To say I was speechless would be a lie. I had plenty of words to say and fists I wanted to throw. But I figured any word that came out unfiltered would be something I’d regret for the rest of my life. Mostly, because my kids were there and they were eyewitnesses to what is known in their world as bullying.
It was raining. It really wasn’t an ideal day to schlep all four kids into the van, drive through the mud and muck, over the bridge into Philly. But when is it ever an ideal day to take all your kids anywhere? Even if it is the mecca of Swedish-made products for every inch of the house.
“Everybody in,” we said, “we’re going to IKEA.”
Rewind a couple years back to the first time desperation trumped my anal resistance to IKEA’s childcare, Smaland. I mean, who dumps their kids at an IKEA childcare? Only weirdos, I thought. But when you need a fold-out sofa for the basement and the older ones see the ball pit, sometimes you break.
Two years ago I found myself checking my kids into Smaland, trying to ignore the internal resistance. Once they were safely in with identification tags on, flying into the ball pit (also known as the flu pit), my husband and I looked at one another, smiled, grabbed hands and skipped to the snack line. Nothing like a cheap cup of coffee and no kids around (okay, maybe one strapped to my husband’s chest, but still, we don’t count him) to savor the taste of freedom.
But that was almost two years ago. Now, the kids expect Smaland. They look forward to it and are willing to put in the time it takes to wait for the three open spots needed to fit all three of my big kids into this hour-long holding tank.
So, back to the rainy, dreary day last week. My husband and I were on a mission: get cabinets. “If there is a wait,” we said, “there will be no Smaland.” And because there is always a wait, there was a wait. So the kids set off with us to look at cabinets. Quickly realizing that studying finishes, hardware, and precise measurements is next to impossible with kids, I relented. I left my husband to the calculating and took my crew down to Smaland. Regardless of the length of time we would have to wait, it was going to be worth it.
For the most part, I wish the story stopped here. Where I walked them down and we had a pleasant exchange with the Smaland attendant and my children ran in ready to dive into that colorful flu pit.
But, no. Unfortunately, the plot of our IKEA cabinets story quickly thickens.
Code Red: Drama at Smaland
I think the Smaland capacity is twelve. So if your child is lucky enough to be let into one of those precious twelve spots, you feel you’re something special. The parents signing in are always smiling like they’re signing the dotted line to accept their child’s full-ride scholarship to college. They’re sheepishly proud and a little giddy knowing that, though every parent wants that full ride—I mean, spot—at Smaland, not everyone gets it. The parents about to embark freely into the aisles of IKEA always hug their child like it’s going to be hard to see them go. While deep down they are plotting their every move to grab some new serving trays, napkins, outdoor seating, and a cinnamon bun with this newfound kid-free time. But, again, the lucky parent remains calm, listening intently to the IKEA Smaland staff person about the rules, the return time, and that if you don’t return at the expected time they will put your child in a SKӒGӦRTT chokehold until you do. (Just kidding.)
We’ve never had a problem at Smaland, other than our aversion to the long wait to get in. Well, I should say we’ve never had a problem at Smaland until this day.
Once my kids and I arrived at the line, I quickly sized up the situation. About nine kids inside Smaland, a woman actively checking in three daughters, and a gentleman sitting on the waiting bench with his son.
“There’s a wait,” he said.
I smiled, “I know, thank you,” I said as we took our place in line.
Within a few minutes, the Smaland attendant looked up from her clipboard. “Next.”
The seated gentleman stepped up to the desk just as another woman coming from left field also stepped up. “Nope,” she said, “I’m next.”