I belong to a very small parish (22 registered families, average attendance about 50. A little over 20 of those are children, all under 12 years old.) We all gather for lunch together every Sunday in the basement of the church. Because of the size of our parish, our priest has asked all adults, particularly all parents, to do a background check and complete the required safe environment training for volunteers. This afternoon, we had our annual “safe environment” training. Father was going over the safety rules, which included common items, including not letting the children be unsupervised in the parking lot or anywhere outside, not allowing the children into the kitchen or storage closets, etc. He then asked us to always have a parent escort our children to the bathroom.
Now, I’m a very relaxed parent. I try to keep reasonable restrictions on the kids in the name of safety, but I also appreciate greatly the fact that my children are growing older (my eldest is 10) and can now be trusted to act and react appropriately in the face of danger or unexpected events. I refuse to be a victim of paranoia and I generally allow my kids a bit more freedom than most other parents I know. I have no problem allowing my 9 and 10 year old children to use the restroom alone in many situations, including church. There are also situations in which I would not be comfortable. At church, I often allow my wiggly 9 year old to take her 3 year old sister to the bathroom during Mass because it gives her an opportunity to move around a bit and get the wiggles out. As a bonus, I don’t have to do it myself. I honestly believe that this should be a parental decision and that it is absolutely ridiculous that this should be viewed as a liability for the church. When does it stop? In 5 years, do I still have to escort my 15 year old to the bathroom, because our society considers teenagers to be children and refuses to allow them to take any kind of responsibility
Having said that, I love and respect my pastor, and realize that I owe him obedience in this matter, so I will do my best to follow his directives. I’m just really frustrated.
So my question is this: Am I way out of touch on this one? In my discussions with other parents at my church, it seems I am. I was the only person who did not adamantly agree that it is irresponsible and dangerous to allow a child of any age to go the bathroom alone at church. If we can’t give them freedom and responsibility in environments like this, when can we? When do they start to learn how to grow up if their every action is parent supervised?