Thursday, October 16, 2008

Quality Time: Blown Away By the Memory

I took my 4 year old out today to get some food for Shabbat and we ended up stuck in tons of traffic, both directions. And when we got to the store they were out of the product we came for, although a customer service agent did manage to find enough inventory to get me through this Shabbat. A trip that should have taken no more than one hour turned into a three hour tour.

While we were in line, a man from a nearby neighborhood wished us a chag sameach and I realized that we had met him two years prior at a shiva house and mentioned such. Somehow this short discussion leads my son to tell me he didn't like sitting at a "kids' table" at the shiva. I ask him "where was the kids' table?" wondering what exactly he was referring to since I don't recall ever being in a shiva house (and we were in this one for all of 5 minutes because I had ids in tow) with a kids' table.

He goes on to tell me the name of the family with the kids' table, the instruction from Mrs. K that all the kids should sit at the kids' table because there wasn't enough room, and how he ate a bowl of a very specific dish that I cooked for the sheva berachot which he liked very much. Sheva, shiva. . . . . . well 7 is 7.

This sheva berachot was almost exactly one year ago to the week. If I recall, the wedding took place shortly after Sukkot. I helped my friend, Mrs. K, cook for the sheva berachot and the dish I cooked was picked out by none other than my son. I probably would have cooked something different, but he insisted that this dish was so great and everyone would want it (how can you say no to that?).

But my point isn't to talk about what I cooked or a kid mistaking the mention of a shiva for a sheva berachot. I am writing about this incident because it literally blew me off of my feet. I am a strong believer that you need quantity time to create quality time and that you can't artificially create quality time. Tonight I was reminded of my own parenting theory went an event came up out of nowhere from one year ago.

For the next half hour we talked about how much he didn't like sitting away from Mommy and Daddy (as I recall he ended up on one of our laps shortly into the sheva berachot), how he only sat at the table because a Mommy told him to sit there, and how he doesn't want to sit away from us. Fortunately for him (and for us), we don't seem to frequent meals where children are removed from the table their parents are at . I don't look particularly favorably at making this a regular practice (nor does Mrs. K), perhaps because I have my own negative childhood memory of being pushed to the kids' table. After expressing that I was sad that he was hurt by the incident, I promised that we would do everything we could to make sure he is seated with us on the rare occasions we are invited out. I also mentioned the possibility that a kids' table could be something set up at a family affair. After getting last year's incident he seemed fine with joining his cousins at a kids' table if need be, so long as he can make kiddush for the girls. I had to laugh a bit at that.

Shabbat Shalom! I want to hear your own young children's random memories and where they came out of. I'm still blown away.


Anonymous said...

Well, I'm not coming up with any random memories right now, but I do know that kids' tables are not popular among my kids. My 14.5 year old DID NOT appreciate being seated at a little kids' table at a wedding the whole family went to. And a certain relative of mine always asks my preteen daughters to sit with her much younger kids at a "kids' table" when we visit her house. It makes her kids feel very grown up -- and it makes my kids feel like babies. I agree that we should listen to our kids' feelings.

Leah Goodman said...

I think the kids' table thing can go either way. If the kids are friends with each other, they may be much happier at a table with all their friends.

The more important point of this post is that people should, whenever possible, consider kids' feelings instead of making arbitrary decisions.

Anonymous said...

The kids' table goes a bit beyond this. It sends the message to our kids that they are "kids" and can act like little kids. It lowers the bar of our expectations for our children. Children who sit with and spend time with adults are shown how adults interact and how adults talk and behave. This is even moreso when the adults treat the children not like kids, but like young adults. Children in this environment are more mature, better behaved, have better verbal skills, and understand better what is going on around them in the world.

I am very thankful my parents never pushed me aside as an inconvenience to the kids' table and that they always spoke to me as a young adult and explained things to me so I could participate in the adult conversations.

Orthonomics said...

JS-Right on. Couldn't agree with you more. Besides the one negative experience, my parents always treated us as mature beings and expected us to behave as such.

Anonymous said...

Kids' tables are good in that the adults don't have to worry about little pitchers with big ears.

For a long time at our family events, unmarried cousins sat at the kids' table. It took a while, but we finally got that changed. Now, high-school graduates sit with the grown-ups.

BTW, we had kids' tables only for weekday events; on Shabbos, family-style ruled.

mlevin said...

I am usually against kids table, unless you have a bunch of children who do not know each other. This way they could play together and everything. If however most of the children know each other and one or two are new, then it's a no-no. A new kid is automatically on a defensive and usually leaves an event resentful and heart. If all kids know each other, then it should be upto them if they want to be only with other kids or adults.

Anonymous said...

I totally disagree. There is nothing wrong with kids tables - in fact that was the I grew up with.

I really do not like having to sit with OTHER PEOPLE'S little Moshie who have no manners and think any behavior is appropriate. And I don't like parents who insist on pampering their kids unnecessarily. And I really really don't like parents that think every inane babble out of a small child warrants their immediate attention.

Sorry, but I am old school on this. Kids should be able to behave like kids and lines should be clear.

We draw the line at around 9 or 10 in our house.

Commenter Abbi said...

When I have a lot of guests, it's usually just easier to have a kids table because the kids sit and eat for exactly 6 minutes. If I put all of them at the table (could be more than 6) then we are stuck with huge deserts of space between adults when the kids run off to play, which they invariably do. Usually, we get the to eat right before dessert, when some treat is hanging in the balance.

I don't think kids tables are a big deal and neither do my kids.

But we generally only have guests/or eat out 2 times a month max. Otherwise, we're home or with family.

happyduck1979 said...

We do our kids tables a little differently and I know my daughter and "her guests" always have a great time.

We set her small table for children the same as the adults one, just smaller (they get lunch sized plates and smaller glasses and small sized cutlery). I give them their own platters with food already cut and sized for children that they can take themselves.

My daughter and her friends have thier own little party within the bigger one. My daughter learns to be a propper hostess. Her friends have fun being at a "soecial" party. The other parents do not need to worry about serving and minding their children as closely as they are able to mostly look after themselves.

I currently do this with my daughter who is almost 5. I have no idea how long it will continue to work for, but for now it is a great solution!

ProfK said...

It depended on what the affair was as to whether or not we had a kids table. Anything that was in our house, the children sat mixed with the adults--I won't break up families on Shabbos or yom tov. At a wedding or Bar Mitzvah my kids don't mind a kids table if all the kids are about the same age. Then it becomes a nice social occasion where they can talk to the cousins their age and catch up on things. But when there is a huge gap of ages then I object to putting 16 year olds and up with little kids, certainly not single people in their 20s and up--that's free babysitting for the parents who count on the older kids to keep order. One solution I used was to make a table with all the young married nieces and their female children and one for the married nephews and their male kids.

There is also this, and I'm putting on the armor for the arrows to come: why are two year olds at a wedding? Maybe if they are part of the wedding party for an aunt or uncle, but otherwise, why are they invited? Their parents cannot be fully mesameach choson v'kallah when they spend the night running after their kids. Not to mention the expense and space that is needed. My great nephews and nieces are not invited to weddings or bar mitzvah seudos--the oldest is just turning 5 and really has no idea what these occasions are for. And there is nothing like a little one yelling loudly "I need peepee" just when someone is saying one of the sheva brochos.

Orthonomics said...

A sheva berachot isn't a wedding.

mlevin said...

Well, for Russian weddings (as well as bar mitzvahs, and other special events) the whole family is invited, including little children. That is because children are treated with respect and are not abandoned at every opportunity. I (and many others) find it very weird that my children are not automatically invited for shul Bar Mitzvas and Weddings. Children add loveliness and giddiness to the event. And if a child screams "peepee" everyone just smile "how cute" and continue on.

Anonymous said...

One of our children is nearly estranged. We only see her every few years when she suddenly shows up. She is now in her 20s. She remembers no Hebrew, and has pretty much turned away from Judaism. We love her, no matter what.

Last year, she suddenly came home shortly before Rosh Hashanah. We were thrilled. Sitting at the Shabbat table, she requested a zemer and started to sing Kah Ribon to the tune that I used as her lullabye every night as a baby. We sang, and I cried. Over 20 years later, that bit of love and Torah has remained with her.

Anonymous said...

I was amazed when my older daughter, then one year and nine months old, pointed at the spot in the parking lot where her grandfather had parked when he came to visit two weeks earlier and said "zeidy." Also, just recently (she's now 2) she pointed to a truck that looked like a hummer and said "hummer," more than two weeks after she'd played with a toy hummer of her uncle's. I know it's not like remembering something that took place a year earlier, but it still amazes me. And it reminds me that despite what people say, little kids don't forget things right away. If she remembers the name of a toy car she played with briefly almost three weeks ago, just think how long she'd remember if I yelled at her or ignored her... And if all it takes is telling her a word once ("hummer") for it to become part of her vocabulary, how easily could she learn something else, something I'd rather not teach her? At least those were my thoughts, I know some would say I'm overreacting but to me it shows that every single moment is important when raising kids.

Anonymous said...


Sure every single moment is important to YOU at YOUR TABLE but not to ME at MY TABLE.

Sorry to be blunt, but other people's little kids just aren't that interesting to me. And the old saying about little children being seen and not heard no longer seems to exist.

A pet peeve of mine is when I am speaking with an adult and a child interrupts AND the parent responds. It is bad manners and bad child rearing no matter how adorable the child is to the parent (whose aren't?). But it is more common now than ever. And that is why now more than ever I keep a separate children's table for Shabbat.

This is part of the larger mistake I see parents make over and over and over. Parents want their children to like them rather than respect them. And ultimately it almost always fails - they end up with neither.

Ariella's blog said...

my kids are actually quite cooperative about being seated at kids' tables, as they usually are at their cousins' bar mitzvahs. But I recall that one of my nephews refused to be seated away from his parent, though he was not so very young (perhaps 8 or 9) and would have been seated with his brothers. He is not an easygoing child.

happyduck1979 said...

Sorry mlevin, but I disagree 100%. It is never cute for my kid to interrupt your goings on with information about her bodily functions.

A) Frankly they should be taught that these things are not grandiose announcements waiting to happen- to tell eema or abba or someone else, especially if you need help is one thing, but to scream it so you disturb other people?

B) Even if it was for something that the general public find less offensive "I lost my bear" or whatever, if your child can not yet conform to the social norms of the even to which s/he is being brought (and lets face it, they are kids, and kids are kids and that is a good thing) then it is your job as a parent to ensure they do not get out of line.

We do invite children to our simchas, but we expect the parents to keep them in check- at home or at a simcha, that is part of a parent's job.

mlevin said...

“Sorry mlevin, but I disagree 100%. It is never cute for my kid to interrupt your goings on with information about her bodily functions.”

They are small kids. They are just learning how to control their bodies and they are learning to talk at the same time. So, if a child says something it’s cute. My friend’s baby at this moment can say “A” sound and even says “Mama”. My girls over yom tov taught him how to say “EE” and I’m trying to make him say “OO”. He tries, but it’s just not coming out. When that first “OO” comes I’ll be very happy. You, on the other hand, don’t appreciate a progress of a human being. You are too stuck up with what is body function and what is not.

“A) Frankly they should be taught that these things are not grandiose announcements waiting to happen- to tell eema or abba or someone else, especially if you need help is one thing, but to scream it so you disturb other people?”

What grandiose announcements? A child runs over to the parent and says “pee pee” Big deal. I would be more offended by all the lashen horah going on in the room at the same time. “Did you see her new jewelry?” “She didn’t lose her baby fat” “They’ve been married for almost a year and she’s not expecting” “Do you know how much he/she is getting paid?”… Or are you upset because a baby just interrupted a piece of juicy gossip and you will miss out on hearing it first?

“B) Even if it was for something that the general public find less offensive "I lost my bear" or whatever, if your child can not yet conform to the social norms of the even to which s/he is being brought (and lets face it, they are kids, and kids are kids and that is a good thing) then it is your job as a parent to ensure they do not get out of line.”

So basically you hate children. You don’t want to see them or hear them because they don’t act like little robots. I get it. For your information parents who make their children behave like little robots end up without children, because their children grow up resenting their parents and move as far away as possible. And that’s if they lucky.

Anonymous said...

Some people really want children to be seen and not heard. And that's fine, to each his (or her) own. We have 5 little children in our house, and we solve the problem very easily, we invite people who can take lots of children in close proximity, and we don't invite people who cannot. Why make people suffer like that when they are guests?

And, so far, it works very well for us. When our kids are older and can sit properly for long periods of time, and even later when they leave our home, we can again invite people who cannot take lots of small children in close proximity. Of course, that will only last until we have grandkids (IYH) in our home :-)

On Simchat Torah, we had a bunch of people over for lunch, and we had two tables, one mostly for children and another mostly for adults, but some kids sat at the adult table, and for desert almost all the kids sat at the adult table (there was one extra space anyway because a doctor had to leave lunch early due to being on call).


Commenter Abbi said...

"if your child can not yet conform to the social norms of the even to which s/he is being brought (and lets face it, they are kids, and kids are kids and that is a good thing) then it is your job as a parent to ensure they do not get out of line."

This is an uptight American thing. Thankfully, no on in Israel take there smachot so seriously that a peepee announcement would be enough to ruin a simcha.

happyduck1979 said...

Ok, firstly, I am in Israel. And I did not say it would ruin a simcha, I said it would disturb them- even momentarily. It is not that I think the whole simcha would come crashing down around them.

As for attacking my charachter rather than my post, I will forgive you on the grounds of you know what they say about people who assume...

Frankly, as my daughter is the product of int=fertility treatment, and was then a preemie who I was told would not live through the night, I can tell you that I am in awe of her every sound and skill. There is nowhere I have not fought to take her. But that is because I know I have taught her how to behave properly. There is a time (in fact, most of the time) for her to revel in being a child and to learn and discover and grow in freedom.

There is also a time for her to teach her appropriate behaviors and to ensure that she learns how to act appropriately in social and other public settings.

No one, who knows my daughter will tell you she is not allowed to be a kid. Everyone who knows her will tell you she behaves beautifully when the need arises.

Orthonomics said...

No attacks please. There is enough substance to argue about.

Anonymous said...

anonymous who responded to me--

I have no idea what you're responding to. If you re-read my post, you'll see it had nothing to do with kids tables or social norms. It was about memories and how kids' ability to remember often exceeds our expectations.

I don't see why kids' tables or kids at simchas would be a big deal. At your house, do what you want. If you're going out for Shabbat, do what your host does, and if they do something you disapprove of, don't go back. If you're hosting a simcha, do what you prefer, if you're going to a simcha, do what the host prefers. Simple, no?