War games for parents.
Annette scratched her head, trying to figure out where her son went.
He was just here a minute ago!
Thomas was something of a disappearing act. Annette literally could not take her eyes off him for longer than a couple seconds. As soon as she did, he'd find a way to vanish, practically into thin air.
She blamed Thomas' father. During one of his weekends, Earl had taught his son the wonderful game of Hide And Seek. Thomas had become so completely enamored with the game, that he now played it all the time, whether Annette wanted to or not. He was an unnaturally patient child (especially when it came to Hide And Seek), which meant she would eventually have to go find him.
As she scoured the backyard, where he had been playing in his sandbox only a moment earlier, Annette grudgingly had to give credit where credit was due. The little tyke could very well be the next Houdini with some of the feats he had managed to pull off.
Last week had been Thomas' crowning achievement. During a short trip to Target, he managed to disappear three times! The first was when she turned her attentions toward a great bathing suit in the clothing department. It took her all of five seconds to check the price tag and then dismiss it... and yet when she turned back, sure enough, Thomas had vanished without a trace. Fear crept into the pit of her stomach, as it always did, considering the possibility that maybe something had happened to her son this time. But a rustling amidst a rack of blouses soon revealed this particular trick. Thomas had tucked himself away in the center of the circular rack. When Annette peered inside, he laughed and clapped gleefully, having been found.
Needless to say, the speed and efficiency with which Annette found him only prompted another, even more daring disappearing act a short while later. On the drive home, he actually managed to disappear in the car! One minute, he's sitting in his car seat in the middle row of their minivan... and the next, he's gone! Annette immediately pulled over to the side of the road, her mind racing.
Had she left him at Target?
What if she had?
Would he be okay?
Would he still be there?
His impish giggle from the back of the van gave away his position. She found him curled up in the back, hiding among the shopping bags. He had somehow managed to escape from his car seat, climb under the rows of seats, and wiggle his way into the back, where he cried out in delight when Annette opened the rear gate and revealed his location.
But his real coup de maitre came when they got home.
After securing Thomas even more snugly in his car seat (and keeping one wary, watchful eye on him all the way home), Annette drove back to the house and took him outside to play in the backyard. The sandbox was just about the only thing in the backyard, and there weren't many places for him to hide... which is why she liked taking him out there to play. There were too many nooks and crannies in the house that he could vanish into. Out here, it was nice and open.
But when she looked down to read and reply to a text message on her cell phone, sure enough, he was gone when she looked up. The sandbox was empty, the little arm of his toy tractor still dangling from where it had been abandoned only moments before.
I swear, this kid's going to be the end of me.
Annette moved along the side of the house toward the front yard. She looked left and right, trying to locate her elusive son.
Thomas crouched down in the neighbor's rusted out boat, peering through one of the tiny portholes as his mother searched. He clapped a hand over his mouth trying not to laugh. He always gave himself away when he laughed! But sure enough, a little chuckle slipped out, and Annette immediately zeroed in on his location. Thomas scooted back away from the porthole, but before he could wonder if he'd been seen, Annette crawled inside of the boat and dragged him out.
"You like playing Hide And Seek, don't you?" Annette said, weariness creeping into her voice.
Thomas nodded vigorously.
"You're happy that your dad taught you how to play?"
Another vigorous nod from Thomas.
"Well, I'll tell what... how about if I teach you a brand new game to play?"
As much as Thomas loved Hide And Seek, he loved new things even more. He debated Annette's offer. On the one hand, he was getting pretty good at this Hide And Seek game, and it was fun finding new places to disappear. On the other hand, the new game could be anything... what if it was more fun than Hide And Seek?
Thomas ultimately decided that the mysterious new game would be worth checking out. If he didn't like it, he could always go back to playing Hide And Seek again. He agreed, and followed Annette into the backyard, where she proceeded to teach him a game that he found even more entertaining than Hide And Seek.
"Just remember," Annette told him, as she got Thomas dressed for his weekend with his father, "Dad really loves this game."
Thomas knew it was going to be a fun weekend. A new game that he could play with Dad! As Earl rolled into the driveway, Thomas could barely contain his excitement. Annette smiled at her ex-husband as he approached.
"Hey there, kiddo!" He greeted Thomas, before turning to Annette.
"Hi," he offered. "How was he this week?"
"Well," Annette replied, "After you taught him Hide And Seek last weekend, he loved it so much, he wouldn't stop playing. I spent most of the week looking for him, wherever we went."
"Well, can't blame a kid for having a little fun."
"You're definitely right about that, Earl. Which is why Thomas and I learned a new game yesterday. One he can't wait to play... all weekend."
Earl didn't have a chance to finish his sentence before Thomas slapped him on the hip, screaming gleefully and taking off running for the car.
"TAG! You're it!"
"Oh, no..." Earl started.
"That's right," Annette confirmed with a satisfied smirk, as she moved to buckle Thomas into his car seat. "I spent all week looking for him and worrying. So now I'm returning the favor. Have fun chasing after him... and trying to get him to take his bath or brush his teeth when he won't let you near him!"
Earl hung his head in defeat and climbed into the car.
Annette watched them drive away, smiling and waving the whole time.