I’m a poet and I didn’t know it. And Ikea was a terrible idea. I don’t know if it’s because the kids are out of school and have been for what seems like years and I just needed to get out of the house come hell or high water, or if I just get sucked in by the miniature, fully-furnished, stunning apartments in the store…whatever it was, I had to go. I told my husband, “Let’s go to Ikea!”. He somewhat questioned by sanity, but after a funny look he decided that it did sound like a good time. A good time, it was not….
I should have known it was going to be difficult when the Family Park Lot was void of available spaces. It was a Wednesday afternoon, why are there so many families shopping at Ikea? I told my husband that if I don’t see 37 children with parents in that store then I’m going to lose my mind. There can’t possibly be that many families shopping at Ikea. I decided that I was going to make a comment about the supreme lack of children in the store and how everyone was lying when they parked in the Family Parking Lot. However, I ended up getting so wrapped up in the fiasco that my own family created in the store that I completely forgot to count the number of other families in the store. I was actually hoping none of them would notice us.
But first, we have to find our way to the parking garage that we have never needed to park in because (hello) there are always spots in available in the Family Parking Lot. We head into the store and I tell my husband that we should grab a cart. 1) We needed to dump all of our coats into the cart and 2) I had a feeling we might need to contain a child in the cart if stuff went down in the store, like a sassy seven-year-old, or an over stimulated five-year-old.
We grab a cart and load…. oh wait, no….we have a potty emergency, I repeat a potty emergency. Ok, potty emergency taken care of, now we load down the cart with our coats. My son has been encouraged to be an active participant in the stores per his occupational therapist. So, we talk about things he can do in the store and things he can’t do in the store so as to avoid any meltdowns over anyone’s unmet expectations. One thing that he is allowed to do is push the cart. So, push the cart we let him do.
He actually did a fine job until we got to the couches, which I think is about 150 feet officially into the display area. That’s when it started getting crowded and he couldn’t really steer the multi-way wheels of Ikea carts, dang Europeans and their fancy but difficult to push carts. He’s also five and can’t see where he was going, so he started running into people. I tried to help steer the front by pulling it while he pushed, then he realized that I was helping him and lost his mind because he wanted to do it himself. It was a battle of the wills. He was determined to be independent and I was determined to avoid having to apologize to strangers because my son flat-tired the backs of their heels. We narrowly avoided many a people-collision, but after he accidentally slammed the cart into a display of light bulbs and flattened cardboard storage boxes, I decided he no longer needed to be in charge of the cart but he pleaded with me that he get one more chance. At this point we had made it to the office chairs. I was impressed we made it that far without anyone bleeding, so I thought “Sure, why not?”. We proceed.
Somewhere around the glass pitchers, my daughter gave up on life. She wanted to lay in the cart because she was tired, and she was miffed because we hadn’t made it to the bed section yet (more to come on that in a minute). I made her a comfy little bed of our coats and she was snug as a bug in a funny cart at a Swedish store. At this point we decided that my son could no longer push the cart. Not only was his older sister now laying in it, but we’d honestly had enough of his poor driving skills. He’d hit a few more things and people along the way. We suggested he sit in the cart, but the top of the cart wasn’t good enough for him. He wanted to lay down like his sister. His sister did not want to share and so ensued another battle of the wills.
I should preface this with the fact that the entire drive to Ikea (it’s an hour) my daughter kept saying how she wanted to look at beds. She didn’t want to buy one, she “just wanted to look”. As my husband will attest, I am the queen of “Just Wanting to Look But Having All Intentions of Purchasing”, so I should have seen it coming. She kept asking when we will get to the beds and was disappointed at the turn of every corner because it wasn’t the bed section. I told her all about Ikea’s clever store layout by forcing customers to be herded through the store so that they see all products before they actually find the product they need. And those helpful “short cuts” are fewer and further in-between. Almost non-existent at this point since they remodeled our local store.
So, by the time we reached the glasses and she decided her legs were tired, she had already (no less than 25 times) asked when we will be getting to the beds. She was irritated, annoyed, and tired so when her brother wanted to join her in the cart, she lost her ever-living mind. She starts screaming about how she doesn’t like her brother, I think she even tried to hit him. I mean it was a full on brawl about who could occupy the cart. He’s crying, she’s screaming, we’re trying to calm them down and it was just not working. My husband pulls her out of the cart so now she’s even more mad because she’s not laying in the cart anymore, but her brother is, and she still doesn’t have a new bed.
I tried to distract her with helping me find a loose leaf tea infuser, and explain the importance of being nice and how screaming and hitting are not an answer to how upset we are. It more or less worked. She was no longer a violent banshee, but she was still teary-eyed over the events that had just transpired. Then my husband (who is just ahead in the comforters section) pops his head around the corner and asks if there is a team member who can help us clean up something. Um, ‘scuse me? What happened? My son threw his sister’s water bottle out of the cart and it broke and water went everywhere…so then we spent 5 minutes trying to find someone to help us, or at the very least to let them know that there is a puddle in front of the duvets so that no one wins a “Slip and Fall” case against Ikea and our family.
After we find someone we decide that my son doesn’t need to push the cart and he can’t lay in the cart with his sister. He surprisingly wasn’t too upset that his cart driving and riding privileges had been revoked. He discovered the lighted arrows on the ground and thought they were pretty neat. I gave him a map of the store and he then became the Sacagawea to our Lewis & Clark expedition through Ikea. He loved it! He hopped on top of the arrows then promptly checked how many zigs and zags we were away from the last arrow and how many there were until the next arrow. Phew! We might just make it through the store after all.
However, we finally made it to the bed section, and much to my daughter’s dismay, we did not purchase a new bed for her. *sigh* Here it comes. She’s again, so mad that her expectations were not met. We’ve focused on my son’s expectations that we forgot to focus on my daughter’s. Honestly, if she’s not upset then her brother is and if he’s not upset then she is. It’s a constant juggle of ensuring their emotional well-being is looked after. It’s hard to do simultaneously. I just wanted to browse the pretty objects in the store and pretend that I lived in the house that has the $12,859 kitchen with its sleek pendant lights, and its gorgeous white counter tops.
But all I could think was, “Are we done yet?”.
Remember the days of going to Ikea before you had children and you just lazily winded in and out of the pristine room set ups? Everything looks so perfectly coordinated, and bright, and shiny, and beautiful, then reality hits you when you realize that the bamboo bowl is actually screwed to the table. And the placemats are glued to the table. And the cabinet doors open only to reveal unused glasses that are no longer available to purchase at the store because they’ve been sitting inside, unseen for years. It’s a scanned image of reality. It looks real, but upon further investigation, you realize it’s pretty difficult to mimic. And it’s supported by when you buy that lamp that really tied the room together in the store, but in your house, it looks starkly out of place. Something doesn’t seem right.
I feel like that is life. We had such high hopes for going to the store, that we forgot to remember what our life is like in reality. Having an idea of how something will happen, then being smacked in the face with what your life actually is… how it will pan out. Your expectations. Looking at your own life or someone else’s life and thinking everything is perfect, then looking closer and realizing everything is more difficult than you anticipated. The details show the truth. Taking the time to look further helps you realize that you’re all the same, you’re all dealing with hard things, and loving the easy things, and sometimes not knowing how you feel about any of it.
This is far deeper than I anticipated, all I wanted to do was share the disaster that was my family in an Ikea. I was thinking about the draft while I tried to go to sleep last night and I realized that those “Living in 237 square feet” and “Living in 684 square feet” rooms are full of lies. There is no way that anyone could comfortably live in those spaces. There is no way that those spaces would always stay so tidy. But, if you glue things down to the table, and screw pictures to the walls so they don’t move, then maybe life does look so perfect, but it’s not real. It’s not how life really is. Life gets cramped and uncomfortable. Life gets messy.
Life is crooked photos on the wall, the dried cracks in clay figures made in 1st grade art class that topple over and you pick up every day because the desk it sits on is leaning to one side because the floors are not level in your house. Life is the placemats that never lay perfectly on the table because little elbows slide them around. Life is the carpet that has stains on it, and the glasses that get used but sometimes break in the wash or while you’re trying to put them away neatly in the cabinet.
Sometimes, we need to fall apart before we can be put back together. Carefully lining up the edges so they aren’t so rough. Looking closely at the details and finding where you can be better, or how you can get to know someone else better so you can find your place in their life; so that you can help make their life easier. Even if that person that you’re trying to get to know better is yourself. It’s never too late. Don’t be the dusty glass that was forgotten in an Ikea cabinet. It’s ok to see that your life isn’t perfect. Say hello to your new normal life, embrace it, and try again tomorrow for a better day.