option when one doesn’t generally travel by car. We’re not at that stage just yet, but I’m not looking forward to that type of issue (gotta go NOW, being scared of public toilets–especially those with automatic flushers, etc)

      • My son has been potty trained for a couple months now (very few accidents, still lots of “do you have to go potty?” questions) and it’s been very helpful that I’m pregnant and need to pee all.the.time. So, it gives a good excuse of making him come with me and why doesn’t he just try, since we’re in there anyway. Just a thought on timing, since I think you’re also expecting?

        • Good thought–I’ll keep that in mind. We’ll see how quickly she takes to it in day care once she switches rooms, but particularly if I’m still pregnant when she’s largely out of diapers outside of day care as well, that’s an excellent idea. Thanks!

  • You think this is bad, Sunday (26th) about 1pm at the corner of Varnum and 7th NW, a truck stops at the stops sign blaring terrible techno music and two men get out an urinate right there in the street. Then the back seat rider throws two beer cans and a 12-pack cardboard box into the road. These guys then just hung out for another minute, giving each other low fives before slowly rolling off. Absolutely no fucks given.

    • That is definitely about a hundred times worse than a kid peeing next to a tree.

    • On two separate occasions, an adult male (one waiting for the driver to come out of a house, the other on his way into the house) jumped out and peed into the street in front of my house. In broad daylight.

  • How does OP expect a person to react when someone approaches to criticize, shame, and humiliate them and their child?

  • i’ve seen this multiple times outside the playground at 11th and MD NE. yeah, pee happens, but these were older kids and going directly next to the playground.

  • I’d love to see what OP says to a 16 year old kid smoking a joint walking through Logan Circle.

  • City folk never cease to entertain.

    I grew up on a dairy farm in rural NY state. I remember at a young age, peeing on the side of the barn, or in the pasture…until my dad caught me for the first time at age ~6 (I remember being in first grade).

    It was the middle of the day, no one around ( who wasn’t family or didn’t work for us) for 5 miles in any direction and I was wizzing on the side of the barn when my dad came around the corner. He asked me what I thought I was doing, and I said just peeing. I will never forget what he said next, as I think of it every time I see someone peeing in a DC alley, or against a house, or in a park. He said…”you may spend a lot of time in this barn, but I am not raising you in it and you certainly aren’t one of these holstein’s that doesn’t know any better. Don’t let me see it again”. In his defense, we had a urinal in a building about 100 yards away that everyone used, but still.

    If my 3rd generation farmer father, who spent 12 hours a day in a barn and could legitimately get away with never urinating/defecating in a bathroom again for fear of decency or cleanliness, then there is ZERO excuse, medical, age or otherwise for folks in dense, highly populated cities to be doing it, let alone in public parks.

  • I for one am opposed to pee range parenting. The mother and child should have been picked up by DC’s finest and held for 5 hours at least.

  • I’m curious as to the relative, age, socio-economic levels of the OP and the mom. Every now and then my son pees in alleys or behind trees. We try to avoid it but it happens, especially on Sunday’s when rec center facilities are closed. Can recall helping my young daughter pee in an alley too. Face it, most of us, men and women, did this as college kids and adults too, leaving bars, parties, etc.

  • What about a travel potty? When my son was potty training we took a travel potty with us everywhere. While he wasn’t peeing in the grass, he was still in the park. There would not have been time to get him home before he went.

  • It’s never okay to pee in public in the city. Never. Not adults. Not kids. You can’t just go and do anything you want just because it makes you feel better. If you are a dog that’s okay, but human beings are supposed exert some level of control over their behavior if it affects others. People who teach their kids to pee in public are teaching them to behave like dogs.

    In the woods, at the roadside and otherwise outside and away from where other people are it’s a different story, but in a populated area we modify our behavior if it affects others.

    • Yes, we modify our behavior. But under no circumstances should that modification have to include forbidding a toddler to pee next to a tree. Do you really think this girl is going to be peeing on the sidewalk later in life because her mom let her do it when she was five? What is so distressing about a little pee, which will quickly soak into the ground?

  • Why can dogs urinate on the sidewalk at will, but a child can’t if he/she needs relief?

    Also, does this officious upright citizen really not remember what it was like to be a kid? There’s not a lot a warning at times and relief will happen no matter what.

  • my father (75yr old) got arrested because at this point in is life he can’ t control his bladder so instead of pissing in the streets in china town he went into a restaurant and asked to use the bathroom. they said no and he went anyways so they called the police.

    i guess in this world you cant win and this 75 yr old man should have peed him self in the street.

    it is not like people piss in the street all the time and we have a huge problem with it in dc so please transplants give people the benefit of the doubt and move on. society works better that way.

    OP should not have said anything to the mother. it just shows how insensitive and entitled the OP is.

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