Just when I think he’s spent all his energy on the previous night’s show, when I think he has nothing left to give, he rises shortly after the sun, crawls out of bed, down the stairs and into our kitchen, and with a quick squeeze of a squirt bottle, spurts cartoon characters onto a hot griddle.
He makes pancakes. And not your average pancakes. He makes art. With pancake batter. Like a lumberjack psychopath.
I don’t mean to sound negative, but I’m a working mother. I’m tired. I don’t have much tolerance for showoffs. I write full-time for “Jimmy Kimmel Live! and then come home to an even more demanding job raising our 10-month-old son, Billy, and 3-year-old daughter, Jane. And as working parents know, getting them fed, dressed, clean enough and out the door while frequently checking emails for work every morning is chaotic. If you don’t have kids, just imagine going through your daily morning routine in the monkey cage at a zoo.
So typically, I wake tired and guilt-ridden and resigned to sluggishly pouring my toddler a bowl of Cheerios, and magically, Dad marches down the stairs to make pancakes. That would make a mother happy, right? It does. The first half-dozen times.
Jimmy is an excellent cook. I do not take that for granted. He enjoys it, and I enjoy eating, and that makes for a happy home.
Until the pancakes showed up. And now I feel inadequate.
Jimmy first started making our daughter “normal” pancakes about a year ago. She enjoyed them, and we were delighted.
But that wasn’t good enough. He started to experiment. He ordered plastic squeeze bottles and organic food coloring. He bought food decorating pens (as every man does shortly after turning 50).
He started with red heart-shaped pancakes on Valentine’s Day. He did not use a cookie cutter. He freestyled. Jane loved them. I loved them. We ate them together, and I admired his thoughtfulness.
A couple days later, he made a delightful three-color clown. Again, by hand. And again, as someone who can barely draw a stick figure, I appreciated his handiwork.
Then he got aggressive. He made Dory. She was perfect. Next, a full-color Thomas the Tank Engine. He made Nemo and a Spider-Man who, I swear, rolled his eyes at me. He started mixing his batter before bed. He took requests and delighted our daughter, squirting Snoopy, Charlie Brown and even Lightning McQueen the morning after he hosted the Oscars. All realistic, totally edible portrayals. All done by hand over a hot griddle before Kathie Lee and Hoda had chugged their first quart of chardonnay.
I told you. He’s annoying.
And now his artistic ability has become my burden. When he isn’t home, our daughter sits at the kitchen table, glares at me and says, “I want a pancake. Peppa Pig.” She doesn’t even know that pancakes are round. I try to sell her on a bowl of oatmeal. I tell her it’s Wonder Woman food. She doesn’t buy it. She demands the edible art she is accustomed to. I cave and nervously promise her a pancake. “I’ll make you a ‘brown ball’!” She looks at me with confusion, followed by pity and then disgust. A tantrum follows.
Being a mother is hard enough. Pancake artist is NOT in the job description. I attempted a smiley face once. I don’t want to talk about it.
One day my children will appreciate the fact that I gave birth to them and stayed up all night breast-feeding and rubbing growing pains out of their legs. One day they will remember that I always had a snack in my purse and a baby wipe in my glove compartment. They might even thank me for teaching them good manners if I did it successfully.
Until then, I’ll make waffles.
McNearney is co-head writer of “Jimmy Kimmel Live!”