Having kids has only increased my appreciation for the Swedish shrine. They have step stools at their bathroom sinks and emergency diaper changing kits. They have a place for mothers to nurse. In their restaurant, they have bottle warmers, baby food, healthy kids’ meal options and kid-sized furniture. The whole place smells like cinnamon rolls, and they even have free childcare that, in my pre-parenthood days, made me scratch my head. Who would leave their kids with strangers at IKEA? I thought. Then last year, to my family’s discomfort, I said excitedly, “When the kids are a little older, I could see us going to IKEA for a date. The kids could play, we could eat meatballs; it would be awesome.” I remember my sister saying, “Wow, that’s sad,” and I think my mom offered to babysit for us.
So when we ventured to IKEA on a recent Friday afternoon, I laughed as we entered with several families with kids of similar age, chuckled when there was a waiting list at Smaland, the kids’ place, and yet again when we saw the same families eating dinner at the restaurant shortly after 5:00 PM. Our kids were a little unruly at dinner, but it was appropriate for the venue. I still looked forward to purchasing storage solutions (something about being in IKEA makes me overuse the word “solution,” as if I am mitigating the great challenges of life) that would greatly enhance life in our new home.
We finally abandoned the list, tried to gather what we could so we might leave with what little dignity and partially assembled items we could muster. In the AS-IS department, where we found exactly what we needed to rig our old and heavy flat panel TV that we can’t hang on the plaster wall of our new place, Mirabella staged a coup. She stood on a white couch and screamed. I can’t remember why; I think I’ve repressed the memory. I picked her up and walked her to a patio set where I quietly scolded her and placed her in time out. I walked away. She continued to scream. Daniel and I looked helplessly at each other while Emerie, smiling broadly, rushed to her sister’s aid. People were very openly staring at this point. "We just need to leave,” Daniel said, defeated.
A family with four children aged six and under, two of them toddler twins, strolled by. Their children were behaving beautifully. The father said, “This could just as easily have been us. It still could, at any minute.” Though embarrassed, we were grateful for his graciousness.
The girls and I left the store and Daniel completed our transaction. A few minutes later in the car, Mirabella, with skin still splotchy from her outburst, was her sweet self. She had no explanation for her behavior.
Emerie, nearly 18 months old now, is at what I hope is just a stage where she throws fits often. She screeches, swats, yells “mine” and “NO” at children who merely attempt to occupy the same space as her and, in most situations where there are other children (the Science Center, Chick-fil-A) makes me wish I had just stayed home. But she is only semi-verbal, and though she can understand a lot, she still can’t talk much. I redirect her, I calmly correct her, I send her to timeouts (or she sends herself and sits there giggling). I often find myself scolding her in public for the benefit of other people. She doesn’t know what I’m talking about, and I have no belief that it’s helping. But it looks to the other, openly condemning parents, that I am at least attempting to rectify the situation. This is not what I thought it would be.
That night in the car on the way home from IKEA, we laughed at what our life has become. In our haste and humiliation, we ended up purchasing a few items that didn’t work out. Though there are still solutions we need to find, we haven’t been in a hurry to go back.
I only hesitantly bring the kids to Trader Joe’s for fear they will ruin the one shopping sanctuary I have left.