Sunday, November 13, 2011

Small Children and Big Crankiness

Yesterday I persuaded my husband to go with me to Ikea.
Yes, Saturday afternoon in Ikea - he must love me, right? (Though, to be honest, I'm kind of persona non grata right now. He has yet to forgive me for making him go.)

I saw a photo of a beautiful bedroom - a real bedroom, lived in by a real person and not a magazine still. When I saw this, I looked around at our living room, with its campsite ambience - a hint of student residence with a soupçon of jumble sale - and wailed, "We need to put up those blasted cupboards!" (we are cupboardy people: we favour things with doors and drawers, behind which one stows immeasurable amounts of clutter.) Mr Gingerbread saw my wild-eyed look and realised that resistance was futile. He brushed his teeth and what's left of his hair, and off we went to our local Swedish superstore, brave and foolhardy souls that we are.

See, Ikea on Saturday afternoon is like giving birth. And please note, I have never actually given birth, but I have heard that similar levels of agony are involved (and the fact that I have never given birth will be a pivotal element to this story. Bear with me ... if you can excuse the pun.) In any case, you do your Ikea trip and leave the store, exhausted, sweaty and near tears.
"Never again!" you shriek. "Whose idea was that? Who decided to go to Ikea at 4 p.m. on Saturday?" (it was you, of course, but you blame your significant other. They nod and pat your hand and feed you the Daim bars and pickled herring you bought in the food shop.) You go home and spend three days cursing at your Sven kitchen or your Larsko bookshelves, which lie around your feet in innumerable pieces as you face the insurmountable challenge of deciphering the cartoon pictures on the instruction leaflet, armed only with that weird little screwdriver-thingy that comes in a plastic bag, for goodness' sake.

Then something strange happens: once your furnitures stands in its appointed place, memories of the horror fade and by the time the newest Ikea catalogue lands on your doormat, your recollection of your last trip has been bludgeoned to insignificance by the promise of new scented candles and the cute little stripy rug on page 54. And the whole cycle of madness begins again.

So yesterday afternoon found us looking at fake kitchens (we don't need a kitchen) and testing sofas (we have a sofa) and poking lights (we are adequately lit, thank you very much) amidst hordes of unsupervised children. One of the reasons why I haven't sprung off offspring is a fear of parenting and what it does to you. Frankly, I am made uncommonly nervous by people who refer to their children using the words "precious", "beautiful", "blessed" and/or "miracle" (unless, of course, the kiddos really were miracles, i.e. "I gave birth while bungee jumping and both of us survived!" "It's a miracle!"). People who double their adjectives and/or adverbs whilst referring to their children make me extremely nervous, e.g. "I am so utterly, utterly blessed to be mother to the precious, precious miracle that is my beautiful, beautiful child!"

The reason why this makes me nervous is that for many people, this adjectival enthusiasm goes hand in hand with the ability - nay, the desire, - to tune their children out. Thus, Ikea was full of little kids shouting: "Mama-Mama-Mama-Mama-Mama-Mama-Mama-Mama-Mama-Mama-Mama, look-look-look-look, Mama-Mama-Mama-Mama-Mama-Mama-Mama!"
While the Mama in question blithely ignored them, entranced by the thread count in Ikea's finest bedwear.
"Can I have this? Can I? Can I? Can I? Can I? Can I? Can I? Can I? Can I? Can I? Can I?"
"Mmmmm?" (uninterested mumble)
"Are you listening? Mama-Mama-Mama-Mama-Mama-Mama-Mama-Mama!"

Like most childless people, I find it very stressful. I want to push the mother into the bargain bin of slightly shop-soiled sheets and fling the kid in after her, shouting "Communicate, damn it! Communicate!" Also, the pitch at which children shriek is nerve-numbing - and, interestingly, parents of small children apparently do not turn a hair when their youngsters scream so loudly that the wine glasses in the fake Ikea kitchen start humming like tuning forks. While I take my hat off to the parents that remove their little ones to a discreet area in which the kiddies can finish their tantrum without bursting by-standers' eardrums, I think Very Bad Things of the parents that see a tantrum as a form of childcare: at least you know where the little blighter is when he's screaming, right? All the better to wander off and have a look at the glass-fronted Pax wardrobes while little Johannes is rolling around on the floor, wiping his temper-induced snot-stream into the Almsted rug.

Oh, dear. It reminds me of what my friend Margot used to say. "Children? Love them! But I couldn't possibly manage a full one!" If I ever foist a Gingerbread sprog upon the world, I hope the accompanying rush of hormones comes with selective deafness.

Now I'm off to admire my Billy bookcases, light my scented candles and enjoy the peace and quiet ...

16 comments:

Anne said...

Thanks for the really big giggle!! I've been there, done that too!! And as you wrote about it, my memory returned of the huge lineup after all the 'fun' shopping!! :)

Annie said...

You are a braver woman than I ... Ikea on a Saturday!!!!

Bri said...

heeheeheeheehee.....Oh my...now as a parent of 2 (I'll refrain from using any adjectives) children, I must wonder whatever possesses these parents to think that subjecting their children to hours at an IKEA stores wouldn't result in temper tantrums, wailing and rioting? I agree that alot of parents nowadays do consider shops to be a form of free babysitting, I used to work in retail and the number of times I've had a kid go beserk in my store only to have the parent say "now Johnny/Sally/Whomever if you dont start behaving, this nice salesgirl is going to get mad at you" .... well this nice salegirls is going to get mad but it wont be at the kid....
Now as for future trips to IKEA, my sister actually works in one, (she runs a couple of the marketplace departments) and although there is never a completley sane time to go, during school hours can provide a bit of relief from the kids, although the adults tend to be abit worse. :o)

Reality Jayne said...

Very spot on description...laughed while reading it.

Katie K said...

Due to your hyperawareness, you wouldn't be that kind of parent, would you? And there are also quiet lovely times. I wouldn't have missed being a parent for the world.

barbara l. hale said...

Though I am not childless -- mine are 25 and 27 -- I can sympathize and I had to laugh at your Ikea adventure. Having grown kids puts me in somewhat of the same category. And your Mr. Gingerbread must be someone really special.

Gracey is not my name.... said...

Yup, the Hubs used to own a store and it was amazing what parents would allow their children to do...sure push yourself into the center on the clothing rack, although your hands and face are full of crumbs or other nasties...

Sue said...

OMG You are either very BRAVE or completely crazy to visit Ikea on a Saturday! Glad you had a successful forage though have fun building your Billy bookcase!

ハンナThe Kyoto and Japanese Language Explorer said...

Let me just say that I totally, totally agree! :-) I'm so fed up with The Holy Cows with their Holy Calves, and the most annoying is when they (obviously annoyed by your peaceful, quiet, and mostly stimulating in other parts life) actually criticize you for not being one of them!

Hookin It With Mr. Lick Lick said...

In my 'growing old' I am less tolerant of people's disrespect of letting their children act like this in public. I was always complimented on how 'well behaved' my children were. It's not hard to talk to your kids so that they understand how they should act in public.

I abhor children running amok and screaming and whining and crying the real or non-real tears all the while looking at you to see what kind of reaction they will get. I give them a 'not good' look and walk away muttering on why people can't leave their screaming meemies at home! lol. And I LOVE coming home to the peace and quiet.

nordwolke said...

So funny! :)

Victoria said...

Oh dear! You put it all so well!!!
Seriously, as the parent of 2 very loud children you have my sympathies! Mine are thankfully old enough to go in the ikea creche, so no-one else has to be subjected to them. Shopping with children - just don't do it.

Shirley said...

I was at the library today and suddenly realized that a little boy kept repeating 'Isn't it mother?' (I missed what he was asking about.) I think I would have tuned it out and wouldn't have noticed it if I hadn't read this post yesterday!

Voie de Vie said...

But hey, it's Ikea! What would you do without that Billy bookcase? (and flinging the books on the floor at Mr. Gingerbread us not an option).

Elisabetta said...

I so agree with you about children and parents, and this post is so funny! :-)

Sandy said...

I can't understand how people manage to tune out their children. If only the rest of us were blessed with that ability. I once walked up to a child in a shopping cart who had been calling Mom, mom, mom for several minutes without a response and told the child that I would be his mommy for 5 minutes if he would just shut up! The mother didn't appreciate that AT ALL! Oops!=)I am always amazed by what parents will allow their children to get away with in public. I work in friends' quilt shop sometimes and we have women that allow their children to run amok pulling fabric bolts off the shelf and notions off the walls. They have the nerve to say they are sorry that their child is being a pain and then proceed to leave the store a complete mess. Really?!! If you are aware your child is a nightmare, here's a thought, leave them at home!! I blame those mothers and their children for the way my womb shrivels up every time I go out in public. If I weren't subjected to other peoples bratty children, I might have a precious, precious angel of my own.=)