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Do You Believe In The Kids’ Table?

With Thanksgiving just 10 days away, I’m starting to think about my meal and my seating arrangements. I’m a firm believer in the kids’ table, and am planning to have one on the 22nd. I know some people are vehemently opposed. Where do you stand?

Now that our power is back (it came on Saturday morning—lucky day 13!) I can write about things other than how desperate and deranged I felt by the outage (very of both, if you’re curious). I cannot believe Thanksgiving is just over a week away. Insane. Sandy truly stole two weeks of my life. But I digress. Assuming my power stays on, we will be hosting 12 adults and 5 kids. And I’m going to put those 5 kids at their own table (Sofia, my sister’s 18-month-old daughter, might get a pass to a high chair at the adults table). Granted, the only kids in attendance will be mine and my sister Melissa’s, but still, I love giving the kids and the adults some space and I think it will work out well. I grew up with lots of big family gatherings and there was almost always a kids’ table and though I didn’t always love it (when the older cousins moved up to the big table and I was still stuck with the brats at the little table, I remember protesting wildly), I get it now.

It helps that the kids at this particular kids’ table are all BFFS and beg to sit next to each other anyway. It’s not a tough sell for them to get a special, kids-only table (Andrew, who’s the oldest by four years, will get some recognition, too—like maybe giving the kids’ table toast or something). And I do make it feel special with cool plates and a fun centerpiece and Alex and I will make place seating’s for everyone (I did it like this for Easter brunch once with many more kids and it was a huge hit). Their table will also be close enough that the kids still feel like part of the action but far enough that they are not the center of the action. Which, to me, is the whole point of the kids’ table. For me, it’s about having adult time and conversation while the kids have their kid time and conversation (which better not include the words “poop” or “butt” or someone will be going to time out). A while back I interviewed cultural historian Pamela Haag. She had just written the book Marriage Confidential: The Post-Romantic Age of Workhorse Wives, Royal Children, Undersexed Spouses, and Rebel Couples Who Are Rewriting The Rules (it’s fantastic, by the way) and I really related to her point of view on kids’ table and the fact that so few families have one anymore:

When I was growing up, children were considered a cog in the machine but we were not the center of the machine. A family had a whole bunch of different functions and the children’s table really is the illustration of that for me. Because the adults had their space and when company came over, the kids had to go off and do their own thing, they were not included in the civilized conversation at the grown up table. The obliteration of that idea really illustrated how much children had moved from being certainly a central part of marriage to being almost the only centerpiece in a marriage.

I couldn’t agree with this more. You guys know how I feel about making my marriage a priority—and about eating sans children. In fact, when we have big non-holiday family dinners or big friend dinners with kids, we often feed the young ones first, then let them play or pass out in our beds while the adults enjoy. Now perhaps Thanksgiving should be an exception. It’s a holiday, it’s about family and kids and craziness. But considering I will probably be cooking for 48 hours prior, I want everyone at my table to be sitting and eating and enjoying some adult conversation. I realize it’s Thanksgiving and part of what we’re so so thankful for is our children, so they will be a special part of the day/night, too. Of course. It’s not like their table is in the basement or anything. And when we go around the room and say what we’re most thankful for, they will each get a turn, too. I think the success of the kids’ table depends on the ages of the kids. Obviously you don’t want babies all sitting together throwing stuffing at each other. But when kids are in that sweet spot when they find it fun to have their own space and when they can feed themselves (after we cut their turkey, in some cases) and respect the rules, it all works. Bottom line: I definitely believe in the kids’ table. And as far as Thanksgiving goes, I do want my children to feast with us…just not too close.

Do you have kids’ tables when you entertain? Did you have a kids’ table when you were growing up? Are you hosting Thanksgiving? Will there be a kids’ table where you are?