You may know the feeling. The adults are in the dining room with lots of great food, good stories and continuous and particularly loud laughter. My father has awakened from his mid-morning nap in front of the Macy’s Parade on our TV and is in his place at the head of the table. Mom has worked all morning and yelled instructions at me and my sister in “that voice” since the moment we crawled out of bed. Here I sit at the kitchen table (or worse, a card table with a folding chair) listening to the laughter in the other room and wondering what I’m missing and why I’m exiled to the “kid’s table”. My favorite uncle is in there just finishing one of his jokes – probably the kind they say I wouldn’t understand. My beautiful older cousin, with the amazing smile and the long golden hair, is in there acting like she’s all grown up and laughing along with them – but, it feels like she’s laughing at me.
There isn’t much “conversation” at the kid’s table and the jokes are pretty lame. Everyone is mostly just eating and listening to the noise from the other room. One of my cousins is sitting across from me flicking peas in my direction. (PEAS, for crying out loud!) Another cousin, the one with the obnoxious laugh and the loud voice, has just taken my roll and pressed it down into my Coke glass until it spills onto my plate. Laughing and reaching for another roll, he knocks his own drink over; part of it goes on the plate of rolls on the table and the rest, of course, goes into my lap. I get up to run into the dining room to tell the adults of this injustice, but realize from the looks on their faces that they really don’t care. Mom gives me “that look” (the one she uses when people are around and she can’t use “that voice”) and, telepathically, but amazingly clear, says – “if you come in here and run your mouth, interrupting this wonderful and perfect meal that I just worked my butt off for all morning so that these people will be impressed and know that they could never pull something like this off at their table – not in their lifetimes – I will bury you in the back yard and it will be weeks before you are missed!”
Back at the kid’s table someone has already cleaned up my plate. I don’t dare ask for another so I go over to the desert area of the counter – only to find that one of my cousin has just taken the last nine chocolate chip cookies and I’m stuck choosing between the pumpkin pie – a dessert with the texture of squash casserole, usually with a dab of whipped cream on it that is so small that it could be eaten with the first bite, and a pie with “Rhubarb” in the name that my aunt, who doesn’t cook, brought and I won’t be eating unless you hold me down. (Please don’t give my cousin any ideas!)
There is a time in a young man’s life when he should be invited to the adult’s table. He desperately wants to be an adult and treated like one. He wants his comments to matter. He wants everyone to laugh at his jokes. He wants to “be a part” of what’s happening. Once the novelty of the cool little table with the neat little chairs wears off, he lives in exile until the day he’s invited to the adult table. I can’t remember the exact day – but I’ll never forget the feeling!
So this Thanksgiving, be mindful of the kid’s table. Stop by and chat. Ask questions and act like you are really interested in the answers, but, if it’s possible, cram everyone around the same table and be a family together! It’s what life is all about and the kids will just learn something – whether you want them to are not.
How about you? Were you ever exiled to the “kid’s table”? How did that make you feel? Feel free to comment below.
(Disclaimer – most of the scenarios in this story, except for “that voice” and “that look”, were made up or stretched a bit from the memories in my foggy, old brain, but the passion for this subject remains.)