We spent a whirlwind long weekend in Toronto. My head’s still spinning. We drove there on Friday. An hour before we reached our hotel, Sonya threw up everything she’d eaten that day all over herself and the car seat, everywhere. We had to pull over at a Quality Inn off the highway in Oshawa.
“I feeling sick,” Sonya said pathetically, patiently sitting in her own vomit while Drex pulled off the road and circled back into the hotel parking lot.
We reassured her in soothing voices, to let her know we recognized how horrible this experience must be for her. She was being so good, too! She sat with her arms out, palms up, not touching anything, not moving. She was being very zen for a two-year-old. For anyone in such a horrible situation.
“I feeling dizzy,” Sonya said. “I feeling dizzy maybe.”
Five hours into our car trip, I handed back an iPod with episodes of Curious George on it for Sonya to watch. I figured it could keep her busy until we saw the Toronto skyline. Big mistake. Turns out, she gets motion sickness.
Drex took Sonya and her entire carseat to the Quality Inn bathroom to deal with the extreme disgustingness while Leena and I explained our haz-mat emergency to the front desk staff and fidgeted around the lobby.
Saturday morning, Leena and I went to a parenting conference (more on that later, but in a nutshell, I was invited to attend by Kids and Company because I write featured articles for their blog. The conference was hosted in partnership with Today’s Parent magazine, so it was a fabulous networking opportunity with the editor-in-chief and other Canadian mommy writers!) Then we had dinner with our friends who moved to Toronto. They just got a puppy.
Drex spent Sunday in a mad dash to submit a paper before a looming deadline while the girls and I explored downtown. We literally had to wander the urban jungle until noon when the shops finally opened. (It felt longer because of the time change— turning back the clock didn’t fool anyone’s circadian rhythms!)
On Monday, Drex still needed to submit his paper before midnight and give a talk at the University of Toronto. So what could I do for another entire day in a strange city with two little ones? I quizzed the concierge at our hotel. I randomly accosted some parents on the street. Nobody really had any ideas that could fill up a whole day. Being outside, for me, was out of the question. I was still thawing from our endless walkabout on Sunday. I debated going to a museum or a shopping mall. Both seemed like they would wear me out after four hours.
Because we planned on driving back to Montreal in the evening, we’d checked out of our hotel, so I was left without a home base or recharging station. Drex would have the rental car with him and he’d be so busy going to meetings and giving his talk that the girls and I were in a drop-off/pick-up situation. We could take cabs or buses, but I didn’t exactly want to haul them around sight-seeing without Drex. Then it dawned on me. IKEA. I could spend an entire day at IKEA! It has everything. Food, toys, beds, central heating. Really, it was a genius idea. I’d do it again. Just not anytime soon, thanks.
We arrived at the store thirty minutes before it opened. 9:30 a.m. Bright and early. At 10 a.m., we started wandering the showcases on the second floor.
Throughout the day, people complimented and interacted with Sonya and Leena. More than one pregnant woman stopped and asked Sonya for her opinion on different things. We sold at least two toddler beds, a play kitchen, a crib, and a high chair.
“Same as at home. Baby sister Leena sleep here. So safe,” Sonya said about the birch Gulliver crib. “I climbing on it. Buckle in. Don’t fall down,” she said about the Gulliver high chair. “Look! I driving the cars! Vrrrooooom! Vrrrooom!” she said as she rolled some Lillabo cars around her Lekplats roads.
Meanwhile, Leena advertised the Mula bead roller and the soft Barnsling Ringdans rug to expectant moms looking to outfit a nursery.
Around eleven, we had that somewhat bizarre but strangely appealing IKEA food for lunch. Sonya wanted the salmon with steamed veggies and these potato/broccoli medallions. Surprisingly, she ate most of it, along with a half-pint of milk and a cup of fruit.
After lunch, that’s when I feared a turning point. I could anticipate Sonya’s need to take a nap. Otherwise, she’d be cranky the rest of the afternoon. I didn’t actually think it would work, but I suggested we go pick out a children’s showroom and try to have some quiet time, anyway.
Sonya couldn’t decide between two beds. They were, as far as I could tell, nearly identical, but one had red-striped pillows, while the other one had green-striped pillows. Eventually, she mixed and matched and put her head down. I nursed Leena, patted Sonya’s back, and hummed tunelessly. In a matter of minutes, both my girls were asleep. Right there. In the IKEA showroom.
Even though it was Monday, mid-afternoon, the store was packed with families. I don’t know how this happens to be the case. But every IKEA I’ve ever visited— okay, really not that many locations, just Houston and Montreal, but I’ve been to both stores several times to reach the following conclusion— that no matter where or when you go to IKEA, it is always busy. Makes me wonder. What are all these people doing at IKEA? Have all these people come to buy assemble-yourself furniture? Are they here for the Swedish meatballs? Or are they just passing time with nothing better to do like the three of us, trying to recreate a feeling of home in an unfamiliar environment?
While the girls napped for two hours, I read the third book in the Game of Thrones series while various parts of my body went numb. I wasn’t going to move an inch and risk anyone waking up, though.
Meanwhile, people kept wandering into the showroom, jotting down product codes with their miniature golf pencils. More than one set of parents said, “Wow, that’s really great advertising.”
Someone in the bold yellow and blue shirt of an IKEA employee approached us. Uh oh, I thought. I’m about to be told off for using the IKEA furniture.
“I saw your daughter was sleeping on our bed, so I had to come over and tell you— how adorable she is. And oh my goodness! Are you holding another baby? Wow! How in the world did you get them to take a nap together so early in the afternoon? I’ve got three children. Can I get you anything? A glass of water?”
When the girls woke up, I still had four hours ahead of me. We felt like IKEA refugees— unstuck in time and space. Wandering aimlessly with no clear home or purpose.
I started intentionally allowing us to do everything in slow motion. We ate pasta. We drank milk. Slowly. No need to hurry. If Sonya stopped to look at something for fifteen minutes, I let her. If Leena wanted to suck on the end of a rolling pin, I let her gum it until she got tired. Eventually, we ran races in the warehouse.
That’s when we stumbled into the fabulous “AS IS” corner of the first floor where chipped or used showroom furniture gets deeply discounted. Jackpot. We picked up a toddler table and stools and added them to the increasing mound of goodies I’d piled into the stroller next to Leena.
I pushed the cart. Sonya pushed the double stroller with Leena in it, veering like a drunk driver around islands of Christmas ornaments and other impulse buys on the way to the cash registers. Getting to the checkout line took us all the way toward 6 p.m.
Then we waited by the sliding doors until Drex came to get us. Sonya and Leena’s boundless energy rubbed off on me. Otherwise, I would have collapsed a long time ago. Somewhere back in the sofa display on a leather Karlstad. Sonya played peekaboo with Leena. People who walked by us smiled and stopped to chat.
These two girls probably could have lasted to store closing. They were well-behaved and having a great time. Thank goodness Drex finally arrived, though.
Having now spent NINE hours at an IKEA with two small children, slowly exploring one showroom after another, I can say that it felt at times like I was participating in a quirky, off-beat indie film about young motherhood.
I now feel like a walking IKEA catalogue— in case you need some Ribba frames to hang above your Ekby Järpen wall shelf behind the Ektorp sofa and Hemnes coffee table in your living room.