Sunday dinner was an important part of my upbringing, which I’m sure is true for most Italian Americans. I wrote an entire post on Sunday dinners here.
Of all of the great Sunday dinner memories, many of my fondest memories revolve around the kids’ table. The kids’ table was obviously the table (sometimes at the end of the larger table), where all of the kids would sit to eat.
I distinctly remember my perspective of the kids’ table through different stages of life. When I was very young, under 10 years old, the kids table was my favorite place to be. Why wouldn’t it be? It was my time to hang out with all of my cousins without a lot of adult supervision. We laughed, joked around, we were in our own little world. As I grew up and became a teenager, I started to perceive the kids’ table as almost a punishment, and I would always wonder and ask when can I move up to the adult table?Then one day, it happens. You graduate from the kids table to the adult table. It feels great the first few months, and then the luster wears off a bit, and you realize that now you have to help out, bringing food to the table, being an adult, etc.
Then, at some point in life, if you are fortunate enough to have your own children, the unthinkable happens: Now you have your own kids at the kids’ table, and you’ve gone full circle.
Now that I’ve gone full circle, I realize that the kids’ table provided some very valuable lessons and purpose in my life; I imagine this is true for many of us who have experienced it.
Here are 5 valuable lessons I took away from the Italian-American Sunday dinner kids’ table:
- Relationship Building – I have sixteen first cousins, and of course the depth of my relationship with each varies based on different factors, but for the most part I am relatively close with all of them. And even if I haven’t spoken to one of them in some time, I can reach out to him or her and they would respond like we were brothers and sisters. There is no doubt that the strength of these relationships is a product of all of our Sunday dinner gatherings and our time together at the kids’ table.
- Goal Setting – As silly as this sounds, the progression from the kids’ table to the adult table was one of my first experiences of growth in life. It was the idea of going from something less to something more. It was essentially a goal that I was moving towards. I certainly think that experience of progression was helpful in other aspects of life.
- Community – The kids at one table building relationships, and the adults at the other table showing us how important it is to maintain those relationships with your family members throughout your life, no matter how busy life got. No matter what was going on in life, baseball games, soccer, etc., everyone showed up, even if they came in only for coffee and dessert. This entrenched the idea of family and community for my siblings, cousins, and me for sure.
- Stability – I knew no matter what happened during the week, I would see all of my cousins on Sunday, and it really did give me something to look forward to. I remember, leading up to Sunday, thinking about all the things I could discuss with my cousins around the table. It wasn’t possible to go too long without seeing them.
- Present – Nothing else mattered during our time around that kids’ table except for the people we were with. There was no Facebook, no iPhones, just us. Laughter, joy, smiles, and amazing food, plenty of it.
It seems that getting everyone together on Sunday’s today isn’t as easy as it used to be, but there is no doubt it is still important, for so many reasons. The kids’ table at Sunday dinner is so much more than it appears to be, and I am so glad I had the chance to experience it.
Please enjoy the photos from our Sunday gatherings in the post; thanks to Aunt Marilyn for sending them to me.
Please share your memories by typing them in the comment box below.