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There are many reasons not to go to Ikea with small children. I ignore them all.

on May 23, 2014

The company I work for shut all its offices today, giving us an extra day off to thank us for working hard and voting it a good employer.  I like this – it feels like a proper, Victorian-style holiday where all the mill workers head off to Blackpool to take in the sea air.  Despite the girls being booked into nursery, I decided to have a lovely day off with them and take them to one of their favourite places: Ikea.  More meatballs and chips than sand and salt-water, but as they had been asking to go for a while, it seemed like a good idea.

Here are a few of the reasons why I *shouldn’t* take my children to Ikea:

  • They delighted in turning off all the lights in each of the little show apartments. I told them that Ikea like the lights to be on so that people can see what they look like and might actually buy them.  They persisted in turning them off.  I tried to turn them all back on before we moved on.  Small Girl managed to break one of the lights.
  • I pulled down a retractable blind to see how it worked and couldn’t work out how to put it back up.  This is quite embarrassing.  I hope someone will fix it.
  • Small Girl tried to open a cupboard in one of the ‘bathrooms’ which fell down and the corner banged her head, making her cry for quite a while.
  • Big Girl and Small Girl played at tea parties with the cups and saucers in one of the display houses.  My ‘putting back neatly’ skills are not up to much.
  • When changing Small Girl’s nappy, I smacked her in the head with my shopping bags.
  • I had to say approximately three hundred times ‘What did I say? If you listen to me and do what I ask we will have fun at Ikea.  If you mess about and run away we won’t have fun, and we will go home without buying anything’.  Firstly, never start a sentence with ‘What did I say?’  They don’t know.  They weren’t listening.  If they were listening, they clearly don’t care.  And you sound like everyone’s mother who has ever lived.  Secondly, this threat holds precisely no weight once you get past the checkout.
  • Big Girl and Small Girl both wanted to walk along the chest-high wall outside the shop.  I didn’t feel confident enough to let them both do it at once, so Small Girl went first.  Then it was Big Girl’s turn, but Small Girl sat on the pavement crying and refusing to move.  I didn’t want to move away from her as we were by a big road, so I let go of Big Girl’s hand and told her to stand still and balance while I got Small Girl up.  Despite being perfectly capable of doing this, Big Girl’s love of drama obliged her to fall off the wall and lie crying in the ivy and bushes.  Although her beautiful new Cinderella princess dress got wet, this was much better than the likely outcome had she thrown herself onto the pavement.

And here’s the *real* reason why I shouldn’t be allowed to take my children to Ikea.  Small Girl got lost.  I’d been watching them all the way round the shop, but it’s one of those places where they get a little ahead or a little behind (reasonably often one each way) and it feels like a safe environment to do that.  Except in the cookware section, just after I’d said to Big Girl “If you get lost, stand on one of the arrows and I will come and find you.  But you’re not lost, because I know where you are”, I realised I didn’t know where Small Girl was.  Big Girl and I walked on for a little bit looking for her, and then back again, looking more urgently, and then spoke to one of the members of staff, so that they could do a ‘missing child’ announcement.  And then we waited.

At work, we have a fire alarm test every Wednesday at about ten past ten.  Every week, it goes on just past the point of comfort, and every week we all start wondering if this is a real fire alarm and whether we should be heading out to the car par.  And then it stops.  This was like that.  The staff were looking.  I was waiting.  And there was a sense that she had been missing for slightly longer than was normal.  She wasn’t in the cookware section.  Nor in the bathroom section.  I remembered the news story a few weeks ago about a man who had tried to abduct a toddler in a shopping centre.  I tried to reassure Big Girl that Small Girl was find and the staff would find her.  I felt anxious.  I don’t know where my children are when they are at their dad’s, but I know he is looking after them and they are safe.  I didn’t know where Small Girl was, or if she was coming back, or if she was frightened. And it felt so very wrong.

The interesting thing is that usually at this point (Small Girl is a ninja who has got lost in Ikea pretty much every time we’ve been.  But, like the fire alarms at work, normally not for this long) I would start worrying not only about how I would live the rest of my life without Small Girl, but also how I was going to tell her dad.  Somewhere along the line, I’ve gained more confidence in my parenting, and less of a sense of connection and responsibility to Ex-Husband, and less of a need to answer to him or live in fear of his superior parenting skills.  Telling their dad that I had lost one of our children was not even a consideration.  Which feels like an achievement.

And then one of the people searching waved to me.  We hurried down to him and around the corner and I could see a small child, my small child, with two old ladies and a member of staff.  I hugged Small Girl, and I cried and she cried, more because she felt the situation called for it than anything else, I think, and then I cried some more.  And eventually I stopped crying, and we were ok, and we finished looking round Ikea.  Just a little more *carefully*.

The first time I cried in Ikea was, I think, the first time I went, with Ex-Husband.  I said that the map of the shop didn’t seem to relate to the actual layout of the store.  He looked at me as if I was possibly the most stupid person to have lived and pointed out that it was a *linear map*.  I cried.

The second time I cried in Ikea was just after Ex-Husband left me – ostensibly because I am too terrible to live with and he hadn’t loved me for a really long time, but really because he wanted to have sex with someone else.  Mutual friends of his new girlfriend told me that when she told them that she was having a relationship with him, she said that she didn’t see how me being left on my own with my two tiny children was her problem.  I cried with rage, hurt and a sense of impotency and injustice.  Quite loudly.  For quite some time.

The third time I cried in Ikea was when I met up with another single mum friend, again just after Ex-Husband had left me, and she suggested that I get tested for STIs.  Until that point it had never occurred to me (being ‘the stupidest person to ever have lived’, clearly) that he might have had sex with his girlfriend while he was still with me.  I cried so much that an old lady came and offered to hold Small Girl for me, possibly fearing that I might suffocate her because I was holding her so tightly.

And the fourth time I cried in Ikea was today.  My children took advantage of my emotional state to oblige me to buy them a large fish cushion each.  This is *really really* why I should never take my children to Ikea.

Seriously. Fish cushions.

Seriously. Fish cushions.



4 responses to “There are many reasons not to go to Ikea with small children. I ignore them all.

  1. I quite like the fish cushions – I was expecting something more childish when I read this on my phone – with no photo!!
    Hope you had a good day out, we got REALLY wet.

    • Opinions seem to be divided on the fish cushions. I think they’re ridiculous. Also they’re not in any way comfortable to sit on. They’re bloody expensive. And they’re just the right length for waving around in a manner likely to damage things in my living room.

      They are also, however, about the right length for some kind of gladiatorial fish-fencing activity, which I will try once the girls are not around to see. So they could have their benefits.

  2. clare richardson says:

    But they are TRULY amazing fish cushions….! x  See you Friday!



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