Who Should Take a Seat at the Kids’ Table This Holiday Season?

With the holidays hard upon us, I have to ask an important question: do kids’ tables still exist during festive occasions? In my childhood, they did. Of course with eight or ten kids at the party, parents found it much easier to isolate all of us at one central location rather than sprinkle us among the adults where we’d outnumber and outmaneuver them.

I believe I continued the tradition with my own family. I’d blame the small size of our early apartments rather than any conscious decision. We had to break into mini-groups. However in gatherings with my husband’s extended—and extended, and extended—family, the issue rarely surfaces. Every party is a buffet, and people hunker down wherever they can find a square foot.

Fast forward to the third generation. My sister tried to have a kids’ table several times. This has fallen by the wayside, perhaps because we both have opinionated, stubborn children who refuse to take orders, such as “Sit at the kids’ table.”

The grownups’ table used to represent status, a step forward from childhood to adult. I looked forward to my own transition. I remember one of my last Christmas family dinners with my aunt and uncle. My aunt broached the subject of seating oh-so-delicately . I believe I was about 16 or 17. She phrased her request so deftly, I thought she was telling me I’d be at the adults’ table. I believe she mentioned my increasing age and ability to take responsibility. You guessed it! This translated into yet another year at the kids’ table, ostensibly as the leader. I was not fooled.

Now people give good reasons for phasing out the kids’ tables, other than wanting more control over their offspring. Parents cite family togetherness, setting a good example about manners and conversation, encouraging intergenerational cross-fertilization of ideas. Regardless, in my corner of the world, fewer folks set up these enclaves. The one exception seems to be wedding parties. Maybe the per-person cost for meals is so extravagant, even parents aren’t willing to see good food thrown out in heaps.

I’m not enamored of kids’ tables. I can take ‘em or leave ‘em. I know sometimes children’s conversations and insights are hysterical and fascinating. In other instances, they are whiney, rude beyond words, and annoying. I have about a fifty-fifty chance of preferring any given adult table over kids’. I’m fortunate because I can exercise choice in the matter. Now that I’m legally of age (three times over) I could automatically be eligible for adults’. However, with my height, less than five-feet, I’m shorter than many preteens, so I still qualify to sit at any kids’ table in view.

How much is that doggie bag in the window, and does using it label me as cheap or old?

Is using zip-locked bags at restaurants a sign of growing old? i asked myself this the other day in a luncheon meeting attended in the main by seniors or mature adults as they’re now called by some. At the end of the meal, several opened their purses and pulled out their own plastic sacks for leftovers, and i recalled times I’d seen my older relatives do the same. Indeed, my father at about age 70 raided the centerpiece on the buffet line at a steakhouse, claiming, “Oh, they want you to take the whole fruits and vegetables.”

As a self-proclaimed environmentalist of many years standing, I’m torn by this action. What if they favor bringing their own containers? That’s more acceptable. Obviously tossing some Tupperware Is a greater emotional challenge than ridding yourself of a flimsy sack. Or is my problem the association of baggies with aging? i have sufficient signs of my status, what with my gray hair and creaking knees, shortened temper, and equally shortened height. I don’t need anyone, or myself, using my salvage of leftovers as an additional indicator of my status.

In most of this country, it’s acceptable to pack and remove remaining food from your restaurant meal. Not always the case over the globe. Appears that Europe is exempt from this habit in the main, while Asians cheerfully carry nibblies out. However there are exemptions even here. The idea of toting goodies after a private dinner is widely disputed in advice columns, and I don’t think it’s ever been resolved. Should you, as the hostess, offer leftovers to guests, particularly if they potlucked the original dish in? Or do you, as hostess, deserve all the leftovers because you took the time and trouble to organize the party?

From experience I can tell you salvaging food after an event is not necessarily a happy situation, regardless of the money you think you’re saving on your food budget. Ask my husband who suffered through approximately ten dinners of leftover turkey, starting with sandwiches through tetrazzini and on to several days of turkey soup disguised as stew, then stroop, finally thin soup.

Certainly guests should ask, or, better yet, wait for the hostess to offer before knocking others out of the way to secret the remaining prime desserts in your tote made of any kind of material. Do you want to save a few pennies and, at the same time, lose a friendship?

Then there are business functions. The best advice is never to save remnants from these functions. Makes you appear desperate and cheap, two conditions to avoid if you’re hoping to impress bosses or clients.

I’ve strayed far afield from my original hypothesis—that carrying zip-locked plastic bags marks you as aging. Maybe my sensitivity to the potential of personality characteristics to adversely set me apart from the general population is too great. I need to decide if my over-riding concern is money, environmentalism, or stereotypes. I’ll ponder that question while I snack on some cheese tidbits I rescued from yesterday’s meal out with neighbors.