24 February 2009

Kids, toilets and other yukky bits...

A very important consideration for any parent with young children is toilets! Public toilets can be difficult or even impossible to find, so one often needs to think ahead.

Firstly, explain to your children that finding toilets is going to be difficult, and they are going to need to give you as much warning as they possibly can, when they need to go. Then, they might need to hang on for enough time for you to locate a suitable toilet. Also, if they need to sit down, they will have to wait long enough to put toilet paper on the seat. You just don’t know how clean these things are...

Secondly, before you leave anywhere where there are toilets, such as a hotel, museum, shopping centre, cafe, make the kids go - whether they need to or not. You are the parent - tell them to!

Then, when you arrive anywhere where there are toilets, ask them if they need to go. When you are leaving, make them go again. When there are no likely locations, look for public libraries, museums, galleries, McDonalds, cafes, restaurants etc. Keep in mind that it is good manners to purchase at least something from any eatery whose toilets you may need to use. And if these options still do not present themselves, look for pay toilets (oh, I shudder to think of them) or find a quiet corner in a quiet street or garden (hey, the locals do it!). You might like to keep a small quantity of toilet paper with you in a ziplock bag for such eventualities. You’d be surprised how helpful people can be when you have a child who desperately needs to go.
After all, they don’t want the little surprise on their floor.

We haven’t yet encountered any squat toilets with our kids, and I can only imagine how “interesting” that will be.

As a dad with daughters, accompanying my kids to the toilet in different countries can be fraught with difficulty. As most dads will testify, men's public toilets are not a great place to take children - especially little girls. Our local shopping centre has "Parent's Rooms" specially set up with baby change facilities and kid-sized toilets, and Dads - as well as Mums - freely use them, this is not the cultural norm in many societies. While in transit in Dubai airport, I did wonder about asking the concierge where I could take my daughter when she needed her nappy changed just to see what the reaction would be (I was obviously bored...).

My best advice would be - if they are available - to use the disabled toilet facilities located separately from both the male and female toilets. 

And just to brag, we took our very young daughter to the Art Gallery of NSW. She needed to have her nappy changed, and the only baby change facilities available were in the female toilets. After enquiring politely where a dad might take their child (met by baffled looks, and stammered half-apologies that such a facility didn't exist), I made a written complaint in the gallery visitor's comment book. We recently visited again, and I was gratified to note that baby change facilities have since been installed in the men's room. One point for the dads!

If you are early on in the toilet training process while on holidays, keep the child in nappies (diapers). It will be less traumatic for them, and you won't have to deal with bedwetting. Make sure you take half a dozen or so, so that you have plenty of spares.

Vomit. Ah, yes, we can plan all we like, but we are helpless in the face of vomit. Tummy upsets are caused by all manner of things: badly cooked food, something in the water, overheating, car sickness (or seasickness, air sickness etc.), poor hygiene and any number of micro-organisms designed to wreck a good holiday. But once your kid has it, there are a few things you can do to help.

  • Be able to locate a pharmacy. Travel guides often tell you what the local version of a pharmacy looks like. You may not speak the language at all, but sign language can communicate a lot.
  • Boil your water, or buy water in fully sealed bottles. Make sure your kid doesn't get dehydrated. Use water purifying tablets if necessary.
  • Rest as much as possible. If car sickness is the issue, take breaks, wind down the window to let fresh air in, and don't let them put their head down (e.g. reading, drawing etc.).
  • Watch what they eat, and don't give them anything too rich, spicy or fibrous. Bland is best. We fed our unwell daughter orange juice and hot chips in Singapore and paid dearly for it. So did the hotel housekeeping staff, who had to change the cot sheets. Sorry...
  • Don't make them do too much. This might mean missing out on a particular sight, but your child's health is important. Our daughter had the opportunity to vomit at the Tower of London. As a result, Yvette didn't do the tour, but spent an hour or so sitting in the not unpleasant grounds inside watching the ravens and the Yeoman Warders. Find something "low impact" to do: sit by a river, in a town square, on a beach and watch the world go by.
Dealing with the yukky bits is part of being a parent - you've just got to take the necessary precautions so the yukkiness is minimised on holidays.

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