Seat Wars

by admin on November 16, 2010

It’s that time of the year when Thanksgiving Day kicks off the start of the Holiday Dining Seating Wars.  Who gets to sit where?  Readers, how does your family handle seating large numbers for the meal?

I humbly submit this story about my stepmother (let’s call her Jane). Jane and my father married when I was a pre-teen and she has always treated me OK, but she always treated her own two children as a better than my sister or myself. When I was younger I took great offense to this and it hurt me deeply, it bothered my sister to the point that she stopped visiting my dad and stepmom.  (My sister lived with my mother and I lived with my father and stepmother). Now that I am older myself and have a child of my own I can kind of understand why Jane held her own children in higher esteem, I am not saying she was right to act as she did, but I understand it.

Flash forward to this past Father’s Day, my stepmother calls and invites myself and my girlfriend , my sister,  my two step siblings, the father of my stepmother’s deceased 1st husband, and my stepmother’s mother to dinner to celebrate Father’s Day with them. I accept the invitation and am looking forward to the evening.

When the day arrives we get there and my dad and stepmother make a big production about giving my stepbrother who has one child and another on the way a Father’s Day present, even so much as indicating that the present was enough cash for my stepbrother to buy a certain power tool he’d been lusting after. Now I thought it odd that they deliberately gave him a gift for Father’s Day in front of me but didn’t even have a card for me, after all I was a father too, but it didn’t bother me that much really, I chalked it up to him having a child on the way. I had brought a gift for my father and gave it to him, and a card for my stepbrother as well.

When it came time for dinner, served buffet style we began getting our food when Jane told us that there were not quite enough seats at the dining room table. This was the norm at her house, for some reason she never has quite enough seating and what usually happens is that my parents’ generation and their parents ate at the dining room table and my generation, and our children ate in the basement.  However this time was different, it wasn’t the entire family (I have a large extended family), and I knew that at Christmas and Thanksgiving there were frequently more people at the table then were at this gathering. Jane had put out enough seats for everyone but three.   My stepbrother, father and stepgrandfather (is that the right term?) were given priority seating, and my sister, myself and my girlfriend were basically given the cold shoulder and told there was room on the back deck or in the basement. My stepsister opted not to sit at the table and join us on the back deck, decent of her and quite frankly shocking considering my sister and she do not get along in any way shape or form.

I can’t help feeling hurt by this deliberate snub on the part of my stepmother, she could easily have rearranged the seating so that three more people could have sat at the table, or at least brought another table in to fit more people in, after all there was a table with chairs not being used in the kitchen. I haven’t confronted them about the issue, but I have decided that I won’t be visiting them often for family gatherings, the dining in separate rooms always struck me as odd, but this time she went too far and deliberately alienated my sister, myself and my girlfriend.   1110-10

{ 105 comments… read them below or add one }

Wink-n-Smile November 16, 2010 at 3:06 pm

In answer to the question about the rule of not inviting more people than you can accomodate at the dinner table, my feeling is that rule is in force for a dinner party, where you invite friends. A family gathering, on the other hand, is a completely different thing.

Let’s say you can accomodate 10 people at the dinner table, if you squeeze in really tightly, but you can’t accomodate 11 without people eating each other’s food by accident, since the dishes are that close. Let’s say that’s worked for the last several years, but now your brother has married a widow with five children.

Do you invite the brother and not the wife and kids? Absolutely not. They are a social unit, and part of the family now, due to the marriage.

Do you fail to invite the brother and his wife and kids? Absolutely not. Just because he married a woman with children, and you can’t fit them all at the dinner table doesn’t mean he’s not your brother, any more.

Do you keep brother and wife and kids, and cull out six other family members? WHO?

It’s like the rule about inviting your favorite cousin to your wedding. If you invite one cousin, you have to invite them all, to the same level of connectivity. If Cousin George (whom you love and want there) is a first cousin, you have to invite all the first cousins, including Cousin Burpy and Cousin Tourette’s. If Cousin George is a second cousin once removed, you have to invite even more.

Family trumps the rule about how many you can accomodate. When it comes to family, you manage to accomodate them all, even if your only option is to have a Thanksgiving picnic on blankets in the park. And you treat ALL family members with the same courtesy and respect (yes, even Cousin Burpy), and they get equal seating. You can make allowances for the old or feeble, and give them the most comfortable seating. You can bring chairs specially for Grandma, with her arthritis, and Aunt Agnes, who has hip trouble, while everone else has to make do on the floor.

If you have a particularly messy child, or adult who is just plain that uncoordinated, you might want to set up a table in the kitchen, with the easily-cleaned floor. But in that case, you do not “relegate” only the messy person to the kitchen. You set up a table and put several people in there, who get along well with each other and can enjoy the fun of letting loose a little. If there’s a food fight, the ones who made the mess clean it up, but it’s all good fun, and no one feels like they were sent to the corner because they didn’t measure up.

The kids’ table is a good thing, if you either have a hard-and-fast rule and stick to it, or else you are fair about who sits there and who sits with the adults. 12 and up with adults? Fine. Or else have the kids’ table and let it be a matter of choice, whether they want to sit at the informal kids’ table, or sit at the formal adult table. If they’re at the adult table, they must behave appropriately. The kids’ table includes toddlers in high chairs, and high spirits, and is bound to be more informal, no matter what the rules, so you might as well incorporate that informality in the rules.

The main point is that fairness is VITAL to family happiness, and that fairness trumps the rule about how many you can accomodate vs. how many you invite.

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PrincessSimmi November 16, 2010 at 3:21 pm

@Essie:

Thank you for bringing that to my attention, I was tired and worded it badly-

What I meant was I can understand why Grandma would sit in the house as she is elderly and doesn’t enjoy the heat, but my Aunt deliberately sits her part of the family inside with Grandma and fails to give the rest of us who don’t see her as often the opportunity to sit with her and catch up. I meant that as my Aunt creates a sort of ‘class system’ with half the family inside and half ousted she effectively stops Grandma’s three other children and their families from visiting with her. In no way did I mean to leave Grandma inside alone!

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Gloria Shiner November 16, 2010 at 3:28 pm

I’m with Sami Hami: the best time to deal with a problem is right when it happens.

When we have family holiday get-togethers, it’s buffet style and we all sit wherever there is a seat or floor space. There just isn’t room at the table, and the dining area isn’t big enough to put the leaves in the table. Usually the oldest – great grandma or grandma – and the youngest sit at the table. The rest of us range through the living room, and some even prefer the kitchen floor.

At my niece’s wedding, my husband and I were relegated to a table by ourselves on the other side of the dance floor from the wedding party and family and friends, and behind a potted plant. We chose to sit with other family on the “wrong” side of the dance floor. My husband hasn’t forgotten that and several other ways we’ve been shown we aren’t important, and no longer attends family functions with that particular subset of family.

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Wink-n-Smile November 16, 2010 at 3:28 pm

My family has usually had small homes, yet been very inclusive in our gatherings. I LOVE my family gatherings, although they are not formal. We don’t have room to be formal, but we have a lot of fun. And we’ll invite people to join us, if they are not averse to the informality.

By informality, yes, I also mean the occassional big mess. Some of us simply cannot eat neatly. It’s a physical issue, a known fact, and we have learned to plan for it. But we do not look down on the sloppy eaters. It’s not that they’re purposely messy. They’re just hopeless uncoordinated, for whatever reason.

I’m not, however, actively advocating food fights. If they break out, laugh and smile and let the fighters clean up their own mess. But no, please don’t think I’m actually advocating for food fights at Thanksgiving dinner, even at the kids’ table. When the toddler starts throwing his sausage in your hair, you should tell him to stop. If he just won’t stop, and he’s not YOUR child to discipline, well, sometimes things do get out of hand. The most important thing there, though, is to show the love and hug and smile when the food stops flying. The toddler won’t have learned that he shouldn’t throw his sausage in your hair. He’ll probably be delighted with the mashed potatoes you so delicately deposited in his own hair. He will, however, learn that you love him. And afterwards, he’ll learn that messes have to be cleaned up, as he “helps” by waving a damp cloth around, in the direction of a mess on the floor. These are the lessons we want him to keep as he grows up.

The lesson the OP’s father and stepmother taught is that he is NOT loved, thath fairness is for saps, and apologies are not necessary from parents to children. These are not hte lessons I want any member of my own family to ever have to learn. I’d rather they learned how to make a trebuchet with a spoon and a napkin ring.

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Kat November 16, 2010 at 3:39 pm

I agree with Bint. It’s a host’s responsibility to accommodate all her guests. Sending them to the basement or the back deck to eat is something I wouldn’t do to my dog. Maybe the OP should host the next event and show Jane how to do it right.

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--E November 16, 2010 at 3:41 pm

OP, my paranoid mind wonders exactly what sort of wedge your stepmom is trying to shove between you and your father. Refusing invitations to future gatherings might be exactly what she wants you to do.

Your father’s obliviousness (or failure to man up and support his children) is alarming. You need to have a talk with your father, without your stepmother present. You might want to do it in the formality of a family therapist’s office. It sounds as if there’s a lot more going on here than simply a wicked stepmother.

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Daisy November 16, 2010 at 3:42 pm

Bad stepmother! My dining room table seats ten. When I invite more people than that for a holiday meal, I budget for and rent the appropriate number of banquet tables and chairs, (seldon more that $40) which I set up all together in the living room. So what if furniture needs to be rearranged? The point of a large family gathering is the “gathering” part. If we didn’t all eat together, we’d lose the most important part of the holiday: the shared memories and the joy of being together.

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8daysaweek November 16, 2010 at 4:03 pm

I too had a stepmother much like the one in the post. And you know what? We don’t talk to my dad much anymore. At all. He’s seen his granddaughter twice in the 7 months of her life – and he lives close enough to visit more often. The door is open to him, he just chooses not to use it.
When we were young, we were just too young and scared to point out how poorly we were treated and I imagine OP was the same way. I often wonder now if I should say something to my father and maybe he would understand why our relationship is so strained. But when he and my stepmother separated last year, he text messaged my sister (while drunk) that he had screwed up with us. But as soon as they got back together, he never looked back. He clearly knows why he lost his daughters.
Now that I have a daughter though, I’m even more determined not to be around stepmother – because I refuse to allow my daughter to be treated poorly by her, the way I was. I hope OP takes the same steps to protect his child from what is sure to be a hurtful relationship with his grandfather and step-grandmother.

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Maitri November 16, 2010 at 4:48 pm

My aunt always hosts Thanksgiving and she makes it obvious that HER family takes priority. Her mom and sister are always in the kitchen helping out and none of us on my uncle’s side are allowed to help or bring anything meaningful. I always seem to get the veggies & dip assignment (when I was in college, it was a 2 liter of pop or take-n-bake rolls – I CAN cook, lady!). It used to bother me but now I just laugh about it.

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chechina November 16, 2010 at 4:49 pm

OP,

I think you, your girlfriend and your sister should discuss holding holiday gatherings at your places (you and your sister trading hosting duties). Invite your dad, your dad’s wife and you stepsiblings and have either buffet style or room for everyone. If they decline to come, that is their choice… and less work for you to do! But always invite them, every holiday, every time. You should keep the branch extended, but you do not deserve this treatment.

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Maitri November 16, 2010 at 4:50 pm

“One more thing though, why would the Stepmom give her son a gift? He isn’t her father – I don’t get it. In my family – you give your own father, stepfather, grandfather a gift – not just any father even if it is your son or brother.”

I agree. I also find it odd that people give cards or gifts for anniversaries to people other than their spouse and/or parents. My best friend got upset years ago when I didn’t give her a card for her first wedding anniversary – I hadn’t even been at the wedding. In my family we just don’t do that. Your anniversary is yours to celebrate, not anyone else’s to remember.

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Chocobo November 16, 2010 at 5:04 pm

If we ever had an event that was too big for the dining room table, even with the extended card table and folding chairs, the party always switched to buffet-style, with no arranged seats anywhere. The dining room table became the buffet and the house became the dining area, basically wherever there was a couch or a chair. But those were big parties. I don’t understand why you would try to have a plated dinner for people when you can’t all be in the same room, or at least in visibly adjoining rooms. What’s the point? Then you don’t get to spend any time with the crowd that ends up in the basement.

@Lynne: I think the “kids table” that people are talking about is when the party gets too big and you have to separate out the group. At least, that’s what it was for us. Notice that most people here are talking about “my cousins and I at the kids table…” that implies to me that there was a bigger party where there are too many people to fit at one table, and it makes sense to bunch the children together because they will enjoy each other’s company in such a large group.

I agree that there shouldn’t always be a kids table when you have enough room to fit everyone at the same table — I’ve seen that happen when there is plenty of room for the children, and it bothers me a little, really. There’s no reason why kids shouldn’t sit with the adults: like you said, it makes you more well-adjusted for polite conversation with all types of people.

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WrenskiBaby November 16, 2010 at 5:10 pm

My sisters and I were treated this way by our stepmother when we visited her and our father, which was very infrequent because they lived far away, we were in high school and had to drive hours to see them, we had to scrounge for gas money and frankly, we weren’t invited very often. Our dad didn’t notice how our stepmom treated us at all. It was because he was a weak person, our stepmother completely dominated him, and he obviously liked it that way. She treated him well and he was happy with his new family, so we tried to stay in touch but eventually just let him and his new family drift out of our lives as we got older and he made virtually no effort to be in our lives. I tell of this situation because many posters have wondered how or why the father in the OP’s story could let this happen. It’s for the same reason that some parents don’t discipline their kids in restaurants: it’s the easy thing to do.

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gramma dishes November 16, 2010 at 5:23 pm

For those who think perhaps the seating slight may have been ‘accidental’, keep in mind that there was a Father’s Day gift given to the stepmother’s son with much elaborate fanfare. I think that is almost worse than being told “You all go eat out on the deck or down in the basement”.
Kudos to the step sister though! I’d be inviting her to my own house in the very near future as an unspoken ‘thank you for comprehending what’s going on here and actually doing something about it’. I wouldn’t mention the incident. I think she’ll know.

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Cooler Becky November 16, 2010 at 8:43 pm

In my family, there are so many people in it that we all start seated at the dining table, loading up with food from the dishes there, but eventually spread out over the entire house! XD

Seats at the dining table are very limited. I don’t think that anyone occupies any one seat for more than 15 minutes before moving to the living room, or the mahjong tables (if seats are available – you’re required to play and eat at the same time if you wanna sit there) or the chess table. It makes for a much more festive atmosphere.

It’s also very noisy. But the family has over 30 people in it. Maybe more. And kids.

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jenna November 16, 2010 at 9:10 pm

I am also curious at all the praise for the children’s table.

It has its merits, to be sure – especially at a wedding or large function where a hired sitter/minder can sit with the kids and the parents can have fun with other adults (I almost wrote “adult fun” – haha. Oops.) It’s also a good way to more reasonably accommodate more people than can fit at one table.

However, I wrote about my painful “children’s table” experience above and I stand by them as a risky venture.

Adults, especially grandparents, have a tendency to lump by generation of birth rather than actual age – as in, if you are a grandchild you are a “child” regardless of how old you actually are. In my family, I’m by far the oldest grandchild (the next youngest is my sister, six years my junior. When one is in college, this difference is quite big). Every other cousin/grandchild is drastically younger. This is because my mom is the oldest of a large brood and had me when she was younger than any of her siblings were when they had kids. I’m now 30 and my youngest *first* cousin is 3!

I am closer in age to my more distant cousins – relatives born in my mom’s “generation” but to my grandfather’s younger brother, and even to my youngest uncle who is ten years my senior.

So when I was in high school and college, I was the ONLY ONE in high school and college. The adults were, well, adults. The kids were truly little kids, and I was stuck in the middle as a teen and early twenty-something. When the holidays rolled around, guess who still got seated with the 6-year olds? Yep – me! I was still a “grandchild”, and therefore a “child”, you see.

It took me eight hours to get home from college to attend these dinners…and wasn’t a cheap endeavor. So I just stopped going.

As a result of this experience, I will never, ever have a kid’s table. They make me shudder a little inside. I’d rather seat the entire family in scattered chairs than have a kid’s table so the adults could sit together. I really, truly dislike children’s tables, from the bottom of my bad-family-holidays heart. I don’t hate them so much that I need therapy, but they are blacklisted in my life.

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The Cat Whisperer November 16, 2010 at 11:47 pm

If I were OP, next time I was invited to a family gathering, I’d bring my own folding card-table and some extra folding chairs, and when I arrived I’d pull them out of the car and announce at the top of my voice that since there had been a problem with seating at the last gathering, I’d brought an additional table and some chairs so everyone could be accomodated.

Sheesh. There are plenty of places that rent extra-long tables and folding chairs, and if you’re a host/hostess and your own furniture doesn’t accomodate all your guests, then you go to one of these places and you rent whatever you have to. There is no excuse for the way OP and other family members were treated. (If stepmom claims poverty and inability to pay for rental of necessary table/chairs, then suggest everyone pitch in; or borrow from other members of the family, or see if there’s a church or other organization that someone in the family belongs to that will loan tables/chairs.)

There is no excuse for this kind of shabby treatment. It is not acceptable and IMO someone needs to confront stepmom about it.

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The Cat Whisperer November 16, 2010 at 11:55 pm

Jenna, I’m with you 1000% about the kid’s table. My own horror story:

I graduated from high school at 16, the same year my 18-year-old brother graduated from high school. Big brother and I were both off to college after graduation.

We had family over for Thanksgiving, and big brother got to sit at the grownup table. I had to sit at the table with my cousins, all of whom were still in elementary school. I asked my mom why, since I was mature enough to go off to college, I was not mature enough to sit at the table with the grown-ups. She was flustered and couldn’t come up with a good reason.

One thing education does, it teaches you to read the writing on the wall. I quit coming home for Thanksgiving after that.

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Linnie November 17, 2010 at 12:19 am

In my family the seating is relatively simple. There’s usually two tables, one is for the children/teens and another for the adults. There usually isn’t problems, honestly no one really cares where they sit.
We all pray, eat, and make fun of each other. That’s how it’s always been and probably how it always will be.

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Jillybean November 17, 2010 at 12:28 am

@jenna – that is lousy, and I agree that I would have been offended by that as well. I never experienced “kid’s table” that was. In fact, as we added kids we added tables, so at various points there were “teen tables” and “kid’s tables” – of course, I had 4 siblings, 10 aunts/uncles, and 25 first cousins. Add in my parents, and grandparents and we’re looking at 43 people of various ages all in one place when people showed up. Short of renting a banquet hall, no way everyone was sharing a table. Additionally, the little ones were usually seated at one of those small kid sized tables which was more comfortable for them, and not likely to accommodate even the most good natured adult. I guess it all boils down to experience. But done right, it does work. But like I said, our extra tables were always in the same sight line/noise zone as the others. No one was ever in a basement or on a porch.

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Stepmonster November 17, 2010 at 12:30 am

I have had the unique position of being a step mom (now divorced) and now dating a man with younger children than my own. I have dealt with a grand total of 2 ex husbands, 3 ex wives, and currently the wife of my own ex. I can tell you this, there are 3 types of step moms.

One kind of step mom stresses out about making sure all kids are equal, and all families are loved ect, with the proper support from the other adults in the family all the holidays can be quite pleasant.

One kind of step mom tries and fails constantly, lack of patience, selfishness on her kids or her step kids parts, lack of support, you name it, she means well but is bad at it… and never gets any better because she is just sick of the whole thing. She made you the dinner you wanted, now it’s her kid’s turn to watch their shows, everyone is still unhappy.

The third kind of step mom is extremely eager to make sure that her children are loved and darn it, she will make sure everyone has their place… after all, don’t we all know that her darlings could be emotionally damaged by not getting their fair share?! (and possibly yours?)

If your step mom is number one… hug her. If she is number two, Hug her and maybe communicate more and try to give the woman a break, she is really exhausted with all the sibling rivalry. If she is number 3, send a nice card at Christmas and Birthdays and then invite your father out for coffee and to movies without her to work on your relationship.

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Sharon November 17, 2010 at 12:58 am

The father of the OP needs to step up.

Of course, we don’t know all the details, but it sees that the OP’s dad is the one that should make sure his kids get treated with respect and dignity if his wife won’t do it.

There is not one thing wrong with avoiding people who disrespect you. There are folks who are a lot more supportive and kind that one’s own parents many times.

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Simone November 17, 2010 at 1:18 am

So much has been said so well here that I will only add my agreement to those posters suggesting that you don’t attend anymore celebrations at their house BUT do invite them to yours. I don’t think they’ll come though.

And kudos to your step sister, and finally my sympathy for having such a passive aggressive witch in your life.

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Lynne November 17, 2010 at 1:50 am

@ Chocobo

Yeah, I understood that the separate table it was due to overflow — but I still personally don’t like age being the designator for dividing the tables up. Easy enough to make two mixed-aged tables, or scatter the arrangement in a different way, as Jenna suggested.

I can see from all the comments, though, that many of the other posters enjoyed their time at the “kid’s table.” I wouldn’t want to advocate the destruction of such warm, happy memories, but whoever mentioned having a 26 year-old boyfriend — and being at least 18 years old — you don’t enjoy the “adult” conversation? What exactly are you, if not an adult?

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Mother of a Bride November 17, 2010 at 7:31 am

About the “kids table”….I am 10 full years older than my only sibling. Guess who was a college student and STILL seated at the kids table? That’s right…me! Yeah it annoyed me a little bit, but my mom was clever. She said it was because I am so good with kids and that the little ones needed a chaperone and I was the only responsible “older kid” in the family. Whether that was true or not, she did make me feel my presense at that kid’s table was important. When I started having kids my sister was in the same boat sitting at the kids table and I gave her the same pep talk my mom had given me. Lo and behold….my “bonus baby” came 9 and 11 years after the first 2 so my older kids have been known to sit at the kid’s table. It’s not like the kids’ table is off in the basement somewhere, it’s in the same room as the adults. We always had one odd older person at the kid table because of the long stretches between babies. Me to my sis, my sis to my daughters, my daughters to my son and my sister’s kids (all around my son’s age) and with my oldest getting married I will bet my son ends up being a teenager sitting with her little ones if the seating is crowded. The only difference is he will probably request payment for his babysitting services. I try not to dwell on being annoyed that I was seated with the kids when I was clearly an adult…I see that all the younger ones have had their turn in that awkward spot between kid and married adult and the meal usually doesn’t last that long anyway…it’s the rest of the activities that day that are where the fun is at. The cooking, the cleaning, the visiting with each other–30 minutes at the kids table isn’t that traumatizing.

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jenna November 17, 2010 at 8:34 am

@Jillybean – I agree children’s tables can be fine if there are lots of kids at about the same age…but when you start to get one or two teens and then kids and adults, those teens can end up with some unhappy holiday tales (I mean more so than usual). :) If a family is like mine where one “kid” is significantly older than the others, the ONLY way to make a kids’ table work is to NOT seat that slightly older kid at the kids’ table.

For those just-now-adult children, being in the sight and noise line of the main table is not enough; if they don’t get to participate in adult discussions (as a college student or even high schooler would want to) and instead get to watch 4-year olds flick beans at each other (or worse, have to stop 4-year olds from doing same), it’s still a situation ripe for hurt feelings. Nothing is less fun (or more disheartening) for a college student who spent 6 hours on a bus to be with her family than to watch bean-flicking when she wants to actually visit relatives that she can converse with beyond “Do you like cheese, Jimmy? I like cheese too!”

@Mother of a Bride – yeah, my mother tried that on me too, but I didn’t swallow the bait. She was clearly covering for Grandma’s bad assumption, and rather than help me deal with Grandma she chose to try and brainwash me into believing it was important for me to be there. I am also good with kids but regardless, don’t like them much, and I wondered “why would they try and stick me on babysitting duty knowing that I, as a brand-new young adult, would be the most sensitive regarding sitting at the adult table. I felt it was an attempt at tricking me into accepting my fate, and I’ve never taken kindly to that…even now.

So, as useful as they can be, I will never have a children’s table at any event I host in the future.

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Margaret November 17, 2010 at 10:09 am

I think the kids’ table debate is pretty funny, because in my family, you were just grateful for ANY chair at all! There was no age thing, though — if you got a good spot, it was yours, although EVERYONE would have been expected to give up a seat to an elderly family member. Most of the kids wanted to go down to the basement anyway, though. On the very rare occasion that someone had a kids’ table, it was LITERALLY a child sized table with child sized chairs, and only the littlest kids could sit there anyway.

I agree with the poster who said that they would have made a comment to the effect that they were sorry, they hadn’t meant to put the hostess out by staying for supper when they weren’t invited and then gone for dinner someplace else.

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Raven November 17, 2010 at 10:11 am

I sat at the kids’ table for a long time … loooooooong time. In fact, sometimes I still end up there, depending on who else is sitting where else, who I haven’t seen for a while, etc.

Some of you make the kids’ table sound like Siberia. It’s not a work camp, it’s not a punishment – for me, as a kid, it was HEAVEN. Why sit at the boring “old people” table, when you can sit at the kids’ table and laugh, have fun, and be silly? I loved sitting at the kids’ table when I was a child. And now, as an adult (28 years old), there are times I still choose to sit at the kids’ table, just to enjoy the break from the typical work-relationships-economy-achy joints conversations the adults’ table usually offers.

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Raven November 17, 2010 at 10:14 am

Oh – I should add… with my family, between courses, or between dessert and presents (depending on the reason for the gathering) everyone usually ends up moving around and switching to other seats anyway. Not as an organized “move two seats to your left,” but just as conversations cross tables and engage people.

Returning to the OP though, deliberate family snubs are unkind and shouldn’t be tolerated. It’s unfortunate that some people cannot include other people; some people are just less kind than others, I suppose. The Fathers’ Day card thing, for example, screams SNUB as far as I’m concerned. Truthfully, you do have a choice: you can continue to socialize with them, and grin and bear it, or you can say no thank you, and arrange to see other family members on your own terms. (It’s hard for them to snub you if you’re not there.)

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Mother of a Bride November 17, 2010 at 11:34 am

@ Jenna–I can understand how that made you feel. I had the same feelings too, but rather than continue being angry about it I took my mother’s “silver lining” and focused on that. Like I said, we weren’t shoved off in some other room, we were generally within feet of each other. I went on to work with kids as my profession, so maybe I wasn’t as bothered by it as others would be. Like Raven said…sometimes I still end up at the kids’ table. Whether it’s because we ran out of seats, or because my son is the only kid at the kid table or my sister’s kids need more guidance than she’s willing to offer…sometimes sitting with the little ones provides me with ample entertainment. Generally when the kids table it brought out in my family is at very large family gatherings like reunions, funerals, some holidays, etc. The event is far from formal.

@ Raven–I absolutely agree the OP was snubbed by the stepmother and his own father as well. It’s true if you don’t put yourself in their presense, you can’t be snubbed by them.

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Jillybean November 17, 2010 at 11:36 am

@Jenna – lol, I do like cheese, but yeah, I see your point, not going to spend much time discussing that with young Jimmy, as he likely means Kraft Singles, and I mean a nice baked brie with fruits and nuts. By the by – we only ever had a kids table at my grandparents, when Thanksgiving was hosted at my parents house, everyone was at one giant long (banquet like) table, squished to the nines. But then, my parents has a long, narrow kitchen, and my grandparents had a small square kitchen. Of course, if I had Thanksgiving at my house, the only place we could set up where people could all eat together would be the hallway, and then you wouldn’t be able to get anywhere else in the house. LOL.

@Lynne – I’m always fascinated by the term “adult” being applied to an 18 year old. Don’t get me wrong, but it seems like we live really long lives, and 18 years just isn’t that much of it. It’s like we are infants for 1 year, toddlers for about 3, children for 8, teens for 5 and then PRESTO we are adults for the next 67 years (I’m using 85 as an average life span). Really? Just – boom – adults! It has always struck me as a weird concept as if there is no growth and development after that, no more stages to go through. I’d say perhaps, young adult, but I’m not convinced that 18 is a full fledged adult (particularly since much of science shows that full reasoning capability does not develop until in and around age 25).

But don’t misunderstand, I’m not suggesting that an 18 year old college student, or for that matter, a 16 year old high school student, be seated at a table with the 5-12 crowd or the toddler set.

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Asharah November 17, 2010 at 1:58 pm

We’ve got two tables for holidays. Dining room table seats 10 with leaf in. Fold-up table put up in living room seats 8. You get your food from the buffet and have a seat whereever you want, first come, first serve.

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OP November 17, 2010 at 2:11 pm

Thanks for all the feedback. I tend to believe my step sister had other reasons for not sitting at the table, she’s not normally the noble type, but yes it was pretty good of her to come join us.

My stepmother is not a bad lady, and I have no doubt she has genuine feelings of love for both my sister and myself, its just we don’t rank as high as many others that are here “actual family”. It sounds odd, but it is true.

For those of you that said the present was more of a snub, well that didn’t bother me at all, I knew it was an etiquette faux pas, but in my mind the banishing to the basement or deck was the bigger deal, and yes it did hurt me more. As for those wondering about the giving of presents at all to those who are not directly your father on fathers day, that is how that side of the family operates, not sure why, but often on fathers day any male with a child got a fathers day present.

@Stepmonster She is the third type, without a doubt. My step father (both my parents remarried) is a wonderful man who always says he has no step children, just children. Due to some odd fluke all my parents have two biological children one male and one female (so I have five siblings total, one biological sister, two step sisters, and two step brothers), so both families are exactly the same in that regard, but the attitudes of the stepparentals are so very different.

@Maitri – I also get the cooking snub at all family functions. Everyone that is even slightly pot luck I get stuck bringing the bread or pop, and I too can cook. Last Christmas my stepbrother was going to host and I had arranged for my girlfriend and I to bring some cookie trays, well my step mother ended up hosting the party and, even though I had prearranged the cookie trays we got told that no we should bring a veggie tray instead. We had four kinds of home made fudge and god only knows how many different cookies, as well as home made fruit cake all made up. Luckily it wasn’t just for that party but my girlfriend always bakes tons. We were thinking of bringing the cookies anyways but we figure why bring something so yummy to people who obviously don’t appreciate the work that went into it, my mom’s Christmas shindig got extra cookies :D

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Alissa November 17, 2010 at 3:04 pm

I must admit that I’m a little surprised to hear that some people felt so hurt to be sitting at the “kid’s table” at family gatherings. I was always the oldest child of my generati0n (granted, the next oldest was only 3 years behind me, the youngest is closer to 10 years younger) but we all always loved sitting at the kid’s table where it was much less formal, and I credit the “kid’s table” as being one of the reasons why we are still all very close as adults.

I do remember joking with my relatives about them making me sit at the kids table as I got older, about how the bar kept moving out on the qualifications to sit at the adult table. When we were all under 18, they used to say that everyone under 18 had to sit at the kid’s table. When I turned 18, they joked that anyone unmarried had to sit at the kid’s table, and when I got married, they joked that anyone without kids had to sit at the kid’s table. I haven’t had an occasion to enjoy a family dinner since having my son, but I’m sure that I’d still be at the kid’s table even now. And the thing of it is, there is no place I would rather be than eating Thanksgiving with my brother and my cousins, like always. I guess I just can’t relate to feeling hurt or excluded simply because the older generation still thinks of the younger generation as “kids”.

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tscd November 17, 2010 at 7:11 pm

To all the people who complain about being stuck at the kid’s table: My family has a ‘kids’ table when we go out for extended family dinners. It’s a big family with over 30 people, so we usually take up at least 2 big round tables in a chinese restaurant. As the eldest cousin, I was asked to join to the ‘adults’ table when I turned 12.

Since then, none of my other cousins have ever been ‘promoted’ to the adults table.

I’m now 31 and…I WANT TO SIT AT THE FUN TABLE!!!!!

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Miss Raven November 18, 2010 at 2:45 am

Bad experiences at the kids table over here. I don’t have a huge family, and my cousins and brother and I are fairly close in age (a span of 5 years or so) but I’m the oldest. The issue is, as some have stated, classing by generation rather than by any other criteria.

I was a precocious kid, very serious, and in a big hurry to grow up. My cousins and I had a lot of differences (mainly in the areas/ways we were brought up) and they grated on me. They were shallow, materialistic, and spoiled, and their friends were the same way. The issue was that at holiday dinners which were always at my aunt’s home, a few of their various friends (and their parents) were often included, leaving my brother and I very much on the outside. For my brother, usually one of the friends was cute enough to hold his interest, but I spent much of the time just wanting to crawl under the sofa and die.

On the contrary, I was (and still am) extremely close with all my older relatives — parents, aunts, uncles, my parents’ first cousins, etc. I loathed being stuck with kids I had nothing in common with, silently picking at my food while they squealed about mutual friends I didn’t know and Limited Too and NSYNC. Only 3 – 5 years between us but it felt like decades. I protested frequently to my Mom but was typically told in that quiet, scary, angry way to stop being a pain and just eat. It went on until I left high school.

My cousins and I are closer now that we’re older, but it’s almost certainly in spite of the kids’ table rather than because of it. I feel like my aunt set it up because it was just the easy thing to do and what she was used to, but my childhood holiday memories are pretty much all bitter ones.

No kids’ tables in my home. No sir.

/end derail

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jenna November 18, 2010 at 4:41 am

Alissa – that’s because the next youngest is only 3 years younger than you.

In my case, the next youngest was 6 years my junior – and that was my sister who I saw often enough at home. After that, it was quite literally me, the legally-an-adult “kid”, and a bunch of 8-to-10 year olds.

I am sorry you can’t imagine that someone would feel hurt and excluded when stuck at the kids’ table, but surely you can recognize that people have experiences that are different from your own, yet no less valid? Just because you had a good time with relatives near your own age at the “kids’ table” doesn’t mean we all did. I would have been fine had it actually been relatives my own age – but when it was one college student and a bunch of elementary schoolers…it’s just different. It’s not that hard to understand!

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jenna November 18, 2010 at 4:46 am

@Mother of a Bride – I think the difference is that I am very pragmatic, not silver-lining-oriented: I mean, if the silver lining is real, I’ll be optimistic, but if I feel like it’s offered up as an attempt to get me to agree to something I won’t like, I just don’t bite. It’s part of my nature.

Also, I deliberately left a career path that would have had me working with kids (teaching) to focus on one that centered on adults (corporate training). I just don’t like kids that much…so yeah. It didn’t work on me. Being within feet of other adults wasn’t enough when I couldn’t participate in their conversations.

I’m not actually angry about it anymore, but it’s something I’ve never forgotten. It’s not like I estranged myself with family over it, but it would be absolutely true to say that in the years since, I have rarely come home for Thanksgiving, or deliberately picked years to come home that would ensure that I could sit at the adults’ table, or were with the other side of the family. I still see/saw them all often – I would visit on non-holiday weekends – I just removed myself from that particular bad situation by choosing my visiting times carefully.

Now that I live abroad, I never go home for Thanksgiving because I can’t. This fills me with sadness at Christmas, but oddly never bothered me at Thanksgiving. My husband and our mutual friends go out for Beijing Duck and call it good!

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jenna November 18, 2010 at 4:53 am

@ Raven – again, the difference is that if it’s all kids, it’s all good. If there isn’t much difference, or only a few years, between the ages of the “kids” then that makes all the difference.

If you are an adult (I was 19 at the time, I think), and everyone else is actually a kid (like, 8 years old), then it IS Siberia. It IS work camp, because I had to babysit rather than enjoy my meal (I just don’t like kids much. End of.) I wanted to be at the “Boring Adult Table” because I was beginning to feel like an adult* who was able to converse with adults. I trucked home on a bus to see those adults. I did, in fact, feel punished for no reason at all.

*even if I really wasn’t one yet, developmentally. Intellectually I could hold my own with adults, but maturity wise, at 19 I had a lot of growing up to do. I feel I turned into a real adult at around the age of 25. That said, at 19, I was still far older than the kids at the “kids’ table” and it absolutely was torture for someone who doesn’t really like kids.

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--E November 18, 2010 at 10:26 am

When I was young we, too, had a “kids table,” but I loved it.

I’m sure it helped that the four oldest grandkids were born within 5 years of each other. More than that, our table was in another room from the parents and grandparents, so it was like we were having our own private party. We were happy to have our own world, without parental harassment.

Of course, as each of us turned 18, we demanded a spot at the adults’ table–and were granted it.

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Mother of a Bride November 18, 2010 at 4:40 pm

@OP You mention the food snub and it occurs to me that perhaps your step-mother is jealous of yours or your girlfriend’s cooking/baking ability? My MIL had always been the pie baker and after a few awkward family functions where my cakes, cookie or muffins were devoured and fawned over by HER relatives I realized why she always told me not to bring any food. It wasn’t because she had it covered (because she often didn’t….she’s a very unorganized cook and party planner…dinner at 10PM is not unheard of!) it was because she was jealous of all the compliments I was getting. It took me quite a few years to realize that was likely the REAL reason she didn’t want me cooking. Also…when I host something at my house, even when I tell her the same “Oh no, you don’t need to bring anything at all, I have it covered, just bring yourself!” she still shows up with half a dinner cooked and ready to be served which I find highly insulting. Rather than continue being her doormat I have started saying “Oh, this wasn’t necessary, I already have dinner ready, but this will be nice tomorrow, thank you!” and I hide whatever it is in the fridge/freezer/back cupboard. (I have read that’s appropriate etiquette for those situations–hope I read right!) So, OP, consider she might request veggie trays because your cooking might be just good enough to warrant compliments that annoy her to hear.

Also, your sister in law might have gone with you, to eat, not because she’s noble, but because she was keeping an eye on you and making sure you didn’t say anything negative about being forced away from the regular dining table. Just a thought. As you can imagine, I have the inlaws from e-hell or is it just hell? I often have a different view on other people’s family dynamics because of being part of my husband’s family for so many years and being put through hell on earth by them.

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Mother of a Bride November 18, 2010 at 6:55 pm

Oops I meant step-sister not sister in law!

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Elizabeth Bunting November 18, 2010 at 8:18 pm

Just talking about MOB’s experience with husband’s family reminds me to always look at the jealousy factor in these experiences. I have trouble comprehending that someone would be so jealous of someone else’s expertise that he or she would go to the extreme of contributing an extra dinner in order to divert the attention of guests from your planned dinner. Who could be bothered?? Except that the Bible says that jealousy is as cruel as the grave.

Why would anyone want to be seen as jealous?? I have NO idea!!

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Mother of a Bride November 18, 2010 at 10:05 pm

@Elizabeth Bunting
The woman’s cruelty, jealousy and spitefulness could fill an entire website of it’s own! She has always been jealous and spiteful and a major control freak. Now that I tell myself she’s just jealous of my skills her comments (she’s always pretending to find a hair or some other issue with anything I cook) don’t bother me as much as they used to. I’ll never forget the look on her face when her brother in law followed me around a family picnic praising the cookies I had baked and begging me to promise I’d bring them every year.

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Elizabeth Bunting November 19, 2010 at 8:40 pm

Dear Mother of the Bride, I am so sorry that you have to put up with this individual. It is probably a good thing that you are thinking of the effect on your family rather than feeling hurt about her efforts to undermine you. Obviously, it is not working because other members of your family are very complimentary about your cooking. I don’t know why she can’t just have a nice time and forget about being so competitive and jealous of others.

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Stephanie November 20, 2010 at 1:09 pm

Our thanksgivings are much smaller now, only 9 family members plus a boyfriend or girlfriend here or there. We used to have at least 6 more, including my grandpa who sadly passed away, my great aunt and her daughter who have moved away, and my father and his parents who pretty much hate my family now since my parents split up. I was quite upset the year my older brother got to sit with the adults, but the next year, not only did I not get to sit with him at the adult table as I wanted, he was demoted back to the kids table, even though he was 21 and I was 18, because my aunt’s sister had come from back east and brought my cousins’ cousins, so not only did we have to sit with our cousins 10+ years younger than us, we effectively had to babysit their cousins, who were basically toddlers at the time. There was a bit of joking about how there was wine at the kids table, but at the time my feelings were genuinely hurt and while my mom did say she was sorry afterward, it seemed like no one really even missed us. Of course like I said since then thanksgivings have become quite a bit smaller and we all manage to fit around the one table, so it’s in the past, until of course my brothers and I start getting married and having kids.

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Mother of a Bride November 21, 2010 at 12:23 am

@ Elizabeth Bunting
Some people are so full of hate for the rest of the world they can’t see the joy around them. My MIL is one of those people. Some people die bitter and alone and I suspect that will happen to her if she doesn’t fix herself soon. It’s sad.

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Elizabeth Bunting November 21, 2010 at 1:52 pm

Dear Mother of the Bride: It is very sad that your MIL can’t just enjoy her life instead of hating the rest of the world. Now that the Christmas Season is almost upon us, I can feel all the excitement around me in the planning and looking forward to getting together with family and friends. I have met a few people like your MIL in my life. My mother’s aunt lived with us and she was always complaining firstly about Christmas – she didn’t agree with it, then what everybody wore, then what everybody cooked, the seating plan, who got the most turkey and whatever else crossed her very jaundiced eye. Nothing suited her! Sometimes I wonder if that is their enjoyment – complaining all the time.

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OP November 22, 2010 at 9:18 am

MOB: I’d say that jealousy might be a motive in her blocking us bringing food if she had EVER tasted anything we cooked, but the fact is she has been blocking since I moved out, so she has no idea how well or poor I cook. In fact at the last Christmas gathering my GF got to hear from all my siblings how I was a terrible cook, she sat there dumbfounded because she knew I could cook and that no one in the room had ever even bothered to eat anything I had cooked since I was about 10 years old. So it would appear that my Stepmom just has no faith in my ability to cook, and that’s why I am always relegated to bring the buns or chips or something equally boring. One year I did bring a chocolate cream pie and the only people who ate it were my daughter, myself and a cousin, everyone else avoided it.

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Alissa November 22, 2010 at 2:26 pm

@Jenna – Certainly, your experiences are your own and I can’t tell you how to feel about them. I just thought that in an open forum that it would be acceptable to comment that my own experience with a “kids” table is very different. *shrugs*

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