Saturday, March 23, 2013

Lost in Ikea

The American in me is of the impression that kids get kidnapped and stolen all the time. The US media and society makes you believe this through sensational rhetoric of the odd cases and the common notion that you never leave your child unattended. The Scandinavian in me knows better. The only stories we have from Denmark and Sweden are the mentally ill young girl who took a pram with a baby for a walk back in the seventies. She and baby was found less than an hour later. A couple of years ago a car thief stole a car with the keys in the ignition while the dad was at a bakery getting morning bred (a stable Danish Sunday routine); the thief left the car two blocks later when he realized there was a little sleeping baby in the car seat in the back (this makes totally sense to me, dad didn't want to wake up baby for the 5 minute bakery run and he left the keys in as not to lock the baby inside if something happened). Basically nobody steals babies/kids in Scandinavia.

Zoe's future bed she got to decide.
And this is what I kept telling myself as a narrative for the full 10 minutes after I realized Zoe was lost in Ikea. "They don't steal kids in Sweden, they don't steal kids in Sweden". At the same time I cursed my own need for coffee and my politeness of standing in line for that cup of coffee. Zoe and I had ventured out to Ikea to buy a shelf and a picture frame, and after eating lunch in the restaurant we went downstairs where Zoe found a slide that fitted her in size. After asking if she would please go with me to the cafe (50 meters away but around a corner) she insisted that "mommy go get coffee, Zoe play on slide". I had never left her like this before except when she could see me but she had been at her best behavior and I thought it would take less than 2 minutes. I asked her to stay there and went off. Unfortunately there were 5 people in front of me and my judgement of time and how many kanelbuller they were going to buy was quite off. 3 minutes turned to 5 or 6 and when I ran back to the slide Zoe was gone. I called her name and asked the other parents if they had seen a little girl in a grey sweater and pink pants. They looked very judgingly at me and said that she had been there but then left. I could sense their complete uncaring judgement since I was the crazy mom who had left her two year old at the slide by herself. And who goes to Ikea on their own with a child anyway? (well a single mom who lives in a foreign does, thank you very much) I certainly deserved the panic that I was now experiencing. I found an Ikea employee fairly quickly and spoke English. My Swedish is not suited well for panic. After a nerve wrecking 5 minutes of the employee calling the central information she said they had found a little girl upstairs. I ran up the escalator and found Zoe sitting with two very nice Swedes, a mom and her 10 year old daughter, on a couch. Serious but not scared. "Zoe!", "Mommy!". She explained to me what had happened: "Zoe waited and waited and then Zoe go find mom in the cafe". She had not understood that I went to the cafe around the corner but thought that I went back upstairs to the restaurant where we had had lunch. So she had taken the escalator on her own where she had been overwhelmed by the largeness of all of it all and not been able to see me. The mom and daughter had quickly seen that she was on her own and asked if she was looking for her mom. I thanked them profoundly and we sat there just for a few minutes. Of course they don't steal kids in Sweden. And of course Zoe doesn't have the patience to wait for 5 minutes for me. We continued our shopping and got the necessary things. But I didn't let go of Zoe's hand for the rest of the day.

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