Sitting around the breakfast table on Christmas morning over our traditional homemade cinnamon rolls, scrambled eggs, and bacon, I had an epiphany. (Is it permissible to have an epiphany on Christmas Day, or does it have to wait until January 6? Maybe it’s okay as long as it’s an epiphany with a small “e.”)
Anyway, it happened about the time I was eating my fourth (or fifth or thirteenth—but who’s counting?) piece of bacon and watching the three newest participants in this particular tradition. The two-and-a-half-year-old, having rejected the unabridged dictionary as a booster seat, was on his knees in a chair of his own. The two littler ones, just past one and not quite one, were on their mother’s laps. They intercepted bites of egg with surprising tidiness and did their best to get a full share of the bacon. They seemed enthusiastic about the cinnamon rolls, too—though I did have some suspicions about my daughter’s request for a third one “because the baby ate all of the last one.”
And that’s when I had the small-e epiphany. “Oh my gosh. We’re going to need a kids’ table.”
One of the biggest blessings in my life right now is having two of my kids and their growing families living right here in Rapid City. And that means, one of these years, at family gatherings we will need an extra table for short people. A place where they can skip their green beans without anyone noticing, decorate their fingertips with black olives, and giggle a lot over conversations not meant for adult ears.
Just to be clear, in my experience the point of having a kids’ table isn’t to segregate squirmy small people with rudimentary table manners away from the good china and crystal. It’s more about squeezing people into the available space. At family gatherings when I was growing up, the kids were put at the kitchen table and card table because the dining room table, even expanded with all its leaves, would only hold 12 or 14.
It was usually fun at the kids’ table, of course. And sometimes educational. I remember one discussion about whether some red stuff in a little bowl was jelly or Jell-O. No one wanted to be the first to taste it. When someone finally got brave and tried half a spoonful, we still weren’t sure. (All these years later, I assume it must have been cranberry sauce.)
Still, I always felt I was missing out by not being at the adult table, because so many family members were and are such great storytellers. I loved hearing their stories, and every time I heard a burst of laughter from the dining room I assumed I had just missed one.
So at our house, when we do need a kids’ table, I hope we have room to put it at just the right distance from the adults’ table. It’s a delicate balance. They need to be far enough away so we can pretend we don’t hear or see what they’re doing. Yet I’d like them close enough so, if they want to, they can easily eavesdrop on our conversations. It’s just one more way of passing along the family stories. Especially, perhaps, the ones we don’t necessarily intend them to hear.