The Kids Table

When I was growing up, our Thanksgiving day tradition was to have dinner at my grandparents’ house. It was always a large gathering — my dad was one of four kids, each of whom had married and had two kids of their own, for a grand total of 18 people celebrating the holiday together as a family. As most family traditions tend to go, every year was remarkably (and comfortably) the same — my uncles would hole upn the living room and cheer on the Cowboys, one of my cousins would claim a turkey leg, another (the finicky eater in the family) would eat nothing but microwaved chicken nuggets, Grandpa would get the neck all to himself… and after dinner, Grandma would discover one forgotten side dish hidden in the oven. Good times.

Grandma was fortunate to have a large formal dining room in her house, but it wasn’t large enough to seat all of us, of course. The kids always got their own table, a folding card table set up in the sitting room just off of the dining room. Close enough that our parents could keep an eye on us, but far enough away that our Thanksgiving became its own separate event — sort of the same as what our parents were doing, but different, segregated, smaller, with our own bastardized form of table manners and dinner etiquette.  As the years went on, we watched my older cousins eventually graduate to the adults table, never looking back.  After dinner, when the pumpkin pie came out, was when I would crawl up into my mother’s lap, becoming part of a conversation that I did not fully understand, a glimpse into what adulthood might hold.  I remember how nice it felt to be included, even for that brief period of time.

I frequently use the kids table as an analogy when I talk about young professionals trying to break into architecture. Often it feels like we can be relegated to another part of the office while the adults make all the major decisions and do all of the heavy lifting of marketing and business development.  Rightfully so, due to the experience and investment of those involved.  Taking advantage of the glimpses into how the firm operates, whenever and however they are offered, becomes crucial to earning one’s seat at that table.

It’s easily been 20 years since we’ve celebrated Thanksgiving in that manner. We’ve all grown up, moved on, started our own traditions, celebrating the holiday with families of our own. For now, my family still fits at the same table, and I’m thankful for that — it makes me feel like we’re more integrated, cohesive. As I watch my family continue to grow, though, I wonder how much longer it will be before we are forced to establish a kids’ table of our own.