“I want pancakes,” said the voice.
Commercials for home security systems regularly feature scenes that would be preferable to the one facing my friend Josh that night. Instead, he had facing him a three-year-old boy who thought Josh should be open for breakfast 24 hours a day, like Denny’s.
“Man, what did you do?” I asked. Josh was telling this story around a table at our friend Derek’s bachelor party, where we were sipping tea and playing bridge, according to the phone calls most of the other guys were making home.
A couple of the other dads turned to listen to Josh’s answer.
“I made him pancakes,” Josh said, and the table erupted with so many guys yelling, “Aw, dude!” at once that I almost spilled my chamomile. Fortunately, my pinkie was out, which helped me maintain my balance, much like how a lemur’s tail works when it’s hopping from tree to tree. That’s why you should always drink tea with your pinkie out, in case things get rowdy.
“They were the microwave kind,” Josh explained, and while that didn’t seem to win too many people over, at least he wasn’t whipping up nocturnal delicacies from scratch.
As much as I’d criticize Josh for giving in and making on-demand pancakes in the middle of the night, I’ve never had to walk a mile in his bunny slippers. My own son doesn’t have the ability to place bedside orders in our house because he’s still young enough that he sleeps in a crib, which is what parents call cages so that people don’t look at us funny. The primary difference between cages and cribs is that cages have doors, because the idea of a ferocious animal escaping is less worrisome than a toddler on the loose.
“Go fish,” our friend Kellerhouse said, or something like that. I’m not sure what people say when they’re playing bridge, but rest assured, Kellerhouse said one of those things right then.
“Listen, I can take ten minutes to make him pancakes, then I can go back to sleep. Or, I can take a stand, listen to him scream from 3am to 6am, then go to work on three hours’ sleep,” Josh said. “It’s not really a tough decision.”
“Dude, you need to give that kid a timeout,” one of the guys said. I nodded. The timeout has been the primary defense against the forces of chaos in our house for several months now. With timeouts, our son is about as well-behaved as we could expect for a two-year-old. Without timeouts, there would probably be a smoking crater where our house used to be.
Some people are against timeouts, and they’ll tell you that it’s important not to say “no” to children too often. You can tell these people by the bags under their eyes and the scribbly crayon murals in their living rooms.
Whether Josh decides to implement timeouts in his house or not, the fact that we were having this conversation at a bachelor party illustrated one plain truth: it’s so hard to be cool once you’re a parent. Someone either goes out like James Dean, or they live long enough to procreate and have to tell a little human not to rub applesauce on the plasma screen 20,000 times. From there, it’s just a short jump to socks with sandals.
In any event, we managed to throw Derek a proper bachelor party, even though we aren’t cool anymore. The next day, I swore off chamomile forever.
You can lock Mike Todd in his crib at firstname.lastname@example.org.