Column: Look who’s wearing the pants in this family


She glared at me with disdain and maybe some hatred. I have never stolen a girl’s boyfriend, but I imagine this is the kind of look the thief receives upon meeting the victim.

My middle daughter, who will turn 5 on Friday, could trademark this countenance of revulsion. She has a cute side. But at 6:10 a.m., charming she is not. So I downplayed the quiet animosity as part of the routine at 1679 Sugar Pine Drive, an address that sounds so delightful. When it comes to mornings, it’s far more sour than sweet.

 What followed was a proclamation that caught me by surprise.

“I am not,” she began her announcement, “wearing pants.”

Five words I had never before or since heard in succession. Kind of a shame, really, because back in college that declaration could have given me all kinds of column ideas.

The certainty with which she stated her intentions scared me. Our mornings are always a bit — well, who the heck am I kidding, more than a bit — chaotic. For a visual, think highly caffeinated, severely agitated monkeys trapped in a minivan. There is screaming and protesting and arguing and refusing and very little hugging. Now, evidently, there are no pants.

“Halle, stop it,” I countered. “You are wearing pants. These pants.”

I held them up. Another you-stole-my-man dagger.

“I am not wearing pants,” she screeched. “I never wear pants to school.”

Halle is in preschool three days per week. I am aware that preschool is a bit more relaxed than classes for older students but, to my knowledge, the curriculum does not include nudity. To get all three children to their appropriate morning destinations, I had 15 minutes to convince Halle to wear trousers, and my options were limited. The older sister, 7, was wearing jeans but does not enjoy confrontation, especially when she has a Pop-Tart to eat. The younger sister, not quite 2, was about to be changed from pajama pants to shorts but enjoys being, shall we say, au naturel.

I began to worry, not only because my daughter might actually climb into the car with her heinie uncovered but because this was somehow probably my fault. I mean, kids are a lot like their parents and everybody says Halle looks and acts like me. But outside of a couple skinny-dipping escapades, I have always been a big fan of wearing pants. It’s not like I walk around the house showcasing my disrobed bum (talk about a column idea).

“Halle, you are wearing pants,” I reiterated. “You have five minutes. Find pants.”

“I never wear pants to school,” she screamed. “Stop it.”

I texted my wife, who was already at work. Her response: Ha! ;)

Why couldn’t this have happened to her, I thought to myself. What happens when she gets them ready in the morning? Surely she makes them wear pants. She has a whole closet full of pants. Khakis. Jeans. Shorts. Capris. Scrubs. My wife really likes pants.

“Three minutes, Halle,” I instructed. “You need pants.”

Dear God, this is insane, I mumbled to myself. I am fighting with a preschooler about the requirement to wear pants in public. As I remind my wife in times of such insanity, which is basically every two and a half hours, the children were her idea.

“Pants, Halle,” I said. “Two minutes.”

What happens if she cannot be convinced to put on pants? Do I wrestle her into a pair of khakis and hope she concedes?

Do I stuff some shorts in her backpack and ask the secretary at school for an assist? Do I call her bluff, head for the garage and see what happens. Let’s see you walk out these doors with your backside on stage, Little Miss Attitude.

Oh, hell no. She just might do it. Then I’m the dad who let his daughter run free. Like really free. Did you hear about the Recker family? The dad — you know, that guy who works at The Herald — well, his kids are something else. Out. Of. Control. One of them went to school without pants. What kind of father does that? Somebody bit off more than he can chew.

“Train leaves in one minute, Halle,” I announced. “Pants.”

“I know,” she howled back. “I’m ready.”

I turned.

There she stood.

In a skirt.

“See,” she said. “Told you I wasn’t wearing pants.”

Jason Recker is the enterprise editor at The Herald, which has no dress code. Pants, however, are encouraged. His email is

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