Monday, October 7, 2013

Evolution of Hide and Seek

First, when we played inside, he didn't want to hide, just seek. When it was Ethan's turn to hide, he'd just lie on his bed and wait for me to come get him.

Then, he wanted to hide but would usually hide close to plain sight. He just didn't get that I could still see him.

Who knew this one childhood game could take years to master, or serve as an indicator of my child's cognitive development?

Over the past few months, we've hit a new stage with Hide and Seek. I'll call it Ethan Wanting to Hide So That I'll Never Find Him. This, as you may suspect, it not such a good thing. In fact, sometimes it's been downright terrifying.

It started in Maine, playing with cousins. Ethan decided he was going to hide, and for once he hid well. I haven't been used to having to actually find the kid. So when I couldn't for several minutes, I started to get a little panicked. Turns out he was in an old hamper. Thank God while his hiding skills have improved, his originality has not, so when we couldn't find him again a few minutes later, we knew just where he might be. Bingo.

At home, things got worse. One day I assumed Ethan was in the backyard playing. He's at a point now where I feel I can leave him out there to play for short stretches and then check on him through the sliding glass doors in the back. I looked out, and he was gone. I searched the usual places, like the garage or the big tree he likes to climb. Nada. I looked inside. I called him. My heart started pounding...then I found him in an empty green storage bin, lid almost all the way on, that was sitting in our playroom.

I honestly don't think he enjoyed making me scared. But I saw his distinct pleasure in not being found right away. Either one extreme or the other, right? Either he hates hiding or he has to hide in a way where no one kind find him.

The worst time involved the cousins once again, visiting down here this time. We were supposed to go to the park. We were ready to leave, Ethan was there -- and then he wasn't. This time, Dan and my sister-in-law (plus half the kids) all joined in the search. Still no Ethan. I began to wonder for the first time if he would do something crazy, like climb over the hill in back of our house to go to the school playground, or walk in the neighbor's house (he's followed Anna in there before when their great-grandkids were visiting). And of course my darned writer's imagination (never mind the mom in me)started churning up even worse scenarios. A weirdo in a car luring Ethan away with candy. Ethan getting distracted by a storm drain he hadn't investigated and crossing the street to who-knows-where. I wondered what he would do if he were lost. I wondered if we'd given him the skills and if he had the ability to properly communicate. I wondered if we'd have to call the police. All of this, in the 10 to 15 minutes he was nowhere to be seen...

...then my sister-in-law found him, hiding under the dashboard in the front seat of our car.

We've had more incidents since then. The day we announced he was going to have a baby sister (not the baby brother he'd hoped for) I was proactive. Once he ran out of the house saying he "didn't want to live here anymore!" I followed him, figuring if there was ever a moment to actually trigger the kid running away rather than just hiding, this would be it. Thankfully, he was back in his spot in the front seat of the car (and thankfully, he's gotten over his baby sister sadness).

And then there are the days before school when he decides he has to hide. The thing is, he still is working on the hide and seek nuances. He will call to me things like, "Don't look in my room!" when he's hiding in there or, "I'm ready for you to find me!" not realizing that the direction of his voice keys me in to where he's hiding. Then, when I do find him, he gets upset. "I wanted you to NEVER be able to find me!" he protests.

And every time, I reiterate, that we don't want to never be able to find him. That's not the true point of Hide and Seek. In fact, the thought makes me shudder more than a little bit. Especially lately.

Someday, we WILL get Hide and Seek down. As always, I never knew how many steps there were to this thing. As always, I'm more amazed than ever at  the many seemingly insignificant things we master as we learn and grown.

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