Family / Parenting

Hard Lessons on Hand Me-Downs



Recently, everyone in our family said farewell to diapers. In retrospect, I thought this happy occasion would be marked with a lot more fanfare, petits fours and possibly a boat full of diapers being sent off into the sunset on uncharted waters. But instead, it sort of crept up on us slowly over the last 18 months, bringing with it a few surprises and a new and unanticipated issue that I like to call “underwear confusion.”

For the youngest member of our family, the break-up with diapers happened rather suddenly. One Saturday morning, our 2-year-old announced that she had gone pee in the potty. I extended my congratulations topped with a sprinkle of skepticism. I didn’t want to discourage her, but I assumed that she was talking about using the toilet just to get attention.

But she persisted, continuing to casually report that she had gone pee in the potty. And since I always like to take the opportunity to put my bachelor’s degree in science to good use, I asked her to prove it.

And there is was. Pee and paper in the toilet bowl.

“Great job,” I shouted, grabbing her and hugging her. “You really did pee in the potty!” Frightened, she asked me to help her put her diaper back on, so she could poop in it. But after a few weeks, she took care of that side of things as well.

At this point, no one was wearing diapers during the day. Not even me. (Don’t judge. I’m on some very long conference calls.) Our 4-year-old was still wearing them at night, and I wasn’t sure if this was out of need or just convenience.

“Really, it’s no different than going to bathroom in the middle of the day, except that it happens to be dark outside,” I explained.

But there was no talking her out of diapers at night. Instead, we had to throw a surprise party every time she woke up with a dry diaper until it happened enough times in a row that I called “game over.”

But before we get too jovial about this life event, I have managed to discover a down side of having everyone out of diapers. And the problem, it turns out, is getting worse.

Our entire family, including the dog, is female. And that makes for a lot of panties, which now makes sorting the laundry an exercise in forensic science. When there were just two us it could get confusing, but it wasn’t too bad, even during the years when my spouse and I liked the same brand of underwear. Only once did I spend a long, uncomfortable day at work wearing a pair of Jockey’s that I discovered were not mine when I dug them out of the bottom of my gym bag.

Shortly thereafter, our taste in underwear diverged. She started getting hers from department stores. And in what was probably a clear sign that I had given up on life, I started getting mine at Costco. Then, along came our two daughters, born 20 months apart, and who are now both squarely settled into the world of female undergarments.

Our older daughter started out wearing some Disney princess underpants and then switched to animal patterns, such as deer and polka-dots or squirrels and parallelograms. I think she’ll be a mathematician when she grows up. Our youngest daughter got Hello Kitty or Minnie Mouse, which probably means she’ll live with us forever and have a fan girl blog.

Buying girl’s underwear with different patterns worked well for a while, but then I realized that, like all their other clothes, we might want to give the younger sister the older sister’s hand-me-downs.

“These are Wynn’s” said my naked and youngest daughter who was standing in the doorway with a pair of panties dangling from her fingertip. “They have princesses.”

“You can’t wear princesses?” I asked.

“No, mine are Hello Kitty.”

She would not be fooled. And, as expected, the thought of wearing her sister’s underwear seemed gross or possibly morally inferior. Never mind that the night before they shared a bath. But just because you share genes, doesn’t mean you want to share underwear.

So the obvious solution here is to buy everyone’s underwear at Costco, because like everything else, it can be bought in bulk and just tossed out before even half of it has been used.

What would you do?

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  1. This is so funny. I also have two daughters and after trying to sort underwear and socks for about a year, I gave up and just decided I’m not handing those down. I can afford new underwear and socks for both of them. I just don’t get too many and by the time they’re grown out of they’re too raggedy to be handed down anyway.

  2. My Dad did our laundry. He insisted that all women in the family have clearly identifiable patterns. As the last child, I got “funky”, while others got white or colored. To this day, white or plain colored underwear feels like I am wearing used panties— even if I bought them.

  3. Sarah Gilbert says:

    First, you dad is THE BOSS. And second, I’m kind of jealous that you got funky.

    • Sarah, it is true. I prefer funky to most anything else. Purple and black zebra print is a real hit. That said, I really hate slips and sometimes white would work best. Just saying.

  4. Jan Kaminsky says:

    Love that story about your Dad, Clare. Our two boys have different interests in underwear, with the eldest preferring boxer briefs and the younger preferring briefs. This definitely makes it easier. The younger also declared that he would not wear his brother’s “farts” (sorry to be crass) and so we concurred that a middle child who already has to share so much can at least have his own underwear!

    • Jan, as long as you draw the line at underwear that seems fair. Clearly the middle child should get stuck with the hand-me-down socks. 😛

  5. Jan Kaminsky says:

    Yes, he hasn’t given a problem with socks haha! I think now that they’re bigger, the socks are destroyed before passing down anyway!

  6. I think I’d just buy plain ones and if they’re clean and they fit, consider them yours, child. But then, I have a boy and a girl child (as far as I know) who share the same cloth nappies and nappy covers irrespective of whether the print is of bugs or pink love-hearts. I bought unisex training underpants for the boy and fully intend to re-use them for the girl when she gets to that stage, though I suppose I’ll eventually have to buy separate boys’ and girls’ undies once they’re fully toilet-trained. Hadn’t really thought about it before. My girl-child is really big for her age and at the moment they wear the same size…

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