A number of years ago, when my wife and I were living in a small apartment in New Jersey, just outside of New York City, we quickly came to the realization that we needed more storage space.
At this point in our lives, we were both very fresh out of college, she was just starting her career and I was working odd jobs while waiting to go on my first deployment with the Army to the middle east. Needless to say, money was tight and investing in high-end furniture wasn’t an option.
Luckily, there was an IKEA nearby so we went to check out what they had in stock. We ended up finding a large cube shaped T.V. stand with lots of cubby space (the same as the picture above).
The stand worked great for the apartment and we even continued to use it in two more houses before moving to New Hampshire, where we didn’t have space for it. In fact, we almost sold it while we were living in New Hampshire because the thing is a colossus and takes up an incredible amount of space, even when it’s disassembled.
Thankfully we didn’t though because when we moved to Connecticut recently, we realized that the monster television stand would come in handy again with our new house. Doing this, however, put us in a few precarious situations.
First, anyone who has ever attempted to put together a piece of IKEA furniture with another person knows that the job isn’t complete until one or both of you have had an epic meltdown at the other person because, well, even with directions, assembly can be a soul-crushing endeavor.
Second, it had been at least four years and two houses since we’ve put this thing together and somewhere in that time the directions had gone the way of the dodo and disappeared. This meant we’d have to build this rage-fueled catalyst from nothing but memory.
Third, this would be the first time we’d be building the entertainment center with our son. We had two options moving forward, build it while he’s napping and risk waking him with our profanity laced tirades about how “that screw doesn’t go there, it goes here …” or wait until he’s awake and try to build it with a curious, climbing obsessed toddler investigating every square inch of our pressed wood monolith.
We chose the latter.
At first it was kind of adorable. We bought him his own little play tool kit with tool belt at the Deerfield Fair in New Hampshire, so he was dressed up like a little Tim, the Tool Man, Taylor, banging on the wood boards with his plastic craftsman hammer while mommy and I figured out if we even had all the pieces.
The cuteness factor quickly faded, though. As soon as he realized that mommy and daddy were working on something else, he immediately needed to be in on that action. A toddler’s mind is extraordinary and watching him discover things typically leaves me with a sense of awe … just not when I’m trying to get something done.
It wasn’t long before he was hiding pegs, running off with screws, and pulling away shelves we just put in place. Any time we took a piece away from him and tried to explain to him that we needed the pieces to build our project, he thought it was hilarious and would run off with another piece.
In the end, we got the whole thing build – with just a few pieces still missing (thanks buddy!) but trying to build this thing with a toddler made for an interesting experience. I noticed that having him around led to fewer arguments between my wife and I and we actually worked well as a team.
Side note, we typically work well as a team, just not when building IKEA furniture.
It was really easy to get frustrated at our son for what he was doing and many times I wanted to put him in timeout or raise my voice, but we did neither of those. Instead, taking a step back, it was really cool watching him interact with the world around him and his desire to do “big kid” things, even if it took longer than normal.
I look forward to doing more projects with my son and wife – but I think we’ll stick to arts and crafts and stay away from items that come from an IKEA warehouse.