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.
I 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.