Thanksgiving: The Politics of the Little Table

Twins First Thanksgiving No Little Table That YearHow old were you when you graduated from the Thanksgiving kids’ table?

We celebrate Thanksgiving at my parents’ house, and, after two marriages into the family and the start of the next generation of children, we are even more likely to have a kids’ table now than when I was a child. My parents also invite my dad’s international graduate students to celebrate what is often their first American Thanksgiving (which in our house has a touch of South Asian spices). The grad students are all younger than I am, but, of course, they sit at the big table, sending me to the little table with my kids, who have been lobbying for the elimination of the separate table entirely.

The leader of the movement is one of my twins, M., who embraces whatever power a six minute age-difference gives her.  She argues that, because they will have a birthday soon, she and S. should be at the big table. Apparently, turning six is the new age of majority.

S. agrees, but wants their younger sister to join them, too. She says, “We can’t leave Z. at the little table.” After all, despite a three and half year age difference, Z. is almost their height.

Z., however, shakes her head vehemently. “No! I want the little table.” She emphasizes each word with an extended index finger in the air. I doubt she even remembers what the little table was like last year, but she is adamant about disagreeing with her sisters. That’s just what two-year-olds do.

“But,” I ask, “Isn’t the kids’ table fun? You get to hang out with your aunties.” My sisters are usually doomed to the little table, too.

“Yes,” M. replies, “but I want to be with everyone. Isn’t Thanksgiving about sharing?”

“Yes, but there might not be enough room at the big table.”

“Can’t we take turns sitting there?”

Like a game of musical chairs around the turkey?  “Not easily.”

“Can’t Mamana and Granddad get a bigger table?”

“Not in time for Thanksgiving.” It’s already a very long table.

“Oh. Okay.”

Fancy Nancy ThanksgivingI have silenced the opposition, for now, but I am still happy to have Fancy Nancy to shore up my side. As I’ve mentioned before, my girls identify with Nancy, their red-headed fictional friend, who, in Fancy Nancy: Our Thanksgiving Banquet, wants to sit at the big table just like two of my three kids do. We listened to the six minute audio book, a mode of experiencing the story that my children enjoyed more than I had expected.

In this story, Nancy feels entitled to a place at the big table because, in her opinion, she is so “mature,” which she defines as, “[a] fancy [word] for grown up.” She learns, however, that sitting at the kids’ table is actually more fun than sitting at the big table, and that, really, the most important part of the holiday is having the whole family together.

While I can see how Nancy’s initially bratty attitude in this story would annoy some parents, it does not bother me. Kids actually are brats sometimes (gasp!), and seeing this behavior in Fancy Nancy gives me an opportunity to discuss it with my children.

As for my children, if there’s room at the big table this year, then they will sit there. If not, they will accept their spots at the little table and focus on what this holiday is really about: sharing a meal with friends and family, giving to others, and feeling grateful for what they have.

This is my favorite holiday. Happy Thanksgiving!

*Image (top): My twins’ first Thanksgiving in 2008. There was no little table that year.

**Fancy Nancy: Our Thanksgiving Banquet is written by Jane O’Connor, and it is performed by Chloe Hennessee.

My sister saw this post and sent me a picture from last Thanksgiving!
My sister saw this post and sent me a picture from last Thanksgiving!

14 thoughts on “Thanksgiving: The Politics of the Little Table

    1. When I was younger, there usually weren’t enough children to have a separate table for us. So, most of my experiences at the kids’ table are from after I had already graduated from college.
      I hope you have a very lovely Thanksgiving!

  1. I never had to sit at the kid’s table, but did see it in action at the in-laws. The kids are unruly, but nothing compared to the adults. I actually dread going for the holidays because there is politics, religion and world news being discussed – and not in a civil manner. I imagine most families don’t have this dynamic. I know mine didn’t when I was a kid.

    1. Fancy Nancy notes the serious discussion at the big table as one of its drawbacks (she says adults always talk about the news!). It’s a little different at our house. We tend to agree on politics, religion, and other matters. So, the conversation never gets too heated.

      I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving, Donna!

  2. SF

    “Kids actually are brats sometimes (gasp!).” Indeed! Besides, it’s boring to read about goody two shoes all the time. Where’s the conflict?

  3. What an adorable picture and post! I think I was still sitting at the kids’ table until I was in college, heh. (If height was the determining factor, I’d still be there today.) I hope your family has a wonderful Thanksgiving at both the big table AND the little table!

  4. Thanks so much for sharing your Thanksgiving stories. I grew up without an extended family to celebrate with, and with 6 kids, our family table WAS the kids’ table! Now that I’m grown, my husband and one of his brothers often opt to join the kids’ table together–they have more fun as uncles than as sons, I guess. Sometimes Grampy sneaks over to join them, too…

    1. That’s a lot of cousins! My American cousins are all at least 10 years older than I am and never sat at the kids’ table. This year, my mother made a point to have everyone at the big table. My kids were so happy!
      Happy Thanksgiving!

  5. One of my close friends is half American, so she and her family celebrate Thanksgiving dinners: one for the British family (and anyone who would make it over from America) and one with us, the friends and friends’ parents, more special this year as her birthday was the day before. Thus, our ‘little table’ consisted of three 19-year-olds, a 18-year-old, a 16-year-old, and an 8-year-old!

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