My son, the five-month old Juban Princeling, has ants in his pants.
He inherited them from his father (whose most famous line from our first date is, "So, where else do you feel like going?"), who inherited them from his mother, who inherited them from her father, and so on back down probably hundreds of generations to the very first ancestor of theirs who uttered, "I'm bored. Let's take a walk."
The older the Princeling gets, the more he needs to be entertained. Like, constantly. He already has several toys he is no longer interested in, as well as over 50 books he couldn't care less about. He's become strong enough to almost bring down his play gym mat on himself, and his attitude toward his bouncy seat is pretty much, "Oh great, this again. Le sigh. I will try not to die of disinterest." Even when he sleeps he's active. No matter how tired he was before, no matter that his eyeballs were rolling back in his head as I rocked him to sleep and sang "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star" for the gazillionth time and his eyelids couldn't stay open and his limbs all fell adorably away as I gently carried him to his crib, ten minutes later I'll hear him chatting happily to himself. When I go in to check on him he's usually turned about 90 degrees from the position I laid him down in, and already grinning up at me like, "Well, Mom, that was a lark. What else you got in your bag of tricks?"
Thankfully, the weather here in New York City is picking up, because I've found that the only way to keep the Princeling from throwing absolute tantrums of boredom is to take him outside. For hours at a time. Preferably all day long.
I am, by my nature, a homebody. I chose life as a stay-at-home-mom so I could, you know, stay at home. I am exhausted.
Thankfully, we live in the family-friendly Upper East Side, an area designed to keep children as young as fetuses stimulated. And so, the Princeling and I have developed a happy new routine of going to our nearby Barnes & Noble every day between three and four p.m. to hang out. It totally works. When he's sleeping, we go upstairs to the quieter grown-up sections and I walk him around the stacks while he snores. Sometimes if I'm lucky I'll see an empty chair and get to sit down and read a book for myself, either something I brought along or something that grabbed my attention while stroller-napping the Princeling. When he wakes up we go back downstairs to the massive children's section for a bottle and his social life. And trust me, a five-month old can have a social life. Oh, yes.
The female employees who work in the children's section like to fight amongst themselves over who gets to be the Princeling's girlfriend, but his heart belongs to a certain two-and-a-half year-old girl who is fond of petting his head like he's a puppy. I don't blame her, the kid has a massive amount of hair on that perfectly round, handsome head of his. Since birth we've known that he's fond of having his head touched, so the Princeling and his older woman were pretty much made for each other. She plays with his hair, he laughs like he's found the greatest thing in the world since diaper changes and bath time.
After a while you sort of get into the groove of being one of the moms who hangs out here on a regular basis. I like to sit on the big stage so that the Princeling has a, well, princely view of the goings-on of all the children there. Meanwhile, the other mommies and I act as a giant mommy co-op. Just like I don't mind when other kids use my knees as leverage as they hoist themselves into standing positions, other mothers don't seem to mind when my son pirates their story time. Once when he was deeply involved with another mother's recitation of some Dr. Seuss book, an adorable toddler walked by us and stopped to stare at the Princeling. I said hi. The Princeling immediately whipped his head around and glared at me. "That's right," I told him, "sometimes I talk to other babies. What are you gonna do about it?"
A weird sort of semi-friendship develops between the mommies at B&N. Short conversations about our kids, comparing ages, comparing development, asking questions, sort-of-sharing while at the same time trying not to seem too eager or desperate to be talking to an actual adult. Knowing looks between us when someone screams, nervous looks around when something spills. Laughter when a little girl who couldn't be more than a year and a half old comes running by with her pants around one ankle and her diaper half off while her poor harried mother chases after her. Laughter with relief that at least that's not our kid. Laughter from anxiety that that could be our kid next. Laughter because it's funny, and laughter because as different and diverse and wrapped up in our own lives and at-home dramas as we may be, we are all mommies.