As I’ve mentioned before, my two-year-old daughter Bridget is a baby Viking: a freakishly-strong blonde who lives to dance, eat, and occasionally conquer all rules of civilized Christian society by violently head-butting them with her berserker rage.
And tonight, she waged a war on the meaning of pants.
Everything had been going so well. Earlier, she’d finally asked to use the potty instead of just using it as a step-stool or a comedy hat as she’d done for months, in what I can only assume was a blatant mockery of our attempts to civilize her.
Then she actually peed in it for the first time, like she was supposed to.
We were so ridiculously thrilled. Even her four-year-old sister Brontë was impressed, telling her, “You PEED in the potty like A BIG GIRL. I’m so proud of you, Bridge-git, because you are being a big girl more every day!”
Everyone clapped. I gave Bridget a chocolate, which she wolfed down in beaming celebration before squaring her shoulders and bellowing something unintelligible to the heavens (which I can only assume was a shout-out to Odin) before tearing out of the room…
And that’s when things got weird.
I’m not sure if Bridget worried about whether her potty capitulation meant she’d become too domesticated, or if triumphing over her bowels overwhelmed her with a sense of boundless power, but she ran straight to the pajama drawer and started yelling, “PICK! PICK!”
You see, every night before bedtime, the girls get to pick the pajamas they’ll be wearing and it’s kind of an amazingly big deal for them.
I’m guessing that’s because they don’t control most aspects of their daily lives. They don’t get to make many selections apart from whether to play with dolls or Legos, drink water or milk, eat dinner or NOT eat dinner, and which cartoon characters they want smeared across their bodies as they sleep that night.
So when I opened the pajama drawer, Bridget dove in with real purpose, finally surfacing with a Minnie Mouse nightgown in one hand and an Olivia-the-piglet top in the other.
“You have an Olivia shirt… do you want the Olivia pants, Bridget?”
“NO! NOOOO! NONONONONO… MINNIE!” (Angry V-eyebrows).
“Okay, that’s cool, you don’t want to match.”
“No problem. Do you just want to wear the Minnie Mouse nightgown? You don’t have to wear pants with it.”
“Okay, that’s fine too. Except you have two shirts right now. Do you want the pants instead?” I pulled out the Olivia pants and offered them to her.
“NO!” Bridget insisted while shoving the Olivia pants away: “This!”
“Okay, but you have another SHIRT. You have TWO SHIRTS right now.”
“Pants,” she grunted through gritted teeth while staring me straight in the eyeballs, just daring me to suggest she wasn’t holding pants one. more. time. These were pants, goddammit, even if my limited peasant vision wouldn’t accept it.
I sat back.
Alright. Put on those pants then.
Bridget scowled at me while balancing one foot over an upside-down Olivia shirt. She snaked her wiggling toes into an armhole before thrusting her leg all-the-way through.
Hmm. Now what?
One leg safety through, Bridget glanced down at the giant neck-hole and tiny armhole beneath her, suddenly grasping the complex dignity equation in which she’d landed herself. Not yet willing to surrender, she picked up her free leg and alternated pointing her toes at the neck hole and leg hole, aiming back and forth until she lost her balance and fell smack down on her toddler butt.
She started rolling around, jamming her leg in various parts of the Olivia shirt as though sheer force of will would magically transform it into appropriate leg wear. Finally, she somehow managed to cram both her legs into a single armhole, then, realized she was trapped, began thrashing around in a berserker rage, screaming “PANTS! PANTS! NO PANTS!”
I let her thrash until she was winded. Laying helplessly on the floor, her dignity somehow crashed amidst a random pile of brightly-colored piglets, she finally looked over and weakly gasped, “Help?”
I worked the Olivia shirt off her legs. She ran over to the pajama drawer, fished out the Olivia pants, and collapsed on my lap. I wadded up each Olivia leg like pantyhose, popped her feet through either side, held her hands and pulled her back up to her feet.
She laid a hand against my neck, pulled my face closer, and pushed her forehead onto mine. She pushed our foreheads together for several moments.
“Mama.” She gave me a kiss.
Eh, part of me knew she needed to learn for herself that even spite can’t turn shirts into pants, but another part weirdly hoped she’d manage to pull it off somehow.
And still another part isn’t sure whether she’d actually hoped to transform shirts, or was trying to challenge rigid definitions. Maybe we’d all just been blindly accepting rules about only wearing shirts on the top halves of our bodies and a single open-minded clothing messiah could break the boundaries of our apparel world by bravely venturing into unknown territory.
But not today. Today was about getting a little too big for your britches after successfully peeing in designated containers then realizing your jailers sometimes know more than you do about the boundaries of space and time.
Bidgie squeezed my hand and led me to her room, so she could hear her bedtime story and finally drift off into a dreamworld of dragons and Valkyries.
She was safe. Mama had saved her from herself and pants.