Just Change Your Underwear, Kid!

I asked my 10yo son why there was only one pair of his underwear in the weekly laundry instead of six (see picture below). He shrugged and said, “I recycle them.” He raised his eyebrows like I was supposed to be proud of his environmentalism.

I was folding laundry in the living room. He was standing in the kitchen in a pair of khaki shorts and a t-shirt, a straight lipped, “I’m just being an environmentalist” look on his face.

I have to blame myself for that. Mel and I are not exactly hippies, but we are, for the most part, vegetarians and Mel uses organic, gluten free, and vegan face wash (I’m as confused as you are by all that), so for him to use recycling as an excuse for being too lazy to change his underwear isn’t surprising.

Sure, he’d taken several showers that week, and then he’d obviously slipped right back into the same old skid-marked Spider-Man underwear. Suddenly I could see stink lines coming off the kid.

I don’t know what it is with personal hygiene and children, but it really is one of the more difficult parts of this whole parenting gig. I have to insist that he uses soap when taking a shower, and approaching him with a comb feels a lot like approaching someone with a chainsaw.

It’s all so basic, and yet…

I looked at him for some time, trying to find a way to explain how nasty he was being. And suddenly I was faced with a few choices. I could’ve done nothing and hoped that he was socially shamed into being more hygienic. I could’ve yelled at him about it, called him names, and caused him to resent me. I could’ve grounded him. I could’ve taken away all his underwear and come up with some over the top assertion that underwear is a privilege and not a right. I could’ve told him some crazy lie about butt fungus, and scared him into thinking that if he didn’t start changing his underwear his butt would rot off. Or worse, his penis.

Instead I handed him the clean pair I’d just pulled from the washer. Then I crouched down and said, “I’m going to keep reminding you to change your underwear until you figure out how to remind yourself. It’s up to you how long that last, but trust me, it’s going to get pretty embarrassing when you are 16 and your dad is reminding you to change your drawers. But I want you to know that I love you enough to remind you for the REST OF YOUR LIFE.”

His eyes got real big then. I could see gears turning. I assumed he was imagining the worst. Perhaps he assumed I’d remind him in front of his friends, or worse, as he walked out the door with a date.

I looked him and said, “I’m glad you’re thinking about how this could go. Change your underwear. Bring me the dirty ones. I’ll wash them.”

He let out a long breath and walked down the hall to his room. Then he came back and handed me the soiled ones.

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