The Kids Table

by Michelle Lasley

Michelle Lasley is a mother, wife in Pacific Northwest learning to balance green dreams with budget realities.

September 15, 2011

Levi's 4th Birthday

Growing up, there is a stage in your life, as a kid, that you are relegated to the kids table. At least in our American culture. It’s the table where the kids go because the big table for adults is full of adult conversation. Amidst an intergenerational experience, we segregate.

Tonight, Levi was relegated to the kids table. Granted, he was being a little on the loud side and a little distracting. The problem was that I was separated from him, could not whisper in his ear or move without being more distracting. This was brought up, that he was distracting, but a 20-something male colleague, recently married, with no kids. To his credit, he tried to be nice. He tried, very hard, to bring up a difficult situation in a kind matter.

I got pissed. I glared. Eyes imploring, “What exactly would you like me to do while I am boxed into this corner?” Thankfully, another offered a kindly, practical solution when Levi declined, in the stubborn four-year old way, the other solution proffered. Levi refused to sit at the kids table. Levi wanted to be a part of the adult conversation.

I know this colleague meant no ill will. The issue, though, highlights our society’s segregation. Growing up, all we want to do is grow up. We want so badly to be part of adult conversations and play at the big table. Adults, patiently, deal with our repetitive manners, and when they get a chance to be at the adult table and drink their wine, they take it. As an adult, now, I try to be patient with my loving, humorous, silly four-year old. But, sometimes, I just want my own adult table. (One friend is particular handy for this when she comes over and we drink, wine or the harder stuff, play cards, and swear like sailors.)

I stated at this meeting, beginning in November, my dear four-year old will be coming with me. Later, I commented, if the four-year old can’t go, then neither can I. A solution will be found, I am sure. The only workable solution is to make meetings more kid friendly. We struggle with this in our food club, all the time. 90%+ of our club is mothers. Mothers who often stay at home to take care of the young ones while the men folk go earn the money. We want to have adult conversations too. We want to be at the adult table, but the kids are being kids.Why do we insist on compartmentalizing when we know it doesn’t work?

Knowing, learning, realizing, that as adults we often try to do too much. We try to please everyone and then end up, as the adage instructs, pleasing no one. It seems we would be wise to take a cue from our kids and play. What would happen if we tried the meeting, as inconvenient and time-wasting as it feels, and just start playing when the kids do. My facilitation training has taught me that the human body, natural biorhythms, wants to move at about 90 minutes. When was Levi starting to act out and not play quietly? At the 90 minute mark. So, we punish him, relegate him to the kids table because his body told him to move. We always have a lot to cover, a lot to say, a lot to think about. It seems that if we got loud when the kids did, we could all then get quiet and get to work.

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