As I become increasingly familiar with the special brand of insanity that is toddler behavior, I try my best to abide by a “judge not, lest ye be…” attitude toward others’ parenting styles. Most of the time. Okay, some of the time. Hey, I’m working on it, okay?! I truly have no room to cast aspersions, given my own proclivity toward hovering like a neurotic basket case, desperate to shield my delicate little flower from anything with sharper edges than a down pillow. However, there are situations where one simply cannot help but feel like you’re the only one who possesses any measure of sanity; the lone zoo keeper in a cage full of crap-flinging monkeys. Case in point: the cross section of human behavior that is Ikea on a busy Sunday afternoon. What is it about modular furniture at low, low prices that brings out the absolute worst in parental behavior?
Though I was there only 45 minutes, I witnessed scads of wayward tots using the sofa section as their own personal moon bounce, flogging each other with assorted bargain priced kitchen utensils, and scaling piles of shag rugs like sugared-up mountain goats. When I passed the lighting section, I would not have been surprised to find unattended crawling babies gnawing through electrical cords like the Persian cat in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. In a stunning example of saving the best for last, the absolute horror of all horrors occurred when I was within spitting distance of the checkout lines. As I weaved through crowds in the self-serve warehouse, I stopped short when an overloaded flatbed cart rolled by me. Pushed by a frazzled looking mother, the contents of said cart included the following: no less than ten flat pack furniture items, assorted lamps and throw pillows, three children under the age of five, and teetering on the very top of the pile was a car seat occupied by a dozing newborn. Wait…what?! What is Swedish for “Have you lost your fucking mind? That’s a BABY!” Doesn’t Ikea issue informative pictorial directions that caution against this? Surely there must be a drawing explaining that you do not place infant seats atop precariously stacked boxes of furniture? Or at very least an 800 number you can call if you aren’t sure. At least chuck him in the ball pit, woman! The nice Smaland attendants will help you fish him out when you’ve finished picking out a new toothbrush holder. Not exactly certain how to respond to this game of baby Jenga unfolding before my eyes, I defaulted to sarcasm. A “gee, THAT seems safe” coupled with the most menacing stink eye I could muster. I didn’t stick around to see if passive-aggressive conflict resolution 101 had any effect on her; it was time to get the hell out of dodge. That was the Swedish meatball that broke the camel’s back. So long Ikea, it’s been real. I’ll be back the next time I need reassurance I’m not the worst parent around.