Of all the games my 8-year-old stepdaughter Emma likes to play with me including “Trouble,” “Monopoly Jr. Pretty Princess Price Gouge Edition,” “High-Stakes Roulette” and “Guess What I Put in Your Shoe,” the game that irritates me to no end is an actual classic, hide-and-seek.
The reason is because Emma likes to play it with no warning other than calling me to her room and when I enter, she’s out of sight…save for the moving lump underneath her bed sheets or the giggling sounds coming from inside her ajar closet.
Then I have to find her, and by find her, I mean give a performance of a confused simpleton who misplaced a child.
“Hmm…where’s Emma?” I say, slowly walking around her room, purposely avoiding her obvious hiding spot. “I heard her voice just like a second ago coming from in here, but now that I’m in here, she’s not here. Hmm…I should be able to figure this one out, but I’m stumped. I guess I’ll just sit on this lumpy bed and think about it —“
“Nooooooo! I’m here,” she screams, and we have a good laugh until she instructs me to leave to room and come back in where she will have mysteriously vanished again!
Sometimes when I find Emma too quickly or if I catch her right when she’s about to duck and cover out of sight, she throws a fit, tells me to go away so she can continue hiding like I’m going to completely forget that not only did I see her hiding space, but also saw the method in which she was going to hide.
To Emma, it’s like a doing a second take on a movie set.
“Okay, people, take you places. Daddy, you stay in the hallway and give me seven seconds to slip behind this curtain where you can clearly see my legs and feet. When you search for me this time, you need to do it with more emotion. The audience has to feel your concern and confusion that I was calling for you from in this room, but suddenly...I’m gone! And...action!”
That, like all things children do, is totally annoying, rude and dangerous to the republic, but all children do it because we adults used to do it, too.
What’s strange about me is the fact that I yodel when I clip toenails, but also strange is I don’t think I ever really hid from my parents at home, but in different places outside the home.
One place was elementary school in third grade when I had this special speech class because I had trouble properly pronouncing words like “ignominious,” “worcestershire,” “antidisestablishmentarianism” and “driveway.”
In the class was my best friend (he couldn’t pronounce words like “thesaurus,” “floccinaucinihilipilification” and “otorhinolaryngological,” that idiot) and we would hide in different spots around the room before the speech teacher arrived.
When he entered the room, he would have to find us before he could start the electroshock therapy session.
Another was when I was around the same age, and my brother and I would go to my uncle’s family practice and before he came in the room for our appointment, we would always hide.
The exam room didn’t have many hiding spots, so my brother would always hide behind the exam table and lick the table paper, and I would wedge myself in a cabinet and lick penicillin pills from the sample packs.
When my uncle entered the exam room, he pretended that we’re missing and somehow was always able to find us in the same hiding spots and then gave us tetanus booster shots as punishment.
Even though I took part that benign activity many times, I don’t even know the reason why my peers and I decided to hide from adults and why this obsession continues with kids today.
However, after pondering on it for about three minutes, I came to two possible conclusions. The first being it’s totally the parents’ fault.
When you think about all the games parents and others play with babies, the top one is peek-a-boo.
Now, peek-a-boo can take many forms like the classic holding your hands in front of you face as the baby looks at you and then moving them away and proclaiming “peek-a-boo!” or putting some kind of barrier in front of the baby’s face to block their view like a napkin or a dirty hubcap and asking “where are you, where are you, where are you?...there you are!” and letting the baby see your face.
Well, hide-and-seek is just a mature version of peek-a-boo for kids just like being a fugitive from the law is the adult version of hide-and-seek.
When you look at it in that context, it’s no wonder why your kids want to keep the peek-a-boo tradition alive. They’re reliving the good times before the stresses of life like going to school and eating vegetables begin to wear them down.
However, the second conclusion is children instinctively know that when they get older, they’re going to have to sneak in the house past curfew undetected.
So, hide-and-seek could be just a way for the kids to learn of their parents’ strengths and weaknesses in the seek department, taking notes of their observations for the years ahead.
While the first conclusion does seem the more logical, I have to argue that it’s also the most disturbing one I found in my time as a clinical child psychologist — not in the clinical sense, of course — that if children are still attached to those baby games and have altered them to fit their age and circumstances, what other games remain in their psyche?
Suddenly, I have an uneasy feeling about years of interrogating babies on where and who they are, convincing them spoons are actually airplanes making a food delivery to their mouth, relentless “tickle tortures” and the infamous “I got your nose” routine.
Maybe it’s time to brush up on my hiding skills.
According to Hofmann is written by staff reporter Mark Hofmann of Rostraver Township. His book, “Stupid Brain,” is available on Amazon.com.