$2,500 Ticket for Toddler Peeing in His Own Front Yard?

The Belgians get it.

I don’t know how you potty trained your sons, but all of my kids’ first non-diaper urinations took place in out in the yard.

It wasn’t great for the grass, and there are still remnants of burned-out brown spots all over the yard. Hot tip to parents of potty-training boys: Buy St. Augustine when you sod. It grows back faster.

The truth is, this type of potty training works great. My boys loved the varied targets: Trees, weeds, the fence, the side of the garden box. I’d like to pretend they never peed on the swingset or any of the dogs, but I can’t guarantee that. Here in Southern California, where temperatures rarely dip below 60 degrees, the back yard method is preferred by most parents I know. Plus, you have less pee to clean up from around the toilet!

Of course there is a downside, and not just the aforementioned pockmarked back yard: Public pants-dropping.

As much as you tell a 2 or 3 or even 4 year-old that he can’t drop trou at school, in front of the neighborhood synagogue, or at the home of his friend whose parents are particularly fastidious about such things, it doesn’t quite sink in until they’re about four and a half. Yeah, they know they should use the toilet, and they can do it, but why would they go inside when the outdoors is so lovely?

One of my best friends was working in a high-end retail center in LA when my youngest was potty training. The kids were outside in the courtyard, playing on patio furniture that probably cost more than my car, while Misti and I watched from inside the doorway of her store. I turned to look at something, and suddenly she says, “Oh.My.God, Dude. Bo is peeing in James Perse’s plants!” And there he was, standing on the edge of polished concrete planter, pants around his ankles, hips thrust out and wizzing all over a 4 foot tall Pampas Grass.

People stared. Fortunately the glamorous employees inside of James Perse found it funny, laughing and shaking their heads as he pulled up his trunks and got back to playing. Misti and I, beet red, stayed where we were and played a little game most parents know, called “Who’s kid is that? That’s not my kid!”


One thing that did not happen was a ticket for public urination. One mom in Oklahoma, however, was not so lucky.

When Ashley Warden’s 3 year-old potty trainer stopped to take a leak on their front lawn this week, she didn’t realize a cop was watching. Despite it being their own property, the officer got out of his cruiser and gave her a $2,500 ticket. Just as I would have, she tore the ticket up… Then realized that tearing up a ticket probably isn’t super legal.

After the media grabbed the story and the public started complaining, the Piedmont police explained that the issue was related to vandalism in the neighborhood and the fact that a teenage member of their family was the one who led the preschooler to a part of the lawn to pee. NewsOK explains:

The officer was in the area because several neighbors have complained of young people vandalizing property and being out of control. He saw a teenager in the Warden family lead the boy to a spot in the yard to urinate and decided to take action.

Yes, officer, go take some action on that deviant 3 year-old and his criminal mother!

Undoubtably embarrassed by what is clearly an overreaction by one if its officers, Piedmont Chief Alex Oblein explained:

Since the incident was first reported in the media, Oblein said his department has fielded hundreds of phone calls from across the U.S.

“It would have been a good opportunity for the officer to have a teaching moment with the parents,” Oblein said. “It’s certainly a teaching moment for us. We are going to be talking about it quite a lot.”

I guess the one question I’m left with here is exactly what they’re all going to be talking about? About what actions should be taken against 3 year-olds who wizz on their own front yard? About what is and is not allowed in one’s own front yard? Or about what infractions actually warrant $2,500 fines?

Fact is, if any mother deserves a fine for her kid publicly urinating, it’s probably me.


Also read: 10 Things I’ve Learned From Raising Boys by Joanna Schroeder

Photo of Mannekin Pis courtesy of Flickr/aditya karnad

About Joanna Schroeder

Joanna Schroeder is a feminist writer and editor with a special focus in issues facing raising boys and gender in the media. Her work has appeared on Redbook, Yahoo!, xoJane, MariaShriver.com, TIME.com, and more. She and her husband are outdoor sports enthusiasts raising very active sons. She is currently co-editing a book of essays for boys and young men with author and advocate Jeff Perera. Follow her shenanigans on Twitter.


  1. Why should this be public urination? Isn’t the front yard a part of their estate and hence private?
    I get that the front lawn is visible from the outside, but so is every room in the apartment I live, does this mean I would have to cover behind curtains every time I use the bathroom or change clothes?

  2. John Anderson says:

    Maybe it’s just men because I’ve never had kids, although I’ve babysat before, but I always thought that potty training was supposed to teach the kid to use the toilet.

  3. Joanna, I really love your writing in this piece. You really painted this issue (of toddlers peeing–who hasn’t done this) as ridiculous as the policeman in Oklahoma took it: it could’ve been anyone of us.

    I enjoyed this. I enjoyed the “Who’s Kid is That?” game too.

  4. Before I even read this–which I will–I just have to ask: was I the only one who found the scandelous undertone in “Joanna Schroeder can’t believe it didn’t happen to her first” way too funny?

    Ok, one second.

  5. wellokaythen says:

    Oddly enough, if the woman was changing her son’s diaper in the front yard, it would not be public urination. And, you can pee your own pants in public and that’s not a crime. So, it’s okay as long as there’s cloth in the way?

  6. wellokaythen says:

    Tell everyone it’s performance art or a political protest (the body is political, you know), and thus the ticket is a violation of your son’s first amendment rights. If campaign contributions count as free speech, then urinary contributions should count as well.

  7. Joanna Schroeder says:

    Another reason I wouldn’t make it on Real Housewives of Beverly HIlls:


  8. My son (at age 4) did that on the cement floor at the pool ….I was so embarrassed…but then a staffer just came by with a bucket of water and doused the area…and then went back to whatever he was doing…

    The other parents didn’t say anything….I think we have all been there!

  9. The officer later amended the complaint to contributing to the delinquency of a minor.

    I can see the banner headlines now “Potty Training Contributes To Juvenile Delinquency”.

    Come back Dr Spock – all is forgiven!

  10. Hank Vandenburgh says:

    Yes. And he clearly needs to go on the sex offender registry as well.

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