Last week, we took Toddler to a local playground to meet up with a cute little boy from her Preschool class. The weather was perfect. The kids played well together. They chased each other and shared string cheese. After a while, they started playing hide and seek. I didn’t know that Toddler knew about this game so I watched with great interest. She scurried away, skipped actually, to find a hiding spot. And I smiled as my little girl, my precocious little girl, picked her spot. A vast and conspicuous brick wall. She approached it gingerly, inched up close. And then she splayed her arms against that wall and rested her cheek on it too. Like a squashed bug. Splat. In plain view.
In that moment, a thought lingered behind my clichéd maternal grin: She doesn’t know how to hide.
She doesn’t know how to hide. Yet. But she will learn. All too soon. She will become an expert. Like the rest of us. Before I know it, she will be sniffing out all the secret spaces to hunker down and disappear. And then she will wait. She will wait for a friend to find her. She will wait. And wait. And she will be found.
But one day, things will change for her like they did for the rest of us. One day, she will hide herself so well, too well, and the wait will be long, unsettling, uncertain. A time will come when she wonders if someone will find her. If there is a her to find. She will wonder whether anyone is still looking.
But not yet. Thankfully, not yet. For now, hide and seek is still a game.
We all hide. From each other. From our children. From our partners. From ourselves. We hide little things. Wrinkles. Receipts. Chocolate. Gossip magazines. Stretch marks. And bigger things. Tattoos. Fantasies. Fears. Flaws. And bigger things still. Illness. Regret. Boredom. We hide bad things. Affairs. Deceit. Crime. We hide good things. Pregnancies. Christmas presents. Easter eggs. Success. Happiness. Love.
We hide and hide and hide some more. We are constantly scurrying around the playground that is life, sussing out the perfect places to duck into, to disappear, the prime nook to stuff our things.
What are we seeking by hiding so much?
We all seek. We seek with eyes and ears and hearts and minds. We seek with questions, with stories, with dreams, with prayers. We seek with words, artfully or clumsily strung together. We seek through others. We seek through babies and books and blogs. We seek by saying, by revealing, by unloading. We seek solace and safety and security. We seek sunshine. We seek soul. We seek self.
We seek and seek and seek some more. We poke holes in our accumulated armor, we let things out, in hopes that something will be found. But then we remember the wise words of a wise man. “Talking much about oneself may be a way of hiding oneself.” (Nietzsche) And we realize that in saying so much, in seeking so emphatically, we might be hiding even more.
What are we hiding by seeking so much?
Toddler. I want her to grow and learn and develop. And she will. But for now, I want her to play games. I want her to giggle as she runs, to bask in innocence and open horizons, to hide foolishly and fearlessly, and to always be found.
What are you hiding? What are you seeking? Do you think hiding/seeking is part of what it means to be human?