I like IKEA. I'm not ashamed to admit that in bored moments (especially on rainy days) it's the ideal place to go for a day out. There's lots to look at, especially for toddlers who like shiny things, patterned things, and lights of wonderous shapes and sizes, and they have a great (cheap) cafe.
In the interests of fairness, I have to say there are some parts of the Swedish furniture behemoth I'm not so keen on. In the hunt for photo frames (admit it, there is not an adult in the UK who doesn't have at least one Ribba in their house) I took a teeny T for a push in his car seat at around 5 weeks old. I was impressed by a poster in the shiny shiny giant lift which promised free baby food, bottle warming (didn't need either of those, but still impressive) and a 'nursing area for you to feed your baby', complete with a lovely picture of a breastfeeding Mum cradling an infant on a sofa complete with fluffy cushions. Once I'd figured out where the entrance was (those lifts are confusing!) I stopped a blue and yellow clad worker and asked them where this magical milk-making haven was. They pointed me to a rattan chair in the disabled loo. In the fog of sleep deprivation I didn't quite have the strength to make an argument about whether said staff member would eat their lunch in the loo. I would have felt bad anyway, I don't think the embarrassed old fella who went a rosy shade when the first letters of the word 'breast' passed my lips had any say on where Ikea put their chairs, or whether the posters in the lift were a true representation. So I did what I should have done in the first place, queued up for a slice of Dime Bar cake, sat in the cafe and fed T, and myself, in one fell swoop.
So anyway, 17 months later I find myself back at IKEA, toddler in tow. Flat-packs procured, I decided we should have lunch before the journey home and our afternoon music class. Children's organic pasta and sauce, with Parmesan, is less than a quid! They even provide disposible bibs, cutlery, plastic cups, bowls and plates and more highchairs than you can shake a stick at.
We sat. I ate.
T pulled off his bib.
I moved his plate.
'You can't eat that without a bib on'.
I retied the bib and passed back the plate.
He pulled off the bib.
I removed the plate.
He grabbed a handful of food from my plate (momentarily unguarded) and stuffed it in his mouth.
I retied the bib, moved my plate and passed his own back.
He screeched and knocked half of it on the floor.
'Ooooh, he knows how to wind you up' said a helpful lady on the next table.
I cleaned up the pasta mess.
T knocked over his drink.
He pulled off his bib. And started to cry.
'Ooooh, he's really playing you' said helpful lady.
I smiled, through gritted teeth.
By this time T had procured my plate. I ate from his plate. After about 5 spoonfuls he started to throw my food on the floor. He pulled off the bib again. Helpful lady muttered to her friend. I don't speak 'under breath' but I'm pretty sure it was a slur on my parenting. I shovelled the last of my pasta into my mouth and moved the 'firsts' away. I retied T's bib and tried to rescue the situation with a yoghurt. It's funny, when you become a parent you seem to become an expert in pretend enthusiasm in the face of adversity. Grumpy toddler? 'Oooh look, it's strawberry flavour, do you want to help Mummy take off the lid, would you like the green spoon or the blue spoon?' T pulled off his bib and smeared a handful of yoghurt on the table. I gave up. Using the plastic cutlery, I spooned in Ella's finest. 'Mmmmmmm' I said, thinking I might tempt him into wanting it back. T smeared harder. Helpful lady was on her feet now. Going via the 'baby station' she stopped at our table. In a falsetto voice she said 'you can't eat that, you haven't got a bib on'. Then she tried to tie a bib round my neck.
Then I cried.