The Learn Button

Ikea gets me every time.

Every. Freaking. Time.

It’s my own fault, you know, because despite my history with the place I totally get cocky, all “What? Like I can’t survive a solo trip to a maze-like warehouse located fifty minutes away on a traffic-filled freeway with two children under the age of four?

“Like it’s HARD?”

In my defense, it’s not like I went into yesterday’s trip all sweetly naive and uninformed: I KNOW the hell that is going to Ikea with children (or going there generally speaking, even in the absence of small people). But I really did have to go – we had a Mattress Incident the night prior, and one of the (many) upsetting things about Ikea is that if you buy an Ikea bed you must also buy an Ikea mattress if you want it to even come close to fitting – and I also need to buy a couple of things for our upcoming bathroom redo, so you know what I did? Prepared like a ninja, and then got in the car all positivity and sparkles, having convinced myself that I was uncrushable.



This time? Ikea would not take me down.

ikea tumblr image

Here’s what made me feel so confident in my Ikea-navigating abilities this time around:

  1. I know what Smaland is, and I know that at least one of my children is old enough to go there. (Basically, it’s free childcare for kids who are of potty-trained age – you drop them off in a mini-heaven of bouncy balls while you shop, and pick them up when you are done. Or after the maximum time of forty-five minutes, which is approximately one-eighteenth of the time it takes you to actually “be done” at Ikea. More on this later, because NO.)
  2. I left my husband at home (or at work, as it were). This may sound counterintuitive, because in theory husbands should be helpful in a one-mother-and-two-children-versus-Ikea situation, but you know what a husband who accompanies you on a trip to Ikea is? One more person to hate.
  3. I packed food like whoa. I not only brought snacks, I brought a BUFFET. Juice boxes, goldfish, cheese sticks, Mum-Mums, you name it. I even took a swing past the candy counter and let Indy fill a bag with whatever he wanted (which is obviously a recipe for a Tasmanian Devil whirlwind situation followed by an epic sugar crash, but whatever: as long as that crash happens in the car, I’m fine with it).
  4. I did my research. The most important thing, when going to Ikea, is to keep your eyes on the prize, and I swear to god that’s what I did: I looked up what I needed to buy on Ikea.com in advance of my trip, went straight to the spots where the things I needed were sold, wrote down the trillion-digit SKU numbers, and headed for the checkout (with, okay, a teeny-tiny stop into the Marketplace to look at cowhide rugs. And maybe I bought some curtains. So sue me; I’d already made myself miserable and going home Miserable Plus Curtains sounded nicer than just plain Miserable).

Except. Oh, except.

carl kleiner for ikea

Here is what went wrong.

First of all, can we please have a conversation about the genius who decided that forty-five minutes should be the maximum time allotted for attendance in Smaland? On what planet, exactly, is forty-five minutes sufficient time for parents to get anything done in Ikea besides figure out whether they’re on the Marketplace floor or the Showroom floor? What happened to me was that I finally found the spot where mattresses were sold (not in the mattress area, but rather in the children’s area, because sure) and hunted down a person who could explain to me which Smadgit mattress cover went with with which Nordunk mattress, and then fuuuuuuck: there’s my little YOUR CHILD IS BEING EVICTED FROM SMALAND buzzer going off and now I’m abandoning the one thing I came here to purchase and booking it back through twenty seven levels of Ikea in search of whatever corner they hid my son in (Smaland, much like David Bowie’s castle in the movie Labyrinth, is never where you left it).

Anyway, eventually I found Indy. And then I dragged him out of The Land Of Bouncy Balls And Happiness into The Self-Serve Warehouse Of Despair, where the next thing that happened was he sat in a cart with a mattress on his head (I’m not even kidding; the only way for me to navigate two children plus mattress by myself was to plant my child in the basket of the cart and instruct Indy to dig his fingers into the plastic wrap covering the mattress that was precariously balanced over his head). But even so, it honestly wasn’t that bad – Goldie had a cheese stick, Indy was thrilled to be sitting in a “cave,” and the checkout lines were short. I could see the light at the end of the tunnel, and started preparing myself for a victorious (read: self-important) phone call to Kendrick (“GUESS WHAT I JUST DID I AM AMAAAAZING”).

“Thanks for visiting Ikea!” the cashier said. “Just head on over to Furniture Pickup to get the rest of your order.”

And that, right there, is how they got me.

With Furniture Pickup.

In theory, heading over to a little desk where your items will be hand-delivered to you on a flat cart sounds like a major upgrade from dragging station wagon-sized boxes all over the self-storage warehouse, doesn’t it? But I should have realized what was about to happen the second I arrived at that desk and saw the sad, sad faces of the four or five people sitting (or, really, slumping sadly) on the rickety little benches.

“It’ll be about fifteen minutes!” chirped the desk lady, tapping the numbers on my receipt into her little tablet.

Now, this news didn’t make me super happy – fifteen minutes confined to a smallish area with lots of things that must not be touched by children (like forklifts) isn’t my idea of a good time, and seemed excessive when there really weren’t many other people there – but I figured what the hell, I could handle it (see: candy). Except what happened next was that one of the sad bench people looked over at me all haunted and forlorn, and said, “I’ve been here for an hour and a half. Prepare yourself for a wait.”

It was at that exact moment that Goldie decided that she had had enough of this whole “shopping” thing, thanks, and turned into a screaming wood plank (apparently this runs in the family).

You guys, my children lost. Their freaking. Minds.

I mean, I get it. So did I.

(Did I mention it was approximately six hundred degrees in the Furniture Pickup Department? It was six hundred degrees.)

An hour and a half later, we were the owners of a mattress, a medicine cabinet, and a pair of curtains. And then we sat on the 101 freeway for an hour. With snacks? Of course not; we tapped out on those somewhere around the lighting department.

Because mama never – ever, apparently – learns.

| Images: Carl Kleiner for Ikea |

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