Ikea and Quaaky
When Pudding was about 6 or 7 months old, and making quite typical sounds in her language development, we asked her what she wanted to do that day. And with Spectrummy Daddy as my witness, she said “Ikea.”
We went, because in August in Luxembourg there wasn’t a whole lot else to do, and popping over the border to Belgium seemed just as good an idea as anything else. Plus, we liked the waffles there, and Pudding seemed strangely at home in the chaos and over-stimulation of the place.
We kept going, and as Pudding got older, she became more interested in the kids play area they had there, though only kids aged three and older were allowed to enter.
Some time later, we found a place called “Quaaky”*, and I quickly fell in love. Quaaky was a creche/play area hybrid for kids two and up. You had to sign all kinds of indemnity agreements, but then you could leave your child fully supervised with qualified workers, as long as you stayed in the shopping centre, and responded quickly to the pager. Because most kids were already in some kind of child care, it was usually pretty quiet, and there were more attendants than kids. They had a huge soft play area, reading nook, and craft corner, as well as the regular kid toys. Pudding loved it, and I loved the hour or so I got to myself. I’d sit in a cafe with my big belly and a hot chocolate. Yes, and a pastry too- why deny it?
Because I was pregnant with Cubby and pretty worn out from my hyperactive toddler, I began going once a week. She always had a good time, and would tell me that she “had a good time with boys and girls.” I didn’t realize back then that is was a script, nor did I think too much about the fact that she didn’t play with the others. I was just impressed at my two year-old speaking in sentences. The other kids typically spoke French, German, or Luxembourgish, so that explained why she never spoke to the other kids. Of course, we know differently now.
Then one time I was beeped. She’d tried to open the gate, and was redirected by the staff. So she tried again, and again, until she had a meltdown, and they paged me to get her. Once she realized she didn’t have control, she never wanted to go again.
Back to present day, and back to Ikea. We’ve gone there a couple of times over the last couple of years. Pudding always wants to go to the play area, and against my better judgement I allow her. Every single time I’m beeped a few minutes later when she gets overwhelmed. The first couple of times I’d explained to the staff that she had autism, but I soon found there was no need. The second she showed any discomfort, they’d page me. One time only three minutes had passed before she wanted me to come back.
It isn’t worth it to me, for Pudding to become so upset when it is so much easier to keep her with me .We have to walk past the play area to enter, and even though I try to dissuade her, she wants to go every time. Saturday was no exception. I reluctantly agreed to her request, knowing that I’d be traipsing back through the maze that is Ikea before I knew it.
We sprinted over to find the Smörgfaast we needed, and we actually managed to find them and had time to decide they weren’t for us. I checked my beeper- nothing. We found some Mjerkling and Djarrbörg instead, and went to pay for them. We made it through the checkout- still no beeps. There is a 30 minute time limit anyway, so I made my way over to find her happy and holding hands with one of the members of staff. She’d even made a craft during her time there. Of course, she only gets comfortable when we are about to leave the country! She told me she had “fun with the boys and girls”, but this time I let myself believe she meant it.
On Wednesday we were in the car and she found the craft she’d made on Saturday. I asked her about it and she said she’d made it at “Ikea- like Quaaky.” It is still incredible to me that she remembers things from over two years ago. But that memory of hers is one of the things that gives me hope. So many times she had wanted, and tried to have this experience, but she just wasn’t ready. Now she did it, and I hope that accomplishment makes a permanent impression.
So instead of looking at it as over two years of failed attempts for just one successful visit, I know this was as many times as my girl needed to get comfortable and keep challenging herself. And I know that with a little time, and a lot of patience, she’ll do anything that she sets her mind to, including having fun with boys and girls. If I’m very lucky there’ll even be a hot chocolate or a waffle in it for me too!
*Apparently the sound a Luxembourgish frog makes, which is weird, but then so is “ribbit.”
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