How to find invisible children

by Wolf Pascoe on July 23, 2011

invisible boyNick was born to hide. When he was months old, he’d pull his towel over his head on the changing table after a bath.

“Where’s Nick? Nora have you seen Nick?” I’d say. “I’ve lost him again.”

Under the towel, Nick would quake with laughter.

The game of Invisible started when Nick was about four. We were playing hide-and-seek outside the house. The sun was setting, and Nick was such a master of disappearing that it felt dangerous to let him out of my sight. During the day, fine. But not in the dark.

I could see myself coming through the front door without him and telling Nora, “Well, he’s out there somewhere.”

“Nick,” I said, “No more hide-and seek. We’ll have to play something else.”

“Please, dada.”

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A NEW GAME

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An idea landed on my brow.

“I tell you what,” I said. “You don’t need to hide. Why don’t you just become invisible?”

He was standing next to me. I began to feel around for him.

neighbor children“I know he’s around here somewhere,” I said.

Nick shrieked as my hand brushed his hair.

He evaded me for half an hour. It was like blind man’s buff, only I could see. I just couldn’t seem to see Nick. The closer he got to me, the more fun he had. Which suited us both fine.

We played the next day, and the next, and Nick introduced the game to his friends. We’ve been playing ever since. There’s no limit to the number of players, but apparently, a grown-up always has to be “it.”

Invisible doesn’t work with very small toddlers. Rather, it works differently. It provokes arguments.

“Nick’s right here!” a two year old once told me.

“But I can’t see him,” I said.

“No! He’s right here!”

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CLUES

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Through experience and attention, I’ve discovered some clues that will help you find your children.

invisible childrenYou don’t have to be quick. In fact, if you’re slow, they’ll come to you.

Patience. You can hear them. You can hear their footsteps. You can hear their breathing. You can feel the air tremble as they move. You can see their footprints. You can watch the depressions their toes make in the grass.

So many ways to appreciate them.

When all else fails, use your sense of smell. There’s a boy smell and a girl smell. There’s even a Nick smell, although it’s not always reliable.

Take a deep breath. Hold it.

The moment of recognition comes just before you exhale.

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EXPRESS YOURSELF!

Any thoughts about children’s games? Hide and seek? Add your comment below. I always respond here. This just in: you can be notified of responses to you by clicking “Replies to my comments” in the drop down menu under your comment.

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{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

Barbara S. July 23, 2011 at 6:20 pm

What a great game – wish I thought of it when my kids were little. I’ll for sure remember it when (if?) I have grandkids! That ‘waiting for them to come to you’ thing also works when they’re teenagers. Just in a different way.

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Wolf Pascoe July 24, 2011 at 9:43 am

“That ‘waiting for them to come to you’ thing also works when they’re teenagers.”

Does this mean they’re invisible as teenagers? Or invisible in a different way?

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Charlie July 24, 2011 at 3:14 am

It sounds like Nick really enjoyed being invisible because that’s when he truly felt “seen.”

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Wolf Pascoe July 24, 2011 at 9:44 am

Curiouser and curiouser.

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Privilege of Parenting July 25, 2011 at 1:56 am

My younger one loved to hide, and was so good at it that he terrified me a few times when I didn’t think he was old enough to consciously trick and scare us. It took me a while to realize that he needed to know that we noticed his absence… that we noticed him. I love the way you evoke the developing mind through invisibility and imagination… sort of a Piagetian gloss on object constancy as mediated by social development.

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Wolf Pascoe July 25, 2011 at 9:44 am

Thank you, Bruce. What you said.

Readers unfamiliar with Privilege of Parenting will find there an expansive, reassuring spirit grounded in extraordinary mindfulness.

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Alameda July 25, 2011 at 10:11 am

yes it is true when you wait “long enough they will come back to you”. But just think of all the precious moments you wished you never lost! The idea is good- they need to get away and room to breathe, your intrinsic value goes up.

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Wolf Pascoe July 25, 2011 at 11:31 am

I think of those lost precious moments a lot.

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BigLittleWolf July 25, 2011 at 11:15 am

What a wonderful idea, and lovely thoughts on how we can “find” our children – really paying attention to who they are, as well as where they are.

Neither of my kids were “hiders” in the physical sense, but one, certainly, remains more difficult to find.
BigLittleWolf recently posted..Food, Glorious (Healthy) Food – And On A Budget

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Wolf Pascoe July 25, 2011 at 11:35 am

Thanks, BLW. I’ve become much intrigued with the idea that the more one hides, the more one wants to be found.

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Luke July 25, 2011 at 4:22 pm

Buy night vision gloves ?
Luke recently posted..Online graduate schools

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Wolf Pascoe July 25, 2011 at 11:34 pm

Heard of night vision glasses, but gloves are a new one. Do they glow?

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Luke July 26, 2011 at 4:53 am
Wolf Pascoe July 26, 2011 at 7:55 pm

OMG. Who knew?

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Kristen @ Motherese July 27, 2011 at 2:33 pm

I was once playing hide-and-seek in my mother-in-law’s apartment with a friend’s 4 year old. She hid so well that we became worried when we couldn’t find her, a note of panic entering our voices as we called for her. When we eventually found her – glued to the wall behind an open door – she was crying. I suspect that she was worried that we might never find her and she couldn’t figure out how to reveal herself.

I never really thought about the meaning behind that encounter until today. Thanks, Wolf.

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Wolf Pascoe July 27, 2011 at 5:13 pm

What a touching story, Kristen. The simplest things turn out to be so complex. And thanks again for all your support.

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Aidan Donnelley Rowley @ Ivy League Insecurities July 28, 2011 at 9:43 am

Oh I love this. The metaphor. The meaning. Questions of hiding and seeking, rendering ourselves invisible and needing to be seen, and discovered – all of this spans far beyond childhood, no? Again, thrilled to have stumbled here thanks to the lovely Kristen.

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Wolf Pascoe July 28, 2011 at 5:20 pm

Far beyond, yes. Uncomfortably far beyond.

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