Every once in awhile a block on our wall calendar comes up blank. No piano recitals, no birthday parties, no dinner parties. An empty Saturday block waiting for fun. Sure, there’s laundry, groceries, errands, cleaning, blah, blah, but they’re not going anywhere. The chores have been neglected this long; they can wait a little longer.
“What do you want to do today?” I asked Piper and Sissy over breakfast.
“IKEA!” they both shouted. I know. This part is a little embarrassing. My kids love going through the little micro rooms and pretending they live in a studio in Manhattan, which isn’t as glamorous as Piper and Sissy think but it’s certainly tolerable when every inch of your space is organized. Oh, and there are cinnamon rolls to die for. They sell them by the tray. You should buy two. Trays that is. That way you have some leftovers after you’ve scarfed down the first tray in the parking lot.
Sissy is a bit more obsessed with Ikea than Piper. Sissy asked Santa for an Ikea gift card; she’s memorized their catalog. The girl dreams big. But like the dutiful little sister, Piper obliges. She, too, has pledged her devotion to Ikea. Here is where I should probably tell you we actually only own one thing in our entire house by Ikea: bookshelves. We’re mostly into antiques and folk art. Ikea doesn’t traffic in either. Yet we regularly visit Ikea for fun. It’s like a giant doll house. And did I mention the cinnamon rolls?
“Can I go to their playland?” Piper asked.
“We’ll try,” I promised.
What’s the Ikea playland, you ask? Hold on to your seat. You aren’t going to believe this…
From the Ikea website: “Småland is a play area where children can feel Swedish forest atmosphere. While they are playing, you can enjoy your shopping experience knowing your children will be safe and cared for.
60 minutes, free of charge.”
You read that right. 60 MINUTES. FREE OF CHARGE. You just hopped in your car and started driving didn’t you? I would. In fact, I did.
The only catch? You’ve got to get there early. Every parent in town is trying to drop off their kid so they can take a nap in a showroom bed. Don’t judge us. Oh, and germaphobes need not apply. It’s a cesspool.
This was Piper’s first visit to Smaland. We’ve never arrived early enough to indulge in the Swedish forest atmosphere. The line has always been too long. Or I’ve been able to keep Piper flu free by convincing her that the entire store is Smaland. But my defenses were weakened. I was working on my fifth day of single parenting. Germs be damned.
So, we got our little red bucket and filled it with Piper’s hat, scarf, mittens, coat, boots. They slapped on matching arm bands so that they’d know which kid to return to which parent. And they gave me my pager, which you carry around the store for your 60 minutes of freedom. I’m guessing it actually works as an alarm clock to wake up those of us
snoozing trying out the comfy couches. Piper gave Sissy and me high fives and ran off to the Swedish forest. Sissy and I bought hot chocolates and strolled. We pretended we lived in Paris and shopped for our library because everyone in Paris has a library and it needs organized.
59 minutes later we returned to retrieve our Piper. She looked a little sleepy. Probably worn out from all the fun, I guessed. Bonus.
“What did you do, Piper?” Sissy asked.
“Ball pit? Climbing wall? Art?” I offered.
“That slides looks fun,” Sissy said. “Did you meet new friends?”
Piper yawned. “No, I just watched a movie. It was the best!”