We Are Both Right

Thankful for a Thanksgiving Table with Room for Everyone

© We Are Both Right

© We Are Both Right

My 7-year-old self would have been very lonely at a kids’ table on Thanksgiving. Every year we celebrated at my maternal grandparent’s house (Memaw and Bepaw) and I was the only grandchild on that side of the family at that time (my sister is nine years younger than me, my brother 11).

But not only would my younger self been sitting by my her lonesome at a table, she probably would have been pretty annoyed too. My Memaw and Bepaw made a big fuss over Thanksgiving, always including me in the preparation process. I can remember spending many “Thanksgiving Eve’s” at their home helping to get everything ready. After a big slumber party, we’d all wake up early and put the turkey in the oven. I’d help snap string beans and set the table while we waited for the other guests to arrive. And when it was time to carve, I’d dutifully stand by my Bepaw’s side as he worked, happy to accept any samples he was willing to slip me (lots).

The Thanksgiving meal, and the buildup to it, was (and still is) always about family. If after spending all that wonderful time with my grandparents I had been relegated to sit away from all the grown-ups, I think I might have been a little hurt. Now obviously our situation was different as there was only at most on any given year, three children at our Thanksgiving table, but still, I liked being with the grownups. Being a part of the conversation. And the family.

And even if the house had been teaming with kids, I’m still not sure the idea of a kids’ table on Thanksgiving (or any holiday for that matter) would have been a good fit for us, then and now. I mean, in our family anyway, we make a big deal about eating dinner together every night. Why, on what is arguably the most special meal of the year, would I separate myself from the people I love the most?  (Wow, that came out a lot more heavy-handed and judge-y than it sounded in my head.)

It’s true though. For me, Thanksgiving is about family and three-fifths of my immediate one all happen to be under five feet tall (although my 10-year-old is closer and closer to negating that  by the second) and are too young to know what a VCR is. Does that automatically mean they should have to sit by themselves? (Only if they start making fun of us for having to fast-forward to get to the good parts.)

And from a practical standpoint, I think a kids’ table is actually more stressful for parents, especially if younger children are part of the dining entourage. I’m constantly being asked to cut up food, mop up milk, pour more milk — the closer the proximity to the children and their places, the faster I can put out fires and get back to my own meal (and if there are lots of other adults at the table, that means there are lots more hands to help).

In any case, for our family, this year there is no need to even question the need for a kids’ table. We have a lot going on later on in this holiday season so in the interest of maximizing our family time,  T. and I decided that the main part of the Thanksgiving meal will be spent at our home, just us five.

And when we are finished, we will head over to my sister’s house for dessert  – where the little ones will be happily dispersed amongst the grownups.

Where do your kids sit for the Thanksgiving meal?

Originally published November, 2010

It’s Always More Fun at the Thanksgiving Kids’ Table

When I was a kid, with nine cousins over a fifteen-year age span, the kids’ table at holiday dinners was the hot spot.

It was the stuff memories are made of — clams oreganato eating contests, smack talk about the Monopoly game underway, and brainstorms for yet another original theatrical performance which we would always make the adults endure before coffee was served. (I still remember being pretty bummed when I finally graduated to the adult table as a senior in high school.)

The tradition of a holiday kids’ table still exists in our family, although most of the time now it’s an appendage to the main dining table as opposed to the exclusive seating we had at my parent’s house. There are also less kids overall, with the max being four on either side of the family.

Not quite the level of excitement it used to be — but for me the kids’ table is always more fun. Since this is a holiday from work, I would much rather be debating our favorite episodes of Yo Gabba Gabba (and whether Lance Rock was wearing the orange sneakers or the white) than haranguing about mid-term elections.

falconreid/stock.xchng

For Thanksgiving this year it will just be my two — so we’re planning to take the far end of the table which actually juts out into the foyer of my in-laws’ house. It will still be decorated with linens and china, but we skip the wine glasses and keep the bowl of cranberry sauce snuggly planted at the other end of the table. This arrangement also allows the kids a quick escape when they’ve had their fill on the first course and we excuse them until the turkey comes out later in the afternoon.

Mainly it was out of necessity that my husband and I started sitting at the Thanksgiving kids’ table when our son was a toddler. Someone had to take the place of honor at the far end and it might as well have been us, since we needed to hop up and down on a moment’s notice.

But neither of us seemed to mind the “preferred seating” and we plan to keep our spots until the incoming nieces/nephews bump us over to adult territory.

For reasons that include peace of mind, I hope the tradition of the kids’ table lives on until my children pass the final exam at the etiquette school I keep threatening to send them to. (Or until there are enough other little kids running around that no one can pinpoint just who spilled the ketchup on the new, creamy white, fabric-covered dining room chair.)

Will there be a Thanksgiving kids’ table at your celebration next week? Was there one when you were a kid?

Originally published November, 2010

Who Else to Celebrate But an Infant on Christmas?

Gonzaman/stock.xchng

The Christmas holiday is all about celebrating the birth of a very special baby — one who was brought gifts from afar. To consider celebrating my baby’s first Christmas without gifts to give would seem strange. Very strange.

So when the subject came up among a group of moms early in the year, I was surprised to hear a consensus among them that it wasn’t necessary to buy Christmas gifts for infants. Or at least new ones. Wrapping up something that already belonged to baby — just to get the effect of opening a present — was something they had done and planned to do again.

I tossed that one around in my mind a few times. But I just couldn’t wrap my head around it.

Of course the baby has no idea what is going on. But at the same time, who can resist finding something special to mark the day with? Babies don’t know the half of what’s going on around them any other day of the year, but yet we still painstakingly decorate their nurseries, buy cute clothes and sing them songs. We take photos and log milestones. Someday it will mean something to them.

And with toys or books to be found for a few dollars each, there’s really nothing to gain by trying to cut corners — especially on Christmas of all days. Even in the worst of times.

Our son’s first Christmas happened to coincide with my husband suffering a debilitating accident, losing his job, and deciding to put our house on the market after we had spent the last few weeks of my pregnancy gutting and renovating it. Still, even with all that stress and a super tight budget, there was no way we were going to let the first time we celebrated our most favorite holiday with our son go unmarked. And it was the same way when my daughter was born — minus the other drama.

When we set out to buy each of our children their first Christmas gifts, we knew that whatever it was wouldn’t make a dramatic impact on baby then and there. Not like a four-year-old spotting a dollhouse or a new bike under the tree, and running down the hallway in excitement.

Even so, we wanted to mark the occasion with something special. We finally decided to choose something that was more of a keepsake, so each of them could enjoy and remember it in later years as a first Christmas present from Mommy and Daddy.

For L. it was a Lionel train that now chugs around our display every year. He unwraps it from its yellow box and loves to remind us that we gave it to him when he was a baby.

Meanwhile, S. wears her little sapphire earrings that Daddy bought especially for her first Christmas and she doesn’t miss a beat in explaining exactly who gave them to her when asked. (Mommy had also given her a few special toys that she still plays with, but clearly Daddy is the hero here.)

I guess what I am trying to say is that it really does matter — at least to me. Buying Christmas gifts for my babies is just one of the many privileges I have as a parent. And I’m never missing that opportunity for anything.

I’ve seen the presents piled under Amanda’s tree, so I know she can’t resist buying Christmas gifts for her little ones either. And so Where We Meet Week continues…

The Best Holidays For Kids Are the Ones They Are Truly a Part Of

© lizerixt/stock.xchng

© lizerixt/stock.xchng

Every year, we name our Christmas trees. I know, it’s strange, but it’s part of a whole thing that we do, which includes cutting it down ourselves (every time I say that “we” cut down the tree my husband snorts). We try to keep with a botany theme — past monikers have included Douglas Firbanks, Spruce Bpringstreen and Kevin McCallister (not tree related but that was the year we spent Christmas in Miami and our tree was “Home Alone.”)

Anyway, three years ago (that would have been Tim Burr), by the end, right before Christmas Eve, the poor tree was looking a little bedraggled. Tired. It had had quite enough of the kids and the company and the presents and everything else we subject these conifers to. The kids had decorated it, and in a style that is typical when your designers are  under-four-feet-tall, all the ornaments could be found dangling in the front bottom quadrant. The lights and garlands were sagging, because no matter how many times I told them not to, both A. and C. would hang the balls and hooked tchotchkes off of them, rather than the branches.

Still, it was our tree — the kids’ tree — and even though there was nary a decoration to be found near the top (or on the sides, or in the back), it was beautiful (even though I started calling it Aunt Bethany after the character from National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation). And I’m glad that both T. and I feel the same way — that there will be plenty of time in the future to have a perfect tree with impeccably hung ornaments and straight garlands. For now, what’s important to us is that the holiday season be something we are all a part of.

And for our family of five, that means doing the holidays up big. Lots of gifts, lots of food, lots of fun. For all my grumbling that I spend too much time shopping and wrapping and making things even, nothing makes me happier than a huge pile of gifts for the kiddos under the tree. Materialistic? Maybe, but it’s more than that.

Last year we spent Christmas Eve just the five of us. And we dined on Beef Wellington after spending the day at the movies and opening gifts from faraway relatives. We’ve gone ice skating on Christmas Eve, attended plays — for us, the holidays are about celebrating the day, but each other as well. And that means doing something special.

*********************

Still in pre-holiday festivities mode, still agreeing with Suzanne for Where We Meet Week. Read her take here.