10/06/2012 08:19 EDT | Updated 12/05/2012 05:12 EST

Dispatches From Down East: Why Family Fun Is Overrated

I sometimes get jealous of my mommy friends when I hear them talk (brag) about sitting around as a family playing board games, charades and the like. Spending quality time together: investing in the fun part of parenting. I am a little confused about that whole concept of fun as a family. Whenever we all try to have family fun together, someone ends up crying. Here is how a recent "games night" at our house went down.

We are T-minus zero to bedtime. I am so ready for this. Then one of the rug-rats hollers from the T.V. room, "Daddy promised we could have a game of "Hide-and-Go-Seek." In the dark. "He promised!"

He promised, did he? Was his head connected to the rest of his body when these shady deals were made? And when this ridiculous plan was hatched, where was I, pray tell? I claim ultimate veto power when it comes to bedtime. Oh. That's right. I was fulfilling my parenting duties and responsibilities by attending our fourth piano lesson of the week. Fourth lesson in the last three days. And before that, I was running around like a chicken with my head cut off.

A promise is a promise.

I am still wiping up crumbs under the table when the lights go out all over the world. I bellow that I am not quite ready yet. I try to manouevre myself out backwards without hitting my head on the under-boards of the table. Meanwhile, my husband is really in cahoots with me on this one as he has already begun counting. And, he has also stated up front that there will be ONLY one round of this fun-filled game for the evening. I repeat. ONLY ONE ROUND.

We scurry off in all directions. The house is pitch black.

Husband finally gets to number 20. And the seeking begins. It feels like 20 minutes have already passed. I have nearly dozed off. Actually, I am standing on a chair behind the door in what was formerly the dining room before we had children and which is now just a giant storage closet for kid stuff.

The only indication that this room had a former life is the beautiful pewter chandelier that husband gave me one year for my birthday. It fits right in with the wallpaper the kids tore off the wall in strips. As well as with all the coloring books. And quite interestingly, it is attached to the only part of the room the kids have no access to: the ceiling.

Youngest daughter is standing beneath me. We are both hovering over top a pile of coloring books and play school workbooks. Every time she moves, it sounds like a little mouse is rustling. Myself, I am trying not to move as the husband has a habit of pouncing on his victims, and I don't feel like having a heart attack this evening.

He also likes to add sound effects to the whole experience. Just to add a little "scary and crazy" to the ambiance. Tonight, Darth Vader is making an appearance. We hiding "five" can hear him coming. But what we don't know just yet is that he is using his cell phone as a flash light.


I am starting to feel my old competitive edge return. Bedtime or not, fair is fair. There are shouts of outcry coming from all directions when round one ends in 15 seconds flat. So I volunteer. I will represent the little guys and do this thing right. I begin counting. I am slower, more methodical. Sometimes I use this time to complete odd jobs in the rooms I happen to be standing in. Counting in the kitchen comes in very handy, particularly on nights when I haven't finished the supper dishes. But as the lights are out, I cannot multi-task this evening. I make twenty in record time and start the hunt. I am no Darth Vader. I want my children alive once this game is over.

Unfortunately, I am too good at this. I misjudge how quickly Youngest wants to be found, and she is crying her head off before I have located the next in line. When I find the second , she is outraged that her youngest sister might have tipped me off as to where she was hiding. She storms off in a tiff. I find oldest daughter after a few light switches are turned on. She is not impressed by all the ruckus and declares it was clearly, unfairly played. Meanwhile, the other two who have already been found are well on their way upstairs, crying as they make a path of strewn clothing to their beds. But believe me when I say that it will be many more miles before sleep makes its final descent.

We never do find the oldest. He comes upstairs after teeth-brushing begins, claiming to have found the best hiding spot ever and not feeling the least bit neglected that we are all upstairs carrying on with other more mundane matters, like end of the day bathroom routines. (As in, applying toothpaste from just the right tube.) Which is encouraging to me because at least now I know that someone had fun tonight.

Hide and go seek: it's all fun and games until somebody gets discovered.

And in defense of those who feel that planning impromptu fun times together as a family is just too much pressure, there is always movie night. It's a win/win for both parents and kids. Dimmed lights, comfy couch and the pulsing glow from a 46 inch flat screen. And limited opportunities for fighting. Sounds like the perfect definition of family fun night to me.