Pants-free Parenting: I used to be a good parent

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Before I had children, I was an excellent parent. Back then, I had a general sense of what children should and should not be doing. For example, if I came into contact with a child dressed in a tank-top in 40-degree weather, I understood that the child was dressed inappropriately and the parents clearly needed to do their job. I also looked askance at children dressed in mismatching clothes, socks, or in  clothing with cartoon characters on them. How hard was it, the good parent in me asked, to dress your child appropriately and tastefully?

Over the holidays, I had the pleasure of meeting some good parents. Parents who had a barely mobile and hardly verbal one-year-old girl. They were parents of the calibre I used to be, before I had a two-year-old who insisted on wearing a mermaid costume with an Elmo hat to the grocery store. The male half of these parents looked at my daughter, who was decked head-to-toe in only the finest of cheap cotton poly blends, that garishly displayed the visage of a Disney princess, replete with glitter and a tutu sewn to the hem of her dress.

“We don’t believe in character clothing,” he said. “Especially princesses.”

I wanted to tell him about the over $50 in unreturnable clearance-rack clothing that is sitting untouched in my daughter’s closet--dresses and pants in tasteful blues and reds. I wanted to tell him about the first year-and-a-half of her life where she wore clothes from the boys department, because I had declared the girl’s department “too sexist.” I wanted to tell him about the books and the gender theory; how I bought her cars and encouraged her to play with dinosaurs; about all the times I had refused to let princess characters, books and movies cross the threshold into our home. Or about the day before her second birthday, when she had come down the stairs draped in scarves stolen from my closet and declared herself a “pwincess.”

Instead, I gritted my teeth and smiled so wide you could hear the spit in my cheeks crackle and pop. “I don’t believe in it either,” I said. “But she does.”

When I had no children, I had all of these ideas about how I would go about parenting. Now, I have two kids and the only idea I have is to raise them not to be serial killers. And some days, that’s a harder task than it sounds. So, if you see me out with my garishly adorned princess in tow and a baby who is probably still wearing his pajamas from the night before, please remember that I used to be a very, very good parent. The only thing that is getting in the way are these pesky kids.

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Lyz Lenz is a writer, mother of two, and hater of pants. You can email her at or find her writing on

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