Thanksgiving is nearly here.
It doesn’t matter what you are eating, but I hope you are eating it at two tables. The second table I’m talking about is the kid’s table. Nothing fancy is necessary: a coffee table with cushions, a fisher price plastic picnic table, or the plywood-sawhorse standby. Eating with your children isn’t something that happens in every home. But if it does, you deserve a break, they deserve a break.
At our our family Holidays, Betsy, my sister Allie, and my kid’s table was a square card table wedged between the privacy of the kitchen island and my mother’s work desk, the long cord of the kitchen phone snaking into coils along the blue tile. The table, always set with a tablecloth and formal settings, felt like a long held reservation at a restaurant.
In the absence of adults, we relished our new possession. When we were eating weeknight dinner in the presence of our parents, our behaviors and even feelings felt beholden to their scrutiny. At the children’s table, adult’s expectations muddled into a quiet background track. Free of adults, we spent a considerable amount of time posing as adults. Posturing authority turned out to be a pretty fun game. We spent the rest our meal subverting these poses.
I am no longer a discernible child, although I feel more playful and free with each passing year. I am now a mother to a five year old daughter trying to define this relatively new job. I have since past the trials of feeding and changing, and now seek to help my daughter navigate her way into independence.
Ultimately what parents have to teach their children is how to exist without you. As a young adult this separation can be a painful time, but at the kid’s table, in the clutch of family, this is a time when practiced freedom can feel its sweetest.
Children live in a world created by adults. It is the sad truth that by the time you become an adult catering to the needs of a child you have forgotten the reality of being a child. Being a child is a dish you ate long ago - one you will never be able to recreate in the kitchen of tools and language manufactured by grownups. Children live in the present moment, only fleetingly accessible to their adult counterparts.
We should allow children to enjoy freedom from adult conversation and undisturbed mastication. Let’s face it, eating under the gaze of unfamiliar relatives can give anyone indigestion. There, among their peers, the discomfort of massive ice cream headaches is self inflicted.
These ice cream headaches, these mistakes, is where true learning takes place. It is the unchecked creativity and mishaps of the kid’s table where the future is being hashed out.
It’s possible, sitting next to Betsy, making elongated faces in our flatware, the first seed of Seasoned was born. Sure we all want to influence our children, but influence too heavily and you suppress the possibility of real change in the world.