It was an August morning not long after we moved into the house we are in now. Just me and Bubby at the time. I was about 5 months pregnant and Bear was still cookin'.
Daddy was at work and Bubby and I were eating our breakfast, watching a little Toopy and Binoo and waiting for the internet dude to show up and hook us up with Netflix, so we could watch what we really wanted...Paw Patrol. Obviously.
Little did I know, that peaceful morning would turn into one of the worst days of my life as a mother so far.
Morning had turned to afternoon and the technician finally showed up to get us set up. Right around the same time, Bubby was getting hungry for his lunch.
I popped into the kitchen to make him a sandwich, I was gone no more than five minutes and I called him to the dining room to hop in a chair and eat up.
I called once and no response, this was not abnormal. Bubby has a habit of ignoring me when he is involved in doing other more important things...much more important than feeding himself.
I poked my head around the corner and called his name...no answer and Bubby was no longer in the living room.
There are two places he could have gone without me seeing where, either he snuck down into the basement or slipped down the hall to his bedroom. I quickly ran down the stairs into the basement popped my head into each room and...no sign of him.
He was not in his bedroom either, not in the bathroom, not in mommy and daddy's room....nowhere. I began to feel uneasy. As I ran past the living room, over to the basement stairs to check one more time, I remembered that we were not alone and that while I usually have the front door locked, today, it was open. It was unlocked and ajar so the technician could come in and out and do his job.
My heart dropped into my stomach and I ran to the front lawn.
“Did you see my son? Did you see him come out this door??” I was panicked and barely coherent. The confused looking technician said he had not. He asked me if I was ok, and I said the words out loud...
”I can't find him. I can't find my son.”
He immediately dropped what he was doing, “I'll check around the house, you go back in and check the inside again.”
I did. I checked every room, again, and then a third and fourth time. With each check, I was growing more and more frantic. The objects in the rooms were nothing but blurs as I ran in and out again and again.
Right then, I abandoned the idea that he was in the house, he had walked right out that front door. Slipped away into the street. Maybe he was feeling scared that there was a strange person in the house, or maybe he just chose that moment to go and explore the world beyond that door. That world that is usually off limits.
I ran out into the street, screaming his name and crying hard.
I was barefoot, and heavy with child.
My vision was foggy, I felt like I was in a dream world. This could not be happening, this can not be happening. He's gone. My baby is gone.
I cannot even begin to describe the feeling I felt. My life was over. My child was not there with me. He was nowhere to be seen and it all happened in the blink of an eye. Horrifying scenarios played out in my mind, with every second he was gone, I spiraled down further.
I ran back to the house, the technician had returned empty handed, and at that point, I decided to call the police.
The scene I was making on the street did not go unnoticed by the neighbours, a few came out to see what was going on. What this silly woman who just moved on the street was going off about.
But only one came to help, a sweet older woman calmly took my hand and asked me if I minded if she had a look in the house, I told her I did not mind. But I knew it was no use, he was not there.
I got on the phone with the local police.
The woman on the other end was unaffected by my ordeal. She did not seem to understand what was happening. She just kept telling me to calm down and speak clearly.
My son was gone. There was no calming down. How did she not see that?
As I was struggling to answer her questions, still running up and down the street looking for my Bubby. I heard someone calling me...I turned back to the house and started running hard. My feet were still bare and had started bleeding. I was exhausted and my belly was starting to cramp.
I was defeated and devestated.
As my house came into view, and I turned up the driveway. There they stood. The sweet old woman from down the street with Bubby in her arms.
I ran to Bubby, held him close and collapsed into tears. Relief flooded through my body and I was certain that I was never letting him go again.
“Thank you, thank you so much.” I was so scared, I was so scared.” I said those words over and over. And that sweet old woman just looked at me with a knowing expression and told me not to worry. That it was ok, he was here now.
She was..so...calm. Somehow she knew that he was in that house, and that if we just kept looking we would find him, and that everything would be ok.
And she had been right.
Bubby had been hiding in the basement. He had thought it was a game. Every time I called his name, no doubt he would giggle, feel a little thrill.
He was winning. Mommy couldn't find him.
And how could I even blame him? How many times have we played hide and seek? You hide and I will come find you. How was he to know this time it was not a game.
But it was not a game. It was a very serious reminder that bad things can happen in seconds, that a few minutes with your child out of your sight can mean that you never see them again.
That is the first time Bubby has hid on me, but it was not the last.
Toddlers love to hide.
And while it can make us as Moms feel like we have failed at protecting our babies or that we just straight up suck at our jobs...
According to the “experts”, it is actually developmentally advantageous. Hiding can be in the pursuit of one of four things.
1) Your toddler is simply looking for some privacy. It's true they don't need the same kind of privacy that we do, but this reasoning actually makes a lot of sense. Hiding gives toddlers a chance to escape the seemingly constant gaze of the well-meaning adults in their lives, so it can be very enticing. And let's face it, we can be pretty annoying.
2) He is looking for some comfort. For a small child, the world can be overwhelming. By hiding away in a secret corner or making an afternoon of playing in a box, your toddler can effectively reduce the size of the world he must navigate. Doing so can be highly comforting to your toddler. This activity is more than just a game; it is actually a way for toddlers to soothe themselves when it all gets to be too much, as it undoubtedly will from time to time.
This I believe was the reason for Bubby hiding that day. Or it started out this way and turned into an exciting and fun game when he saw the huge reaction he was eliciting from his usually quiet and subdued mommy.
3) Your little one is just looking for some attention. If I hide, that means someone has to come looking for me. Upon finding the well-hidden tot, you commonly display excitement, which can be pleasing to the child as well. Because you seem so thrilled to see the never-really-lost tot each time you find him, the toddler can enjoy the warmth of this positive energy, again and again, feeding his need to be the center of attention.
4) Social Development - Because hiding games require co-play, they help toddlers build their social and emotional skills. These skills are developed through cooperative play with same age peers or adults. While toddlers certainly don’t have knowledge of these skills, they do have an inherent drive to develop them which makes them naturally eager to engage in hiding-related play.
Now any mother who has had their little one hide on them, which is pretty much all of us, I am guessing, will not find much use for these “reasons” when you are out of your mind worried, looking frantically for your child.
But, I have found that knowing why, Bubby sometimes has the need to hide has helped me to better see it coming and prevent this kind of behaviour when I can, by giving him what he needs without him having to resort to the extreme.
When I can. I am not always successful.
I recollect these awful events fresh from another one of Bubby's hiding episodes, so the intensity of those feelings I felt are fresh in my mind. Sometimes it seems like each milestone, each newly learned behaviour, every advancement our kids make is all designed to destroy us little by little.
But it can also be encouraging that our kids are indeed advancing the way they should be. Growing up, maturing, becoming their own little personalities.
That brings me some small comfort as we go through this horrible hiding phase. And knowing that this too will not last forever.
Slightly less comforting is the fact that there is another one coming up in the ranks watching every move Bubby makes, learning all the tricks to make Mommy lose...her...mind.
So, What comes next? I'm not sure I want to know. But whatever it is, we will make it through that too.
And, Bear, Mommy knows all the hiding place now...so don't even try it. I am ready for you.