I really screwed up this time.
In my quest to make this the most exciting 49 days my daughter will ever experience, I included the famed Ballroom at IKEA on the list. You see, a couple of months ago we were shopping at IKEA, and on our way out E got a glimpse of a room full of coloured balls. She wanted it bad. Unfortunately, she was already on full meltdown mode and besides, a sign clearly stated that kids must be toilet trained. It was a no-go. Needless to say the meltdown continued well into the car ride home.
Anyhoo, now that I am quite sure that I can leave her unattended for an hour without her turning the ball pit into the ball pool, I figured we'd give it a shot. I had a couple of things to buy anyway and we had the car at our disposal. I geared her up for this. I told her about it last night over dinner, reminded her before bed, and when she woke up this morning the first thing she said when I walked into the room (nope, still hasn't bothered to try getting out of bed herself yet) was "Can we go to the baaaaall piiiit???" Sure! I replied. For a girl who usually likes to putter for the first hour of her day, we got out the door with military precision this morning.
We arrive at 9:40am. The store opens at 10. No matter, we were planning on splurging for a $1 breakfast with free coffee anyhow, and the restaurant opens at 9:30. At the restaurant, she frolicked happily in the play area with the little toy kitchen and a pair of abacuses...abaci? We should have let that good time roll, because in five short minutes the world was going to end, and there we were smiling dumbly.
4 minutes later...
I carry a positively bursting toddler toward the ballroom. We're whipping each other into a frenzy, skipping along the arrows to the promised land. Then we're standing in line, waiting relatively patiently, and I notice absently that that ball pit looks much deeper than the one at Cosmic Adventures. No matter, I tell myself, there's someone there to supervise. Of course, I note, she seems a little busy and does have her back turned to the...rather calamitous, if I'm being honest...activity behind her...in the other room. And then I see it.
The height chart.
There was a moment, a brief flash not unlike the stories you hear about tiny mothers lifting transport trucks to save their babies...humour me...when I considered launching my daughter into the ball pit and running like hell to housewares. But it passed, and I'm sure that the panic in my spasming chest was reflected in my widening eyes.
"How old is she?" asked the surprised employee, pointing to E.
"2 and a half," I reply confidently.
"Is she toilet trained?" (thinly veiled suspicion here)
"She sure is!" (more beaming bravado)
"Well, put her against the wall."
Now, the minimum height on the wall is 37 inches, and I know for a fact that two weeks ago my daughter was 34 inches tall. But I prayed for a miracle. Because this, ladies and gentlemen, was the absolute, without-a-doubt, worst mother moment I have ever experienced. Worst. The combination of being the one to plant this seed of anticipation in her brain, to being the one to have to physically extricate her from the vicinity after being so close she could smell the fun she almost had, to the knowledge that if only I had shot up a couple more inches after high school she might just have made it, to the look on that beautiful little face, followed by the absolute saddest display of utter disbelief and disappointment I have ever witnessed. Now, I'm not one of those evil parents who take pictures of their children in extreme emotional distress, but apparently there are plenty of them out there, so I can tell you that it was eerily similar to this. I know. I still can't believe I held it together without sobbing along with her. I REALLY wanted to.
She did end up getting a free toy as a result of her passionate display, and we did salvage the day by buying her a smock and painting some popsicle sticks pink, and there's a good chance that E is well over it now. It's just her mother who will have nightmares of that moment for years to come.