Stage 1: Vigorous protest. The night before/the morning of the visit:
Kid: “But Amma! I don’t want to go to IKEA. I want to go to the park/beach/indoor play area with my friend! IKEA is booooring!”
Me: “No, it’s not! It’s full of interesting stuff.”
Kid (arms crossed): “Does it have clothes?”
Me: “Er… no.” (But it has toys. For once, I have enough thought-to-mouth-control not to say it out loud. We’d cross that particular bridge when we come to it <see Stage 4>).
“Shoes?” (My daughter, the diva.)
“Hairbands?” (Note: We’re currently obsessed with hairbands)
Me: “No, but…”
Kid (throwing up arms in exasperation): “See? It’s boooring!”
Stage 2: Enter Festival City Mall, where IKEA is located in Dubai. “Amma amma amma! I want to go on the toy train! I want the Sophia the Princess balloon! I want to go to that play area…” Curse you, Festival City. Why do you need to have so, so many distractions for the pint-sized brigade just outside the entrance of IKEA?? Do you not realise we parents need to reserve every ounce of our strength for the ordeal of the next 3 to 4 hours, as we stagger zombie-style through the winding maze with whining little person(s) in tow, laden with a shopping cart full of junk we don’t need, and unwieldy boxes and shelving units to store it all in?? We can’t be wasting energy battling past helium balloon and tooting red-and-yellow engines!
Stage 3: Enter IKEA. Cue amazement. “I LOVE IKEA!” This is the best portion of the trip, so one must make the best of it. The daughter has shelved the diva-ness and demands for balloons, and is totally charmed by the pretty, pretty bedrooms and kitchens and dining rooms on display. She pretend cooks at the kitchen, has a tea-party at the little kiddie table on display, lies on the beds (while I pretend not to notice), and generally makes like she’s living in a life-size doll house. “I don’t ever want to go home! Can we live here forever, amma?”
Stage 4: BOOM! By that, I am referring, of course, to the wretchedly attractive and colourful toy section of IKEA, strategically located at the halfway point of the maze, right about when your kid is getting bored of amusing herself with pots and pans and pillows, and is starting to get tired. What happens when a bored and tired little person who’s been looking at shelving units and kitchens is confronted with an oasis of toys? Exactly. BOOM!
Now, there are two options here for the also-starting-to-get-tired-and-cranky parents — a blanket ban on any more toys, and damn the consequences (you brave souls you), or multiple rounds of negotiations before you settle upon a mutually agreeable, not-too-outrageous toy purchase. We bought a stuffed cat, who has been christened Mia (don’t judge me… virtually every kid walking out of IKEA was carrying a stuffed animal of some species or the other.) Of course, sometimes the peace talks fail and you end up with a toddler lying on one of IKEA’s pristine aisles throwing an epic tantrum. Let’s have a moment of silence to express solidarity for every parent whose ever been in that position (there but for the grace of Mia go I.)
Stage 5: Exhaustion. This stage has both its advantages and disadvantages. On one hand, your kid is too exhausted to wander off or break things or demand to buy new stuff, and is likely to sit in the shopping cart quietly for the first time in the entire expedition. On the other hand, she’s more likely to whine (“I’m huuuungry! Are we done yet??”) and make irrational demands like “Carry me!” and “I want to lie down!”. I settled this by placing a random cat-motif pillow I’d picked up (in keeping with the general feline theme of the day, and the compulsion one feels to buy random stuff at IKEA) on the handle of the cart and having her put her head on it. I no longer had a handle to push the cart with, but hey, the whining was down, so I’ll take it.
We eventually did finish and make it back to the car, stopping only 10 or 15 times to pick up Mia and/or the cat pillow along the way. Our annual visit was done; there were no tempers lost or tantrums thrown (only the husband’s blood and sweat lost over setting up the shelves later), and at least 50 per cent of what we bought was actually useful. As IKEA trips go, I’d give this one a Grade A – (half a grade point reduced for unnecessary purchase of cat pillow, which has already since been abandoned.)