I took the baby to Ikea for the first time yesterday—her first time, not mine. Me, I'm an Ikea pro, or at least I was before I married a man who won’t allow anything in his home made after 1970—with the notable exceptions of me, the baby, and the cat. Back in the day, I could shop in Ikea for hours, outlasting my friend as she got a nosebleed on the escalator (true story) and my then-girlfriend as she passed out in the lighting department (also a true story).
Anyway, it was raining for the 29,317th day in a row here in Seattle, and I was itching to get out of the house and go somewhere other than the Children’s Museum, which I loathe, in no small part because it’s full of children. Ikea on the other hand tends to be full of nesting lesbians and temporarily displaced Europeans, which is not a problem for me at all.
I’ve been on the lookout for a stepstool for the bathroom sink so the baby will know how to wash her own hands when she starts preschool (!) in the fall. I don’t want her teacher to be all, “Why in god’s name does this child need help washing her hands? She’s nearly two for chrissakes. She should be able to weave a tapestry by now with those nimble little fingers.”
I’ve looked on Craigslist but haven’t found an item tall enough to be useful but short and stable enough for her to be able to, you know, step onto it. She knows the letter “C” is for “cookie” and can count all the way up to two, but she’s not what anyone would call “physically precocious.” I worry about her climbing on things, not because she’s one of those babies who climbs on everything but because she’s one of those babies who sat in one place commanding her doting/annoyed parents to get things for her well past her first birthday. Consequently, she isn’t always that steady when she does ascend something to, say, grab my iPhone so she can watch Elmo or, better yet, YouTube porn, like I found her doing this morning when I got out of the shower. (Note to self: pay attention next time someone talks about “parental controls” and how to use them. When I gently eased the phone away from her, trying not to inspire a tantrum or an early guilt/shame complex around sex, I asked, “What were you watching there, huh, kiddo?” She just smiled at me treacherously and said “ ’mo.”)
We went to Ikea to find a wooden stepstool that I could throw around the backyard a few times to bang it up and make it look as old as my husband. Even though the baby has been quite good company on outings for many months now, I still get nervous about taking her places. Like I expect her to scream bloody murder every time I stop the car at a red light or change the radio to something other than hip hop even though she hasn’t done that since she was a month old. Ah, newborn-induced PTSD.
I packed the usual selection of diapers and wipes and creams and ointments (because you never know when your child might get nibbled by a mosquito inside a giant, meandering furniture emporium), two sippy cups full of milk, one of water, a baggie of cheese cubes, and the requisite container of Goldfish because we were going to be gone for two whole hours.
Upon arrival, I bribed the baby to get into the cart with one of the cups of milk and convinced her to stay there until we got to the toy area with periodic Goldfish treats as if she were a tiny, cart-riding Shamu. Each time she didn’t pitch a fit—like when she had to put the stuffed dogs back in the bin with their brethren or stop wiping her nose on the rainbow of hand-towels—I breathed a sigh of relief and then braced myself for the next challenge, none of which turned out to be that challenging. By the time we sat down for a lunch of mac-and-cheese—Swedish-style—I was (unnecessarily) exhausted.
We hit the checkout counter with only a package of finger puppets in hand, having not found an adequate stepstool, and a woman rolled past us pushing a stroller and a cartful of flat-pack furniture boxes and mirrors and large frames and other cumbersome items with lots of sharp corners.
“Baby!” declared my baby upon seeing the stroller.
“Yes, that’s a baby,” I confirmed. Then I looked closer and saw that the simultaneous stroller-and-cart-pushing woman had yet another baby strapped to her chest. “Two babies!” I clarified because I, too, can count all the way to two.
A friend (whose delightful and adorable daughter my daughter is obsessed with—if I hear one more time about the time they rode the light-rail together, like, three months ago (“Ro-Ro, choo-choo. Ro-Ro, choo-choo.”) I might scream) recently told me about some story she heard on one of those rare NPR programs that's actually as entertaining as it is informative. It was some guy talking about raising twins, and apparently he said something like, “They shouldn't call it 'twins,' they should call it 'having two babies at the exact same fucking time.'” My first thought was that I must track down this man and make him my friend (because I like any parent who is honest about the challenges of raising kids and because I especially like parents who don’t stop using words like “fucking” just because they recently reproduced. My second thought was how I still can’t imagine having a second kid years after having the first—how do people handle two babies at the exact same fucking time?
As the Ikea woman strode purposefully to the bathroom with her carts and babies and Billy bookcases, I tucked the small package of finger puppets into the diaper bag, picked up my one baby and chased after the woman so I could offer help even though she clearly had everything under control. In fact, she probably would have offered to watch my kid while I peed and maybe even did a little more shopping had she seen me standing there looking a bit like a deer in florescent lights.
Mothers of twins (and, lordy, triplets and more)—I salute you. I admire you. I don’t know how you (fucking) do it. And if you could stop making it seem so easy, so do-able, I’d appreciate it. You make the rest of us look bad.