I declare an end to the Kids’ Table. I have officially outgrown this separate dining area created for the non-adults in our family during all family gatherings. Of course, I don’t mean that I have literally outgrown it, since many of those who sit at the kids’ table are taller than me and have been so for awhile. Sigh. I mean, have figuratively outgrown it from a philosophical sense.
We all remember the Kids Table. I recall it was a portable table in the back room of my grandparents’ home in Toronto. Situated down the hall from the dining room, this room that hosted the Kids’ Table, doubled as the spare room in which my sister and I slept when we visited for one of the many family events hosted by my paternal grandparents at 9 Four Oaks Gate. The Table grew to feed 10 grandkids, though by the time the 9th and 10th grandkids moved from either high chair or the laps of their aunts to the Kids’ Table down the hall, the 1st and 2nd grandkids were granted a coveted place setting at the adult table, a well-earned rite of passage. Back at the Kids’ Table, the conversation rallied from feats of strengths and intelligence to fits of laughter and screaming which predictably brought at least one parent in from the adults-only dining room. Our personalities bloomed while our table manners withered. The smell of percolating coffee was our cue to escape outdoors to explore my grandparents neighbourhood and the park nearby. Sigh.
The Kids Table in my own household started out as a LittleTykes picnic table dragged in off the deck and into the kitchen. Doubling as a craft table, that hideous green and yellow plastic gem was a mainstay piece of furniture in our family for many, many years. A similarly obnoxious orange and red monster was ‘kid central’ in my in-laws’ household. They were both U-G-L-Y but were they resilient! Both have endured blood, barf and bologne in equal proportions, not to mention poop, pee, popsicle sticks and crayons. In my own household, too, the Kids Table has grown. There are now 9 on my side and 8 on my husband’s side, spanning almost 20 years now, hard to believe. One in university and one in diapers – neither sleeping through the night! Sigh.
So now that I’ve come to terms with the Kids Table and its place in my memory, it’s time to grow up. My sister has insisted of late that the Family Table be inclusive; we set one big table at which all will dine together. My sister-in-law as well sets one large table in her kitchen with the last-to-arrive relegated to the island stools close by. The clearing of the Kids’ Table and the setting of the Family Table could signify that we’ve grown so tired of each other and each others’ lives that we desperately need our kids to buffer our conversations. But no, I think we all feel a shift towards a greater degree of tolerance. I sense a growing acceptance for differing taste, differing ambitions, differing vacation destinations and certainly differing clothing styles and parenting styles – across the generations. I’ve noticed too at our large summer FamJam that all the kids and adults have our meals wherever, completely indifferent to the generations.
Easter 2011 was my first attempt with the Family Table. I added as many leaves as my dining room table could hold and added 2 more card tables to the end. The table extended into the otherwise little-used formal living room. Sixteen heads bowed to Give Thanks (well, 15 really … one drooled). The centrepiece was a little different – parts of it edible – but together. Wow. It was quite a site and I felt a surge of pride as I dug into my meal. No more Kids’ Table.
So, for the 3rd annual cousins’ cottage weekend this summer, we could potentially be 32 people at the Family Table. How many picnic tables do you figure will that take?