As I was sitting here earlier, in a quiet house, checking my email, out of nowhere a pair of Thomas the Tank Engine underpants landed plop! on my keyboard. In the second it took me to stop and look around, absolute mayhem broke out around me: "UNDERPANTS!!!" screamed Matthew. "UDDAPATS!!!"" echoed William. They had silently taken all 40-some pairs of underpants out of Matthew’s dresser and were flinging them everywhere, all while screaming and yelling about it. Eventually, the game evolved: At one point, I found William sprawled on the floor in the hallway peering under a closed door. Before I could ask, under the door came the underpants—one by one, each accompanied by an enthusiastic “UNDERPANTS!” As you would probably expect, Matthew then appeared and danced on the pile of underpants, yelling, of course, “I’m dancing on the UNDERPANTS!!!” (Nothing goes un-narrated around here. Nothing.)
I let the underpants fun go on for about 15 minutes. (Obviously, my definition of “peace” is just “not involving Mommy,” which explains why I let each kid have a vacuum to play with the other day. “Peace” and “quiet” are two very different things). I couldn’t help myself—as they played happily with the underpants I mentally started totaling the money we had spent on actual toys for Christmas: the cars, train tracks, electronic gadgets. It wasn’t really all that much, but in that moment it seemed like WAY more than necessary. Why didn’t we just buy them underpants? They hadn’t had this much fun since the day they dug two big cardboard tubes out of the recycling bin.
Finally, Matthew collected all the underpants in his bed, declaring that he would sleep with them "forever." William wandered away empty-handed, whimpering “uddapats” and heading for the freshly-tidied living room, otherwise known as “a clean canvas” to a toddler with a penchant for destruction. And for the rest of the day, I found tiny underpants in the strangest of places: under the dining room table, in the bathroom sink, hanging on the lamp in the living room. It was like some crazy preschool fraternity had had an apple juice kegger in my house and I was the poor pledge on clean-up duty. But despite the mess I consider the whole experience a victory: nothing was broken, I got a chance to check my email, and, most importantly, my two boys had been playing together without arguing for FIFTEEN WHOLE MINUTES. That, I believe, is a new family record.