When I moved to Portland, my son was just shy of his fourth birthday. It was a sudden move, necessary for many reasons. We arrived without much advance planning, and we were both disoriented and reeling. I rented a room in an extended stay hotel, and started to get my bearings.
My son has autism, so in addition to the upheaval that any three year old would experience in those circumstances, he had an added layer of struggle trying to cope with disruption and uncertainty.
Within a few days, he came up with his own way of navigating these scary seas of change. He made up a game, a variation of hide and seek. I would close my eyes and he would run and hide. He would call out “I’m lost,” and I would set out to find him.
I went through the usual search game that all adults play with children, speaking aloud as I walked around. Is he behind the door? No. Is he in the closet? No. And on until I found him (not too hard considering the tiny space we occupied and the fact that he always hid in the same spot).
Like all kids, he squealed with delight when discovered. But I understood that for him, this was different. I would gather him up on my lap and wrap my arms around him, looking him in the face as I assured him.
“You were never lost. I will always find you. You are safe and loved. And everything is all right.” And just to make sure, I would repeat, “I will always find you. Every time. You are never lost to me.”
I could feel his body relax. At least for a few seconds. Then he would slide off my lap and run off to hide again. Lost. Found. Repeat. Repeat as many times as it took for him to get the reassurance he needed. Some days that was five times. Other days it was twenty five times. I didn’t really count. The number of times didn’t matter.
Such a simple game. One that reassured me as much as it did him. It reassures me even now. We are never too old to remember that we are never lost. We are safe and loved. And everything is all right.
I once was lost but now I’m found
Was blind but now I see