Yesterday afternoon, having about an hour to fill with my two youngest children and deciding that to bring them home, remove them from the car and then put them back in again would potentially ruin the afternoon, and perhaps my whole life, I asked a question I haven't in quite a long time: "Hey. Who wants to go to IKEA?"
I remember when I first learned you could take your young children places like this, keeping them occupied, running errands and helping parents not to lose their sanity all at once. The first time I took baby Nora to Target one cold, weekday morning, my soul suffered a small death, but was lifted, too. Yes, I disliked being a new mom at Target in the middle of the day, why the hell wasn't I in an office instead? But I also found some sweet camaraderie in those well-lit aisles. And I bought some new hand soap.
Our days are different now; we're busier with work, the kids are busier with school and there's less free time that needs to be filled (plus, when it appears on the schedule, I almost always go grocery shopping, and Aidy almost always, somehow, inconceivably, convinces me to let her eat like three granola bars while we are in the store. THREE! JESUS!)
Yesterday, however, with Nora occupied at her after-school program and nothing to do, me and the two children who tend to terrorize me the most headed to IKEA for no reason at all, besides the fact that it is paradise.
I know. You have to complete the maze, containing every strangely-colored sofa and paper lantern hanging lamp, to get to whatever it is you're there for, but I love the amble. In fact, I've ensured that my children have never figured out you can cut directly to the kids' section at the top of the escalator, opting instead to stroll slowly through every other area - bedroom! office! bathroom! - before we arrive and they get to go in the exact same tent and tunnel play structures that we have at home for half an hour like they have never experienced such joy in their lives.
I like furniture stores in general. It's something about the license to peruse without feeling guilty about a lack of purchase; after all, it's not as though people snap up entertainment units left and right on a daily basis. It's also so comforting to be in a home setting that isn't your own, that isn't anyone's, so you don't feel badly that you aren't succeeding at keeping your own living environment so festive and organized.
IKEA is especially wonderful because everything is affordable and you can't beat trying to read the Swedish names. J finds the crowds there intolerable but I like it. All those people at all those stages of life getting excited about kitchen fixtures and bunk beds. So much possibility. It's inspiring.
As we walked through yesterday, Aidy kept breaking her trusty little grip on my hand and running towards all the comfy, colorful beds, exclaiming "This one! I want this!" Buying her a new bed was absolutely not happening but it was fun to observe her fickle excitement, and it was clear that she got the draw of the place. At one point she looked up at me and said, meaningfully, "This is fun." And I nodded in agreement, so happy that I got the rare chance to indulge in one of my favorite parenting getaways, and that the only impulse buy was a very soft, slate grey blanket. "I know," I replied. "This is the best."