A big reason for Ingrid’s sudden interest in getting out of diapers has been her desire to score a pair of Percy Underpants like the ones her friend Henry wears at day care. She mentioned them to me one evening in an admiring tone, and I casually mentioned we might be able to buy her a pair once she got really good at using the potty.
(I don’t believe in bribing children. Really, I don’t. I was thinking of this more as a natural consequence: You’ll be good at wearing undies, you’ll need new undies, you can pick out the kind you want. I love Alfie Kohn. Honest.)
Ahem. So over the past few weeks she’s been doing great with the toilet peeing, so Saturday I decided it was time to
follow through on the bribe dish out the reward buy her some new underwear.
When I asked her if she wanted to go out with me to pick out some new undies, she literally quivered all over: PERCY!
You probably anticipated this: Every last pair of Thomas the Tank Engine underwear (at least in our T@rget) is “for boys”. With a fly.
This gave me less than half a second of pause in the store. With a tiny bit of effort, I probably could have redirected her to one of the many types of “girl” underpants that sort of caught her eye anyway. (Ponies!) But I am stubborn and unwilling to let the sexist underwear-making establishment deprive my daughter of the train-imprinted butt she’s been dreaming of for the past many weeks.
We bought the Thomas underpants, fly and all. She held onto the package all the way through the store, all the way through a trip to the bakery (for a special green cookie) and the library and all the way home. She loves them.
She noticed the fly, of course, and the idea that a boy who wore those undies would pee through that hole has clearly captured her imagination. But it doesn’t at all diminish her sense that those are her special underpants.
But now I’m thinking about day care. She’s so proud of them, she’ll want to wear them there for sure. Her day care is by far not a place where old-fashioned gender roles rule. But still, most kids there are three and four years old, and I’m beginning to see that kids that age can be pretty insistent about what’s For Boys and what’s For Girls. Am I setting her up for some sort of ostracism—or—worse—disillusionment about her beloved, chosen, prized undergarments—by sending her to day care wearing undies with a fly?