On Saturday, we went to Ikea to get my birthday present. I guess, it was maybe an early anniversary present for Steve and me, because who wants a mattress for their birthday? Either way, we needed a new mattress, and Ikea is here now, so off we went.
Ikea on a Saturday may seem like the last place on earth we would take Max, especially during cold and flu season. But, as we often do when venturing to Ikea, we go about 2 hours before they close. The crowds are very low, and not nearly as many kids.
Max can handle being awake and out until about 9:00pm, so we are lucky that way. We got there at about 7:00pm and were checking out the different options. We were looking at beds, trying to decide if we wanted to downsize to a Full, instead of our Queen to give ourselves more room in the bedroom.
With adding George's crate in our room, we feel like we're all on top of each other when it's time to go to bed.
Max was being pretty cooperative, he was eating, and we are a bit obnoxious with that amount of times we say something about it being "yellow Ikea". Everything we see is yellow Ikea chair, yellow Ikea bed, yellow Ikea couch, and on and on to keep his interest long enough to look through what we're there to get. We also know all of the short-cuts and utilize them to skip the areas we know we don't need or want to see to make the trip through the main show-room floor easier with him, and to avoid the bottle neck of crowds.
As we were making our way through the maze of beds, Max hit is first melt-down. We had spent longer than usual in one spot and he didn't care about the beds anymore, and needed his pants changed. We told him we knew he was needing to go to the bathroom, and would go right away. It has been helping him to know we understand what he's telling us, but it's not okay for him to scream at us about it.
After we checked him to confirm he did need the bathroom, and got him settled in his chair, we started out of the bedding area. As we were heading out, a couple had been ahead of us, watching. She smiled as we walked by, and he said, "It's okay, buddy.", while we quickly walked past and were trying to comfort Max into not screaming the whole way to the bathroom.
We got him in there, and held him up on one of the baby changing tables. Which, really...let me stop here and say it is at least a two person job to change the diaper of a child Max's size in a public restroom. I used to be aghast at the thought of changing his pants on the floor of a public restroom, but I am really starting to understand the rational of it. It takes Steve holding his arms and head up at the top of the changing table, and I tuck his wriggly legs under my arms to keep him from kicking me while I change his diaper.
While changing Max, I said to Steve, "did you notice that couple by the beds when we were hurrying out?". Steve said, "yeah, wonder what that was about?". I quipped, "a couple without a kid who was nice to us and Max, let's go find them and take them home with us!".
Max was happy and set to go through the rest of the store once he was dry and comfortable again. We decided to head down and look at the bedding. Looking through the way too many choices of down comforters, I noticed the same lady looking at us again. She smiled, and I smiled back.
On our way out of the bedding area she stopped us. She introduced herself and her husband, and they both said hello to Max again. She then told us that they had a son like Max, he was at home while they got out for an evening.
Ah....now it's coming together, I thought.
We chatted with them for a while about the similarities of our kids, and taking them out in places like Ikea! We exchanged our cards, personal info on a business card format. And we had to take our final short-cut through the store because Max had hit his limit of yellow Ikea fun.
Back in Max's van, Steve and I discussed how it's so rare for people to talk to Max in a store, or park, or on walks through the neighborhood even, that it was a little jarring not only for Max to be comforted by a stranger, but then to be stopped and talked to as a family.
People aren't rude to us, or Max when we're out. They just don't talk to us. They stare a bit, but try not to. We'll catch side glances, trying to figure out what the tube is running from his stomach to the back pack on his chair. We'll get wide side steps so they don't run into him. We sometimes get looks of pity, or confusion. But, very rarely a friendly hello to Max.
I'm glad they stopped us and said, hello. I'm glad they introduced themselves, and told us about their son. But, if they hadn't, it still would have been a memorable trip to yellow Ikea because they simply smiled and offered comforting words to Max and us as he was having a melt-down in the middle of the beds.
Some people stared. Some people had their own children melting down. Some people seem annoyed that his chair was blocking one side of a bed. But, their words and smile were so kind, and such a simple thing to do.
It may sound harsh for me to say, but, I think it must have been because they're in the same shoes. I'm sure they've had their fair share of very similar moments with their son. That even on their night out they could see the frustration, and anxiety on our faces about a crying 8 year old who expressed his discomfort by screaming and crying until what he needs fixed is fixed. They understood that Steve and I feel the eyes of the entire store on us when Max started his melt-down. And they understood that in the end, there was little we could do...just do the best you can and get to a better place with your child, as soon as you can.
We just don't experience the same kind of kindness from the general public. Malls are some of my least favorite places in the entire world to go with Max. The staring, people in their own worlds, oblivious to running into Max's chair, or piling into the elevators when the stairs are ten steps away. The neighbors in the neighborhood who know us, or Max, will stop and say hi to us all. And we're appreciative of that. But, once we step out of our neighborhoods street boundaries, we tend to get the stares and crossing the street more.
I guess, all of this to say, it was just really nice to be acknowledged. We know our family looks differently than yours. We know that Max is loud at times, and it's uncomfortable to know what to say to someone you don't understand. But, it was a beautiful reminder from the couple in Ikea to just simply be kind. A friendly smile, goes a million miles to a parent who I PROMISE feels more uncomfortable than you do when their child is screaming.
Thank you yellow Ikea for the mattress, and for being a place to remind me there is kindness in this hectic, screaming, chaotic world.