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The Holiday Tradition Hand-Off

Erin Zammett Ruddy

There was a time when I wanted my table set just so with the perfect catalog-worthy centerpieces and accoutrements. This year our décor comes courtesy of my five year old. And I couldn’t love it more.

Every single holiday for as far back as I can remember, I made place cards for the table. It’s one my many fond memories of being a kid in a big family who entertained a lot. Before a fancy dinner I would spend hours working on them—painting, stamping, stenciling, stickering, cutting and tying. Neither of my sisters were into art so it was something I did completely on my own. And I loved it. I still love to set a nice table and to entertain and host. It was one of the things I’d fantasize about long before I was a married homeowner with china and crystal. And I used to be very particular about the way things looked (anal some might say). But this year I’ve had to let go of the reins because Alex and I are now a team. And Alex doesn’t color in the lines or follow any patterns or strive for uniformity. He also mixes playdough colors, but that’s a whole other OCD issue for another time.

For the past few days, Alex and I have been working on place cards for all 16 people coming to our house tomorrow. (Nora has “helped” too, though we agreed that she should mostly just be in charge of cutting paper into tiny pieces, which is her area of expertise). As I mentioned Alex has been really into art ever since Sandy gave us two entire weeks at home sans power. He never cared much about art (or at least he wasn’t able to sit still long enough to create anything of note) and as a former art and crafting freak, I was bummed. But it seems his creative juices have kicked in and his wild side has calmed and as of this holiday season, I have officially passed the table-setting torch.

On Friday after school he and I went to Michaels and picked out all the supplies we needed. We decided on leaf and acorn stamps, brown paper tags and orange and brown ribbons. Plus some turkey and leaf cutouts to decorate and scatter on the table. We spent a good portion of Saturday creating the masterpieces. While he was working—he did every ounce of these from the handwriting to the cutting and tying of the ribbons—he said: “I really like doing this mom and I’m actually not bored at all.” Swoon! Of course I’m a control freak and I got a little stressed when he drew hearts all over one of the tags (that wasn’t in our initial concept, bud!) to which he said, “well, I just want to put hearts on yours mom because I love you.” D’oh! I relented, though I told him if he had the urge to put any more hearts on the place cards he should do them on the back and then he could sign his name. He liked that idea. I tried to get him to slow down and draw his letters neatly and properly (which he complelety knows how to do) but he was too excited and so I let him do his thang. 

It’s been really, really fun to do this with him and I love that we now have a new bonding activity that doesn’t involve kicking or throwing a ball. Last night we made headdresses for everyone at the kid’s table, plus a few lucky adults. He sat and worked on them for over an hour with my father in law helping him spell everyone’s names and their pets' names. I think our table is going to look amazing tomorrow with all of his special touches. Way better than anything I would have pulled together. The best part: I know he will be so proud of his work and soak in all the oohs and aahs the way I did as a kid. And I can’t wait to see it.

So do you let your kids help decorate the Thanksgiving table? Are they into arts and crafts? Do you ever get a little anxious about them not following the plan or am I the only crazy one? Happy Thanksgiving to all of you! Hope you have an amazing holiday with your families.