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An adult's willingness to enter a child's world goes a long way

January 16, 2004|by LISA TEDRICK PREJEAN

"1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10!

Ready or not, here I come!"

I was in the coat closet, hiding from my 5-year-old. It wasn't that I had reached the end of my rope. On the contrary, I was having a most enjoyable time, playing her favorite game.

The closet door was cracked just a tad as a clue for her. It also allowed me to gauge her concern level. If she couldn't find me in a reasonable amount of time, I was prepared to reveal my hiding place. I didn't want her to think I left the house.

As she walked by the closet a third time, I no longer could suppress the urge to giggle.

She opened the door with a triumphant, "Found you!"

Then it was her turn to hide.

Guess where I found her?

Right back in the closet.

I didn't want to end the game too early, so I decided to see how she would respond to a little mind game.

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"Oh, little girl in the closet? I'm looking for my daughter. Have you seen her?"

At first, she just stared at me.

Then I saw a slight curl form on her lips. She pointed up.

I went upstairs, came back and said, "She wasn't there."

Then she pointed to the playroom.

I checked there, came back and said, "No, she wasn't there, either. Where do you think she could be?"

She looked around the corner and said, "I think your daughter just walked by. I'll help you find her."

She came out of the closet, turned and whispered, "Pretend I have wings, and we'll fly through the house so we can find me."

Sounded good to me. We went "flying" through the house (we walked on tiptoes), looking in every nook and cranny. When we had exhausted every possibility, we sat down for a minute.

I looked over at her and said, "You know, I'm looking for a little girl."

She shook her head uh-huh.

"You're a little girl."

Another affirmative head shake.

"Could you be my daughter?"

Big smile. Big hug. What fun. Memory made.

Time investment? About 20 minutes - less than the typical sitcom on prime-time TV.

The return? She said, "I love you" about 15 times that evening.

It was a response to my "I love you" message to her, not in the words I said but through my willingness to play.

It's a childish thing to do, but sometimes I just can't help myself. Children are so much fun to be around because they are easily delighted.

On Wednesday nights, I work with a group of 5- to 7-year-olds who always "hide" right before I enter the classroom. I walk in, act surprised that no students are present and then say, "Well, I guess I'll go home. Nobody's here this week."

That's their cue to come bounding forth from behind the podium, giggling the whole way to their seats.

They never tire of this little routine. Just let me forget or not be in a playful mood ... boy I hear it.

I think my willingness to enter the wonder of their world goes a long way. Because they know I care about what is important to them, they don't want to disappoint me. They work very hard on their assignments.

At home, I've found that a playful attitude encourages cooperation. A little bit of playfulness saves time in the long run because there are fewer tantrums and complaints, and more overall happy attitudes among family members.

Plus, I know that this stage is so fleeting. I'll probably only have another year or so to play hide and seek with my daughter before she moves on to the next stage of development. Then I'll have to wait until I have grandchildren to hear, "Found you!" again.

I want to have lots of practice before then.




Lisa Tedrick Prejean writes a weekly column for The Herald-Mail's Family page. Send e-mail to her at lisap@herald-mail.com.

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