Of all the things I just don’t understand about children (and there are quite a few), one of the top contenders has to be the whole underwear thing: I have yet to meet a child who will wear a pair willingly. In fact, I would go so far as to say that, at any given time, your chances of finding a child who is actually wearing underwear is at best 50%. (Come to think of it, if it was socially acceptable to pick up stray children and look in their pants, you could devise some sort of new drinking game that way–“Ok, first person who gets three commandos in a row has to take a drink.”). And even though I think I have heard every possible excuse for underwear avoidance, I am still at a loss to explain this phenomenon. All I can do is report it, and, when I can, try and correct it.

That would explain, on a recent visit to Kohl’s, my instructions to Clementine to “go pick out some new underwear.” Notice I didn’t say, “wait here while I go pick out some new underwear for you,” or even “let’s go pick out some new underwear together,” but rather, in a show of my cool, open-minded, groovy Mom-ness, sent Clementine off to pick out underwear all on her own, without even admonishing her to “make sure and get the cheap kind” or “no High School Musical 2 thongs.” And, when she showed up at the checkout with a package of plain (and cheap!) underwear, I felt vindicated in my new hands-off approach to parenting. Or, at least I did: right up until my next surprise drawer inspection. (That would be dresser drawers; I wasn’t drinking.)

“How come almost all of your new underwear is still in the package?” I asked. “Aren’t you wearing it?”

“They’re too big,” she replied.

Nice try, I thought. Too big: that’s the lamest excuse I’ve heard since–holy crap! You could hold a circus in these things! And it was true: this wasn’t just “big” underwear; it was monstrous underwear; her only hope for ever keeping it up would be to pull it up and over her shoulders a´ la Borat and the “Mankini.”

“What,” I asked, “ever possessed you to buy Anna Nicole Smith-size underwear?” Her only reply was to shrug her shoulders in the 11-year-old’s version of c’est la vie, and casually say, “They don’t put the sizes on the outside of the packages.”

Now, I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not that hip on all the new marketing practices, and I’ll also cop to buying my own underwear so infrequently that even Bridget Jones would be appalled at the state of my lingerie drawer, but somehow, I seriously doubt that the newest fad is to play Russian Roulette with your undergarments. Can you imagine the suspense? Tens of thousands of people the world over, eagerly tearing into their newest underwear purchase, only to be disappointed again and again. We would have to form “Wedgie Support Groups,” not to mention all sorts of underwear exchange networks–eDrawers, perhaps–both online and in person (“Come to my house Tuesday night for an Underwear Swap!–Sorry, no size 0’s”). And what about the Victoria’s Secret catalog? It would take ages to shoot. (“Damn! Another package of “granny panties.” Hold on girls: I’m sure there’s a thong in here somewhere.”)

The truth, however, is much less interesting: in my bid to be “cool–yet conscientious” I fell for one of the oldest tricks in the book: the old “pick out huge underwear so you don’t have to wear it” trick. What? That’s not in your book? Just as I suspected: my kids are reading an entirely different book.

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