When I was a kid, my extended family got together with our neighbor’s family to celebrate Thanksgiving. We were a loud, large group, crammed into a New York City apartment, which meant we couldn’t all sit together. As a result, I was relegated to the kids' table, and I hated it. However, now that I'm a parent, I've realized that having a kids' table at Thanksgiving is the best idea ever, even if every single kid in the history of kids, hates it.
It never feels cool to be grouped with other kids when there is an older set of folks around. I longed to sit at the "grown-up table," even though I had nothing to contribute to their conversations and was definitely out of my element. I hated being labeled a “baby” and sitting with the other babies, or worse, the teenagers who were hellbent on pranking one another and starting a ruckus. As a mature child, I didn’t understand why the adults wouldn’t want a sophisticated fourth grader to join them around the turkey.
Having kids of my own definitely brought me around to the idea of dining separately from them, especially during the most gluttonous day of the year. On weekdays, since both my husband and I work full-time, we get home after the kids have had their dinner. I am convinced this is what allows me to lavish so much love on them, because after a weekend of Thanksgiving family dining — and the spilling, dropping, whining and stickiness that go with it — I can’t wait until I have my sad desk salad at work. Alone.
Out Of Sight, Out Of Minding What They’re Eating
With my kids right next to me, I’m monitoring their intake. I don’t nag, but I do hype the green stuff. Honestly, it’s a drag having to “work” the meal to feel like a good parent who’s making sure they’re kids are maximizing the nutritional value of their dinner.
However, with them banished to the kids’ table, I at least have no proof that they didn’t eat any vegetables and can pretend I’m still the greatest mom ever.
I Don’t Have My Meal Ruined By Gross Concoctions
My son loves to play chef, combining chunks of this and that on his plate to create disgusting messes. This upsets me, mostly because he usually ends up eating the stuff.
At the kids table, he is free to experiment to his heart’s delight, in front of an audience much more appreciative of his mad scientist skills (and I don’t have to witness the grossness.)
I Can Speak Freely...
No censoring myself for language or catty gossip when my kid is at the kids' table. Instead, I can talk with fellow adults about fascinating "adult stuff," without someone interrupting every two minutes.
...And About My Kids
I love them my children, don't get me wrong, but they can be jerks. In fact, they’re probably being jerks at that kids' table, but I am not going to look over there because I’m too busy venting about them.
They Are Probably Better Behaved Than They Would Be Sitting With The Adults
For better or worse (usually worse), my kids are a million times worse when I am around them. So, having them at a separate table is essentially asking them to model the grown-up behavior at our table, almost ensuring that they’ll be little ladies and gentlemen. It's amazing.
If I Am Not Sitting With Them, I Will Not Finish Their Uneaten Food
Having them next to me practically doubles my dinner intake, as I usually clean their plates after my own. If I’m not near them, I’m not tempted to polish off their cold stuffing. I mean, I should never be tempted to scarf down someone else’s half-eaten meal, but I kind of think that is nature’s way of ensuring moms stay connected to their kids. I might be wrong about that.
My Kids Won't Eat My Food
They never want what’s on their plate, just what’s on mine. Having a kids' table allows me to construct the perfect Thanksgiving plate, without tiny fingers plunging into my pilaf.
I Can Drink My Wine In Peace
I get to drink more wine because there isn't a small human next to me, knocking my glass over. This might not be a total win-win in the long run, but for the duration of the meal it definitely is.
I Can See My Kids As Individuals, And Not Just Extensions Of Me
Something happens when I get some distance from my kids: they become whole humans. Observing them, but not engaging with them, allows them to practice being themselves. They don’t know I’m watching, and I see their little personalities unfurl in charming, tender, honest interactions with their peers.
It is in these moments, when I dial back from “parenting,” that I can see all the work I’ve put in as a mother during their short lives, and how it's coming to fruition. It may feel like they never listen and I’m always yelling and we’re never all happy at the same time, but from across the room it's easy to see what I'm truly thankful for.