To Kids’ Table or Not to Kids’ Table: Thanksgiving Edition

Thanksgiving is the best holiday. You can disagree with me, and that’s fine – in that it’s fine for you to be wrong. A holiday centered entirely around food, where day-drinking is acceptable, with no wrapping paper or costumes or credit card debt? Yes please. Plus, from a parenting standpoint, is there any easier holiday message to convey than gratitude? Way easier than, you know, resurrection. Also, did I mention wine in daylight?? Plus whipped cream!

I also love how much passion peoples’ Thanksgiving traditions inspire and in fact I once ended a relationship in part because his mother served stuffing with nuts and sausage in it. Oh and they ate in the middle of the day, rather than dinner-time like civilized human beings. OH and also they served salad. Right, I know – they should be in jail.

Sorry where was I? Oh right. The passion that Thanksgiving traditions inspire.  Curiously, there is one common Thanksgiving tradition that I have no opinion on one way or the other, and that is… the presence of a Kids’ Table.

In my house growing up, we sometimes had a Kids’ Table and sometimes didn’t, depending on the assembled crew. As the oldest child in my family, I generally preferred sitting with the grownups, as I fancied myself far more sophisticated than my younger sisters and cousins and thus felt I should be privy to mature conversation and fine china. (BTW I just asked my youngest sister if she wished she’d sat with the grownups, too, and she said “ew never!”, so let’s just add this to the ever-expanding body of evidence that I was an insufferable child.)

For me, right now, this is actually just a conceptual debate, as my children are too young to actually function on their own at a table, kids’ or otherwise. My 2-year-old would fall out of his chair and then cry, my 4-year-old would spill her water all over her plate and then cry, and my 6-year-old would be too busy flossing to eat anything. But the irrelevance of an issue has never stopped me from mulling obsessively over it, so herein I present my Kids’ Table pros and cons:

Pros

  • You don’t have to sit with your children.
  • There’s the potential of having an uninterrupted conversation with another adult.
  • The kids are pumped about it, as it means no one will force them to eat anything green or ask them to cool it with the bathroom humor at the dinner table.
  • After days of managing to-do lists, elbowing little old ladies away from the last box of turkey stock at the grocery store, and cookingbakingcleaningtablesetting, the idea of actually relaxing for 20 minutes or so while sitting down is transcendent.
  • It’s a special occasion, and getting to sit with just one’s peers at a family dinner is special! It’s probably most special for the kids, who get the chance to discuss slime recipes in peace instead of having to field questions like “What are you studying in school?” or “Any boyfriends yet??” from Aunt Susie, who wears peds under her flats.

Cons

  • You don’t get to sit with your children.
  • You have to have uninterrupted conversations with other adults, which, depending on the guest list and seating chart, can be… undesirable.
  • You don’t get to monitor whether your children are eating anything other than butter and turkey skin (they’re not), nor can you make sure no one teaches little Henry what “shart” means.
  • Being separated from the children can backfire and end up being less relaxing than sitting next to them, as the constant “Mom? Mom? Mom? MOM!” can mean you never get to sit in your chair because you are cutting their food, refilling their water, cleaning up spilled water, or reminding someone that “we” don’t pick “our” nose and then wipe it in “our” sister’s hair.
  • It’s a special occasion, and why would you separate yourself from your children on a special occasion?! Awkward conversations with family members you only see once a year – for a reason – are what makes holidays holidays, and the sooner children learn that, the better.

Hm. Not sure where that leaves me on this crucial issue. When my children are old enough for this to be an Actual Issue, maybe I’ll switch it up every year? Or, since we rotate who in my family hosts, we’ll leave it to the particular hosts? I really don’t know. But you know what I do know? Only sociopaths serve marshmallows with sweet potatoes.



Alice Leiter is a recovering lawyer living in Washington, D.C. with her husband and four children. Her hobbies include making fun of her family on Instagram, watching Bravo, and worrying that people are mad at her. She hates when grown women call her “Mama.” Reach her at alice@aliceleiter.com.