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Reflections November 2017

Tunnel Visions

Who Should Take a Seat at the Kids’ Table This Holiday Season?

By Bonnie McCune

Fast forward to the third generation. My sister tried to have a kids’ table several times at Thanksgiving. This has fallen by the wayside, perhaps because we both have opinionated, stubborn children who refuse to take orders, such as “Sit at the kids’ table.

With the holidays hard upon us, I have to ask an important question: do kids’ tables still exist during festive occasions? In my childhood, they did. Of course with 8 or 10 or 14 kids at the party, parents found it much easier to isolate all of us at one central location rather than sprinkle us among the adults where we’d outnumber and outmaneuver them. There we could bully and boss one another with impunity, safe from grownups’ retribution.

I continued the tradition with my own family. I credit the small size of our early apartments rather than any conscious decision. We had to break into mini-groups. Little people perched easily next to end tables and TV trays, leaving the petite dining table for oldies.

Now, however, in gatherings with my husband’s extended — and extended, and extended — family, the issue rarely surfaces. Every party is a buffet, and people hunker down wherever they can find a square foot.

Fast forward to the third generation. My sister tried to have a kids’ table several times at Thanksgiving. This has fallen by the wayside, perhaps because we both have opinionated, stubborn children who refuse to take orders, such as “Sit at the kids’ table.”

The grownups’ table used to represent status, a step forward from childhood to adult. I looked forward to my own transition. I remember one of my last Christmas family dinners with my aunt and uncle. I believe I was about 16 or 17. My aunt broached the subject of seating oh-so-delicately. She phrased her request so deftly, I thought she was conferring an honor, telling me I’d be at the adults’ table. I believe she mentioned my increasing age and ability to take responsibility. You guessed it! This translated into yet another year at the kids’ table, ostensibly as the leader. I was not fooled. A glass of milk dumped in my lap and rolls whizzing past my head tend to awaken me to reality.

Now people give good reasons for phasing out the kids’ tables, other than wanting more control over their offspring. Parents cite family togetherness, setting a good example about manners and conversation, encouraging intergenerational cross-fertilization of ideas. Regardless, in my corner of the world, fewer folks set up these enclaves. The one exception seems to be wedding parties. Maybe the per-person cost for meals is so extravagant, even parents aren’t willing to see good food thrown out in dumpster loads.

I’m not enamored with kids’ tables. I can take ‘em or leave ‘em. I know sometimes children’s conversations and insights are hysterical and fascinating. In other instances, kids are whiny, rude beyond words, and annoying. The odds are 50-50 if I prefer any given adult table over kids’ at a party.

So I choose. I’m fortunate because I can exercise judgment in the matter. Now that I’m legally of age (three times over) I could automatically be eligible for the adults’ seating. However, with my height, less than five feet, I’m shorter than many preteens, so I still qualify to sit at any kids’ table in view. If any group of companions is rude or boring, I can move.

 

Bonnie McCune is a Colorado writer and has published several novels as well as other work. Her newest, Never Retreat, is scheduled for publication in late 2017. Reach her at www.BonnieMcCune.com.

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