May is motherhood memoir month

Whose Pants Are Those?

My friend thinks I wear the ‘pants’ in my family, but she says it’s okay since the man-of-the-family is not angry. But I see her trying to get at a bigger question, or underlying issue: Who’s in charge? So much comes down to that, the underpants.

So I’m thinking about these pants and how they fit– what kind of ‘pants’ are they anyway? Are they Spanx, an undergarment so elastic they suck you svelte, but then slap you silly when peeled off?

Or are they more like sweats– loose and accommodating, good for a Saturday stroll or Sunday lounging? Or are they work pants– chino style, somewhat serious, yet unassuming, in traditional khaki-tan so they don’t show spills?

Personally, my style is more of a pedal pusher– you can dress them up or down, great in the garden or the classroom, very versatile. I like mine with some stretch to accommodate shape-shifting– sometimes expanding with the universe, other times retracting into myself; they accommodate erratic movement, or sitting still. I can nap quite comfy in crop pants.

But wait — if I wear the pants, shouldn’t I be the angry one, since I didn’t sign up for a wardrobe makeover? And if I wear the pants in the family, I’d better not get caught napping, as the pants-wearer is the one in charge, managing all things good and proprietary. My pants better be custom tailored out of magic thread to fit a chameleon like me. I sometimes suffer lapses in judgment. My character occasionally becomes impaired. And yet there is an entire family following the big-pants-wearer, the exemplary source of major decisions — maybe not be the ultimate guiding force, but certainly informed by a higher source that the pants can point to, something or someone to lend authority, the support system for those big pants, like a belt, or suspenders.

Okay, I admit, I’ve tried on the big pants, but they chafe at the waist, and the inseam is too short. The pockets gape and make my hips look heftier than they really are — all an illusion, I assure you. I prefer my crop paints, in stretchy fabric with bright, artsy prints.

No, those pants do not fit; they are not mine. The Spanx could be mine- careful you don’t get slapped when I shed them, gasping for breath. And the sweats, we can share, being close in size, although my legs are notably longer. But the real governing pants here are everyday wear, uniform-style, with the flame-resistant qualities firefighters utilize. The pants wearer in this family doesn’t strut his stuff, so you hardly notice, while I’m sporting my loud duds, running circles around him. One could mistake all my attention-getting activity and management of details for the big stuff, and I do play a significant role in our partnership, but I am not the undergirding of our family. The pants-wearer goes quietly about his business, until there’s a conflict or crisis. When an issue of integrity arises, he rolls onto the scene with gentle empathy in his fire-retardant wear. He shows up in ways we all seek to emulate. Outsiders might not notice how he takes charge in this tender way, especially if he’s married to a long legged, pedal-pushing, attention grabbing, triple-A-type detail manager.

But life is not in the details; it’s bound by bigger issues, like how and where the lines are drawn that encircle a family, and who draws those lines, and whether we feel safe and loved there. He draws those lines quietly and steadily. Steadfast and stabilizing, these boundary lines draw us closer to each other and closer to our creator, and that makes him the real pants wearer in the family, thank God.

“The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; Yeah- I have a delightful inheritance.” Psalm 16:6

Today’s prompt- Who wears the pants in your family, and how do they fit?


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