You host a dinner party. Or the whole extended family is together for a holiday. Or a couple friends stop by. Most of us remember how this went when we were young: The adults sit at one table. All the kids at another table, if not in another room. After everyone eats, the kids are shooed away. Go outside and play. Go downstairs and watch a movie. Go upstairs and put your pajamas on and play on your iPad.
It makes sense. Adults want to spend time with adults. Not everything is appropriate for kids to hear or be a part of. And it’s good for kids to be with kids too.
But we want our kids to mature, right? We want them to be able to hold a conversation with adults. We want them to understand what’s going on in the world. So why do we always exclude them from opportunities to do so?
In his autobiography, Ben Franklin wrote about how it was one of the best things his father did:
“I remember well his being frequently visited by leading people…At his table he liked to have, as often as he could, some sensible friend or neighbor to converse with and always took care to start some ingenious or useful topic for discourse, which might tend to improve the minds of his children. By this means he turned our attention to what was good, just, and prudent in the conduct of life.”
Let us try to follow that example with our own children. If we want to raise grownups, there is no better education than letting them be around grown-up conversation. And there is no safer place for them to make their first forays (and stumbles) in that world than in the seat right next to us.