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.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

45 miles from gold

My last trip to Manchester (dropping Zoe off in Copenhagen on the way) let me to the status of almost gold. It is almost unfair but also ironic that I'm so close, yet have to fly another journey (anywhere. I don't think any flights give less than 500 miles anyway) to qualify. But I'm going to Copenhagen for easter so I'm sorted. Zoe will make silver on the same trip. 

Despite my many years of frequent travel (10 years+) I have only been gold once before which comes down to my relationship: Zoe's dad and I travelled a lot together and we tended to use our miles for private travel; not only because it was cheaper but also because it enabled us to travel business class. At one point I traveled more business and first class than economy and I still remember being confused that I had to pay for a glass of wine on a cross Atlantic flight on a US carrier: "oh, we changed that a few years ago", the nice flight attendant said and I snobbishly replied "but I'm not used to be down here". In fact Zoe's very first flight was in first class, upstairs in a Boing 747-400. I learned to breastfeed her lying down in the lie-flat bed. But the flying on miles meant that I just didn't qualify for gold. Silver always but gold only one year. It didn't matter much because Mark was always gold and we went to the lounge together. I still remember the Virgin Atlantic lounge in Heathrow where they bring you whatever warm meal you want from the menu, the champagne was cold and they come down to get you after everybody else has boarded.  

There are two things I'm looking forward to when I get my card in a month. The special security queue in Copenhagen, which is much closer to the actual entrance and saves you 500 meters' walking, something quite useful when having to drag a 2 year old sobbing girl: "Zoe sad, Zoe had to say bye bye to grandma". And the lounges. The Copenhagen lounge has a special kids area which Zoe loves and they serve meatballs and olives, both Zoe's favorite easy snacks. And I presume they keep the champagne cold.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Hungover mom

One reason why I love my job is because it is so flexible. After a fun night out celebrating a friend's successful PhD defense on Monday, I could stay home all day, picking up Zoe in the afternoon and just do nothing at night (okay, I'm also lucky that I have no immediate upcoming deadlines). She watched a few Pocoyo episodes too much for her own good but I could rest my head.

Today I'm working in a cafe trying to stitch together my next trip to a conference, in fact the main conference within my field. It looks like I will have to bring Zoe and then take a day off in the middle of the conference to fly Zoe to Copenhagen, flying back to the conference at night. Luckily I have enough frequent flyer miles that it can pay for most the cost. Part of me thinks this is insane but another part can see no other choice. I want at least part of a child-free conference where I can have fun and party (but hopefully not as much as the other night) but I also need to limit the child-care that I am asking for. Let's hope it will work and when I am in the middle of it, it probably won't be that bad. Zoe certainly has the flying down by now and probably won't mind flying three times in a week. 

Friday, March 1, 2013

Jetlagged baby, jetlagged mom

A question I often get, both by random people who ask where we have traveled from and people who are planning to travel with their child, is how I deal with Zoe's jet lag. And this is often the phrasing of it: How do you deal with her having jet lag. While I don't disagree much with any of the advice given over at "Have baby, will travel", one of the obvious answers is that you deal with it like you deal with your own. Traveling west, you both wake up 3:40am the first night, 4:30am the next and after three nights you have a fairly normal day. On the way east you get a more extreme sleep pattern, waking up every four or so hours for a couple of days. That said, my best piece of advice is the advice they give to new mothers: Baby sleep, parent sleep. Don't think that you will wake up at 2 am but the child won't. Go to sleep as soon as the child have nudged off, that being 6pm or 11pm. So the question is not how I deal with Zoe's jet lag but how we deal with our jet lag.

And, yes, it is currently 4 am the day after Zoe and I got back to Stockholm and we have been awake both since 2:30 am. Zoe is watching "In the night garden", the most calm children's show I can think of and I hope we can go back to sleep in not too long.