When I was a kid, our big family gatherings had the traditional kids’ table. At first it was fun to hang out with your cousins, having those chocolate-milk-bubble-blowing-contests without garnering parental stink-eye; but eventually you wanted to age-out of that table and join the grown-ups because you weren’t a kid anymore.
And then one day you did!
Now if there’s a rickety little card table it has a new fancy holiday tablecloth on it instead of last year’s tablecloth and you could find anyone sitting there — just as you’ll find plenty of kids at the regular dinning room table.
And I hate it.
Like every child before me, I couldn’t wait to be deemed an adult and join the grown-ups and now view this as a rite of passage that those younger ought to earn too.
But more than that, as an adult, I long for adult conversation unfettered by the little ears. It’s not that I want or need to swear like a sailor all through dinner, but some topics are not suitable for children.
And even those that are suitable, are often the sort that require you to stop every five words to explain who people are, define words, and provide context. I do that all day, every day; and some times I’d just like to have a meal in which I can talk grown-up stuff with people I don’t often see — and not be bogged down with a learning situation for children, complete with adult-to-child thesaurus, a world globe, & a flip-chart.
Possibly worse is having the kids blurt information. You know, like ruin the story you are cleverly crafting by giving away the punchline. Or how about when you are waxing nostalgic, making an insider joke with your sister about that bad thing you both did that one Thanksgiving — and your kid catches on, blurting, “You and Aunt Jackie stole a street sign?!”
I’d like those adults only conversations — after all, I sat at the kids’ table for years, I’ve earned them!
Does that make me a bad person? I don’t think so… My parents did it. My grandparents did it. And the only bad thing I have to show for it is a sack full of memories.
So what the heck happened?
People started treating their children like adults — small-bodied adults, but adults nevertheless.
People thought that the kids’ table was mean; “Kids shouldn’t be ostracized for their age,” they whine. The kids’ table is seen as an archaic memento of the days when children should be seen and not heard. But when I look back, it’s the secrets shared and conspiratorial conversations with cousins at the kids table that I remember most vividly.
I remember the pride my male cousins had at making we girls giggle and gross-out over their status as pull-my-finger kings — with no gassy uncles to over-power them. I remember the turns my female cousins and I took, mocking the boys for their uncouth ways. I remember laughing so hard, milk squirted out of our noses. And I remember the gossip we shared, the secrets we confessed — things we never would have dared to say around the grown-ups. (Those dumb old grown-ups would have needed a hip-lingo-to-uncool-adult translator, a map of the school, and flip charts — and even then, they wouldn’t have been cool enough to get it.)
Sitting at the kids’ table was our private time.
So kids now can sit where they want; never mind that Great Grandpa has to sit at the rickety card table and 7 foot tall Uncle Kevin has to fold himself in half to get on that folding chair. But we’ve lost more than those physical comforts.
The kids have lost kid time and we’ve lost grown-up time.
So bring back the kids’ table, I beg of you. I miss it, and our kids are missing out on it.
Meanwhile, I have my memories… Which I am reminded of every holiday and every time I flip through old magazines, vintage photos, etc., and see images of the kids’ table.