Hide and Seek (with a three-year-old)

When was the last time you played hide and seek? I remember growing up and hide and seek slowly morphed into a slow activity into something more active and team based. We all knew the rules and so by junior high it was a version of stealth and search. Could the hiders stay hidden long enough so that they could attempt to return to the base without getting caught? Could the seekers both investigate the hidden areas while also keeping an eye on the open lanes towards the goal?

Playing hide and seek with my son is absolutely nothing like that. First of all, he’s three and I’m not sure he yet understands the concept of what hiding means. And even if he did, he’s three. I’m not sure I’d be comfortable with him hiding anyway. Call it paranoid or just aware of the world we are living in, I’d rather him not disappear in a public space for any reason.

But, I want him to have fun and feel free, so on the way home when he said he wanted to go to a local park and play, I was ready. We went to a relatively well lit and open area that still offered a few good locations to hide. Well, maybe not hide, but at least crouch behind in a way to appear to hide.

I was told to count first. Yes, my little guy is pretty bossy, which depending on how much sleep I’ve had or how random his rules are is either pretty cute and fairly annoying. So I counted with me hands over my eyes. Of course I was totally cheating and peeking through my fingers. We are at a park at night. I’m not taking my eyes off this kid so he can disappear into the fight or be snatched up by someone walking by.

His first time hiding he sat in front of a wall. Not behind the wall, mind you. I could draw a straight line between me and him. I still went through the motions of searching for him, slowly closing in on my giggling dude.

Then it was my turn. He counted. I can’t remember if he even covered or close his eyes at first, but I know he needed reminders as the game went on.

Then he would go through the same steps. Searching all around, even if he had obviously seen me behind the bench. Between games he would sometimes tell me where I should hide or ask where he should hide and we’d agree about the good places we’d found.

Sometimes while searching for him he’d call out to me to either say hello or just to show me some plant nearby.

The fun of the game was less in the hiding but in the pretending to seek, where we would both exaggeratedly peer behind slides and swings until finally finding our quarry.

Soon it was time to go home. I tried not to think about how quickly he was learning. After all, if he learns fast enough, this night might not repeat itself and as much as I want him to grow, I want to enjoy games where the point is silliness instead of simply winning.

The next morning he wakes up and asks me to play superheroes with him. Our toys figures of heroes and villains come together and instead of fighting, they say hello, talk about who can jump or fly, who is strong and then ask about the colors they have on.

And I am comforted by the knowledge that we have plenty of time to be silly together.


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