"I hate playing games with my kids." By Shelley Abreu for

“You be Ariel, and I’ll be Prince Eric,” instructs my three-year old daughter Julia. Then she dives down into the pretend ocean that is our kitchen floor and beckons me to save her. I scoop her in my arms, and we swim safely to “Ariel’s Grotto.” I attempt to return to chopping vegetables, but she begins the game again. I try to get out of it. “Ariel has to cook up some crabs for Prince Eric’s supper,” I say. But she’s onto me. “Ariel doesn’t cook the supper,” she retorts.It’s not the first time I’ve dodged Julia’s games today. After a short stint playing a mind-numbing game of Dora The Explorer Candyland, I fake a bathroom emergency. When I come out, I casually begin folding laundry. When Julia calls me back to the game, I tell her I’ll come back soon. I’m lying.

Sometimes I’m not even that suave about averting playtime with Julia. After a few laps around the house playing Tag, I simply run away mid-lap. For a moment it delights her when she realizes I’m missing. She’s thinks I’ve turned it into a game of Hide and Seek, but after a few minutes she begs me to return. Then I use my arsenal of verbal excuses, including: I need to get the house picked up and make a phone call. When she whines, I urge her to play with her younger sister, Elise, who is old enough to toddle her way through a round of any running game. And that’s what siblings are for, right?

I’m not a complete failure at playing. I’m content to do puzzles, and I’ll take time-out from any adult activity to read a book. I’m a musician, which means anything musical is pretty much okay with me. I’ll also last a good while at “I Spy” during walks through our neighborhood. But generally speaking, I hate playing with my kids. Games of “Horsey” – in which I’m asked to giddy-up through our yard – or “Payer,” where we use a toy cash register to enact pretend transactions – are enough to make me lose my mind. Of all the negatives that parenting has brought – sleep-deprivation, a constantly messy house, never a moment to myself – it’s the playing that I hate the most.

And yet, read any mainstream parenting magazine today, and you’re made to believe that playing with your children is essential to their well-being. I recently read “Fidgety Kids: 10 Fun Games You Can Play in an Instant.” The article suggests I pass the time waiting at the pediatrician’s office by using the exam table paper to draw a village. It’s not that I can’t appreciate the inventiveness of this crafty game, but truthfully, I’d rather read a magazine and let my kids entertain themselves with the germy toys (which, by the way, they love).