Friday, February 22, 2008

Hiding from good monsters

Jars of Clay's most recent album is called Good Monsters. The song is pretty cryptic, but its title reminds me of a game of hide-and-seek with my daughters.

As I count to twenty in Spanish in the front room, the kids hide throughout the dark house. When we first played the game, Brielle would hide about 3 feet from me, lying on the floor, giggling--and then hide the exact same place the next six rounds.

These days she and her twin sisters are getting better at the hiding, managing a few moments of silence as they crouch under blankets or curtains, hunker down in the tub or squeeze into one of our tiny closets.

But they still want to be found.

If I take too long looking for them (i.e. more than about 90 seconds), I hear cries of "Daddy!" If I find someone else first, the undiscovered one calls out, "Daddy, what about me?" Giggles still come from Melia when someone seeks and doesn't quite find her. I have to be judicious about how long I hunt before the fun of being hidden decays into the fear of remaining unfound.

My favorite part is the finding too. (The rare silence preceding it is a close second.) The finding is when I get to play the good monster, who attacks its victim with kisses on the tummy and bites on that ticklish part of the knees. As the beast devours its prey, the child laughs and squirms in hysterics of joy.

When the meal is over, the miracle is that both child and monster have been fed.

There is something mystical about this experience, where love plays a game that flirts with fear. Maybe kids sense the irony of the man they look to for safety playing the role of monster. Maybe feigning fright helps them tame it. I wonder.

I just hope they never tire of it.

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