My Tacky Tablecloth

For the last 12 years, I’ve judged people with vinyl tablecloths. I decreed them tacky.

Both the tablecloths and the owners.

I’m sorry if that’s you. Please forgive me.

Tablecloths are cloth. They’re supposed to be made of fabric.

Yesterday, I bought 2 vinyl tablecloths, and I sorta ran home to put one on my table.

Don’t hate.

For 3 months, I’ve been eating my meals – breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks – on a vinyl tablecloth liner, the kind with the flannel backing the protects the table from heat and spills.

And toddlers.

Yesterday, I decided that a vinyl tablecloth liner was worse than a vinyl tablecloth.

The problem is Messy Bessy, my willful 21-month-old angel, who will only eat her meals directly from the table.

Let me explain how this plays out.





Every day. Every meal. Snacks, too.

At breakfast, I put Allie’s cereal bowl down in front of her.

Allie tastes the cereal by sticking her fingers into the milk and licking them off.

If she approves of the cereal, she dumps the contents of the bowl out onto the table. Using her spoon and fingers, Allie picks up the cereal one piece at a time and eats it. When she’s eaten it all, she slurps the milk off of the tablecloth.

Her belly is almost never full, and she always asks for more. I scoop up the bits still on the table, plop them into her bowl, and hand it back to her.

Sometimes, she finishes whatever’s left of her cereal. Other times, she dumps it again and wipes it from the table to the floor. She looks over the edge of the table and says, “Uh oh!”

That’s how I know when she’s fully, by the way. She’s done eating when she starts throwing the food onto the floor.

All toddlers do that, right?

Wait, don’t tell me. I don’t want to know.

At lunch, I put Allie’s chicken nuggets (on a plate) and applesauce (in a bowl) in front of her.

Allie tastes the applesauce by sticking her fingers into it and licking them off. She picks up the chicken nugget and licks that, too.

And then she dumps the plate and the bowl onto the table. She massages the chicken nuggets into the tablecloth. She slurps the applesauce up. Audibly.

At supper, Joe puts buffalo chicken dip and carrot sticks on the table in front of her.

You know where this is going, right? She dumps them on the table and then eats them.

After 3 of my pretty cloth tablecloths were ruined (stained, ugly, awful), I gave in, swallowed my pride, and bought 2 vinyl tablecloths.

And then last night, my cat put big three big rips in it.

Now it’s tacky and tattered.


© 2012, Tara Ziegmont. All rights reserved.


  1. Diana says

    It’s amazing how much we know until we have a kid of our own. We can make up rules, decide who’s the bad parent because of their unruly kids, decide that house messes and decor are not approved of, until we have our own. My brother in law said that when he had a kid, that kid would only go into one car, and not eat in the car. There would never be eating or snacking in the car and never any messes in the car. When I saw him at Christmas, I asked how the car thing was going. He told me that he bowed down to my superior wisdom. That was cool. It’s so easy to judge until you are in a position to deal with a small person who actually has their own ideas of how things will be. Good Luck, enjoy the table cloth and the personality of your young one.

  2. says

    Don’t worry you will not have to have a vinyl table cloth for every! I too am a cloth table cloth lover, but when kids entered the picture, I too gave in to tacky and bought vinyl for years, then one day I realized, all my kids rarely spilled anymore and I could go back to cloth!

  3. says

    he, he, he – you made me laugh this morning!
    I hated those tacky vinyl tablecovers, too. Then I had 4 small children. I then dubbed the greatest thing ever!
    Fast forward to 4 MORE small children, the youngest now being 6 years old, and my tacky-turned-wonderful tablecoverings have been de-moted to painting and crafting drop cloths, and I once again use my nice tableCLOTHS.
    Everything in it’s season :0)

  4. says

    I love my tacky vinyl tablecloths! There is absolutely nothing wrong with accepting REALITY with toddlers! I even use plastic tablecloth clips to keep the tackiness squared away. Yep, I went there. :)

    • says

      You’re exactly right! If I have learned anything during this parenting gig, it is that my silly old judgements are just that – silly and old. I’m embracing the tacky.

  5. Erin says

    I’ve given up on tablecloths (and matching glassware, non-corelle dishes, cloth napkins, centerpieces, etc) completely. Looking back at when I was married I was quite (snottily?) adamant that I would NEVER own correlle ware. Never ever. After most of my good dishes were shattered I jumped at the chance to have my grandmother’s collection of correlle dishes. Bliss…no more broken plates and my 2 year old can use the same dishes as the rest of us. Doesn’t seem like a big deal until you have a small house with limited cupboards and baby #6 is on the way. All our plates and bowls stack neatly into one very small cupboard. Of course, now I have nothing for the cute plate rack on the bottom half of the cupboard, but it is only temporary. Someday, I will be able to afford cute dishes. Hopefully at the same “someday” that we stop having dropped plates and bowls everyday.

    Toddlers are much cuter than cloth tablecloths and trendy stoneware anyway.

  6. says

    I hate vinyl, too, so I’ve been looking at oilcloth. I think it has a finish on it, too, and such cool retro patterns. I look forward to the days when the kids just EAT.

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