John Lamb essay: In praise of the kid's tableFARGO – As we gather around the Thanksgiving table today, let us stop and remember those who can’t sit with us, those who are in our hearts even if they are not currently in our sight. Let us think of those brave adults who have sacrificed their time and sanity, potentially their appetite and quite possibly a nice shirt to spilled cranberry juice. Let us honor those who sit at the kids’ table.
By: John Lamb, INFORUM
FARGO – As we gather around the Thanksgiving table today, let us stop and remember those who can’t sit with us, those who are in our hearts even if they are not currently in our sight. Let us think of those brave adults who have sacrificed their time and sanity, potentially their appetite and quite possibly a nice shirt to spilled cranberry juice.
Let us honor those who sit at the kids’ table.
On a day designed to bring families together and remind us of all we have to be grateful for, perhaps the most divisive issue is the seating chart, particularly, who sits at the kids’ table.
Whether it’s a card table just outside of the adults’ reach, the kitchen table a room away or a spare door stretched over sawhorses in the garage where screams can’t be heard and spills won’t be noticed, getting sentenced to the kids’ table can seem like a one-way ticket to a social gulag. It can split apart families, turning father against never-do-well middle-aged son, pitting younger sister versus prettier sister, and making small children even crankier.
Adults are already split over the merits of the kids’ table. Some view it as a minor civil rights issue: Keeping the young’uns separate deprives them of the joy of listening to older folks speak passionately about things that don’t matter to a 9-year-old. Another argument is that without a positive adult role model, kids won’t learn proper table manners. These people generally don’t like it when you try to lighten the mood by playing the spoons during dinner.
Others say that until children act like adults, they don’t deserve a chair at “The Big Table.” Unfortunately, these separatists don’t hold adults to the same threshold.
The issue is complicated further when you consider the wishes of those being seated.
Few willingly say they want a place at the kids’ table. Teens don’t want to sit at the kids’ table (or adult table, for that matter) because they’re teens and, well, thankless. Younger kids don’t want to sit at the kids’ table because their favorite word is still “no.”
The only people who volunteer to take a seat with the kids are those who now realize how boring adult discussions can be. Want to talk about the weather? The sports team you’re supposed to care about? That tax issue you really don’t understand? The perils of aging? Why no one talks about Uncle Bob anymore? The certainty of death and pain and hardship in life? Oh, and pass the trans fats.
The kids’ table is the ultimate Never Never Land. No one bothers you except to ask if you want seconds or if you need to go to the bathroom. While the latter is unnecessary, Thanksgiving is one of those holidays where it’s nice to have someone remind you to save room for dessert.
Conversation at the kids’ table is usually pretty colorful. You don’t question the veracity of a child’s story, but if you ask their opinion, you’re going to get an honest, straightforward answer. Indeed, the green bean casserole does look gross, and I don’t understand why we have to eat it either.
Similarly, you won’t get grilled about why you still don’t have a wife or kids. And they don’t care that your girlfriend no one has ever met couldn’t make it to dinner because she had to jet from the Iranian nuclear limitation talks to an emergency bikini fashion shoot in Fiji. It just means more pumpkin pie for them. (You’ll be missed today, Briennika, but I know you’re making the world a safer, sexier place.)
It’s easier to explain things to kids than it is to adults. Show a kid an iPhone, and they have it mastered in a minute. Try to show your grandma a vacation photo on your phone, and it ends in frustration for everyone. Conversely, kids enjoy explaining things to older people – just pray that what they’re explaining isn’t the Pokémon universe.
Sure, there’s always the chance of a meltdown at the kids’ table, but a child’s tears are wiped away quicker than those your aunt Bea will shed when she hears what the kids’ table has been saying about her green bean casserole.
The kids’ table is where long-lasting relationships take root. As an uncle, I am there to comfort and corrupt them. I’ll ask what they want for Christmas, nodding while saying, “Santa can bring that.” And when it’s my turn to contribute, I’ll show them how to hide their vegetables on the dinner plate. (Mashed potatoes and gravy cover all sins.)
So when grumbling breaks out today over the seating chart, I’ll be the chivalrous one and offer my chair to the offended. I’ll just squeeze in between the kids and sit with my kind. Just keep the green bean casserole on the other table. In fact, just bring on the pie.
Readers can reach Forum reporter John Lamb at (701) 241-5533