Fly Girl

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?


  1. That's a really good question, and one I've considered in reverse as my son's eye was caught by some Dora undies at Target not too long ago (we went with the Thomas ones). My question is: do kids this age even use the fly right now? Seems like using that flap would require a lot more dexterity than preschoolers have, so I reckon any issues might come from the teachers?

    I dunno. I'm new to this phase. But I would have bought my boy the Dora undies in a heartbeat if he'd wanted them.

  2. what's wrong with a little bribe? gatito now insists that WE get a jelly bean after peeing on the potty, too. i personally find it very encouraging.

    i also don't think the fly on the underpants (we have mcqueen and mater!) is even that noticeable. i'm sure she will be fine.

  3. Hah. I'm finding myself in similar situations lately with the, ahem, natural consequences. It all started with one little lollipop... The boys first undies were Thomas too, but J was mortified that I bought them a licensed character, and that was that. Now we have white for one and stripes for the other, and my biggest issue is whether it's OK to let one smaller twin inherit his brother's briefs. I'm thinking yes, for now, but I wonder if they might be horrified someday. With the Thomas, it was kind of funny to see O turning around in circles to get a glimpse of the train on his rear. As for the fly, well, we had two boys discover that recently, and now when they have no pants on, we sometimes have two boys prancing around with, ahem, boy parts protruding from the seams, to fits of giggles. I could do what my mom did when she got married (sewed all my dad's flies shut), but I'm not that prudish. If they don't grow out of it by college, my big fear is that they'll have to join a frat. That would be terrible, and I'd give them all the lollipops in the world, liqueur-filled even, to bribe them into something more seemly if need be. I say send her in Thomas. Thomas Pride! You have a good relationship with her, and the conversations it leads to could be helpful even if they're hard. It's OK to ask the daycare folks to back you up with this if need be, and it's important for all the kids, including yours if she ever has an issue with a certain little boy being obsessed with a certain pink boa and rainbow sunglasses...

  4. Ah, gender specific clothing, fun times. Reminds me of when I threw a fit over some present my grandparents brought back for me from a trip to Texas - my boy cousins got something fun and weapon-y, and I got something boring and girly. So the next trip we all three got star wars pjs (the first movie had just come out and was a BIG DEAL). I was thrilled, even though they did indeed have a fly in the pants.

    My goal is to be neutral while explaining the societal conventions as I deem it neccessary. For example, like any three year old, Jamie's very interested in what mommy and daddy do and is dying to wear some of my makeup. I just tell him it's for grownups. Then when he asks to wear Daddy's makeup, I explain that most men choose not to wear makeup and Daddy doesn't have any.

    He still insists that daddy's bathroom drawer has makeup in it and we just give in at this point and agree.

  5. Oh my god, the things I have to look forward to. Really, none of this was in the brochure that lured us into parenthood.

    I say send her to day care in her train underpants, and ask the day care workers to back you up if there is any trouble.

  6. Mimi has "fly" boy undies, and when she makes a pee & a poo in the potty, she has already requested Diego panties. I realize that Diego panties are probably for boys, but who cares.

    I love that our generation has less gender hang-ups than the generation that makes kids' underwear (and pull-ups!)

    Send her in the boy undies. Just don't stick a roll of quarters in there or anything.

  7. Okay, now I am caught up. Happy Birthday! And peeing on the potty, learning to read, eating sweet potatoes--all awesome. I think the underpants would be okay, especially if you give a heads-up to the daycare people. Who knows, of course. If she ends up needing some other kind, you know where the store is!