Independence and Reality

Hal is at that stage of life when a person desperately wants to be independent but isn’t quite up for the task… yet.  This is in contrast to people at the other end of the spectrum who desperately want to be independent but aren’t quite up for the task… anymore.  There are some remarkable similarities if you stop to think about it.  No one likes to regress.

Hal likes to pour his own milk, which makes me quite nervous.  He wants to get things out of cabinets.  He wants to buckle himself in the car.  And brush his own teeth.  And put the DVD in the player by himself.  And operate the remote.  And walk the powerful, difficult-to-manage dog.  And feed said dog.  And put her in her crate.  Pick his own clothes.  Brush his hair.  Choose the dinner menu.  Pour the salad dressing.

And that last desire brings us to last night.

He hates vegetables.  His only solution to this problem is to insist on Ranch dressing anytime vegetables are served.  Cooked or raw – doesn’t matter.  The only vegetables consumed without Ranch are peas… presumably because they are too small to dip.

Yesterday, he made it clear that he did not want green beans – the most despised of the “regulars” in our house.  Never mind that the green beans consumed on Easter were fresh and lightly steamed and everyone else loved them.  I agreed that we would not have green beans.  I fixed broccoli, cauliflower, and… asparagus instead.

He was not amused.

“I said no green beans!” he protested as he got close enough to the table to see that there were long green stalks waiting on his plate.

“I know.  There aren’t any green beans on the table,” I responded.

He approached his plate cautiously.  “What are these?”

“That’s asparagus.”

“It looks like green beans.”

“Well, it’s not.”

He spied the strawberries on the table and reached for them.

“No,” I said.  “No one is getting strawberries until they’ve eaten all their vegetables.”

For Hal, that meant the single stalk of asparagus, broken in two, a half dozen small pieces of broccoli and cauliflower, 2 raw sugar snap peas, and a handful of raw baby carrots.

“Well, then,” he said, “I’m going to have to have some Ranch.”

“That’s fine,” I said.

An old hat at getting the Ranch out, he headed to the fridge and then returned to his plate.  I didn’t hover nearby.  Big mistake.

“Hal!” My husband’s booming voice drew my attention back to the table from the kitchen where I was filling glasses with water.  “That’s it!  You can’t pour the Ranch by yourself anymore.  You’ll have to get someone to help you.”


That’s Hal, head down and crying.  He’s not crying because he wasted half a bottle of Ranch.  He’s not crying because his Daddy yelled at him, nor because his siblings are laughing.  He’s crying at his loss of independence.  For him, it’s as devastating a loss as an older person losing the right to drive.

2 thoughts on “Independence and Reality

  1. Awwww. This broke my heart! My youngest HATES to ask for help. It frustrates him so much that he stomps off to the bathroom to cry. He doesn’t stomp off because he is angry, per se, but because he doesn’t want anyone to offer him solace. Apparently offering solace is too much like offering help. I am pretty pathetic about asking for help, too. I am trying to ask more–not because I necessarily need it, but because I want him to see that it is okay to ask for help. It is so hard to know when to let them be independent and when to step in. So often, we can see the mess, mistake, drama that an independent act with result in, and we want to head it off at the pass. Sigh. This mom thing is HARD!

    • Tell me about it! I don’t know if I would have reacted the same way my husband did but once the call is made, I feel it’s best to present a united front… as long as one of us hasn’t gone *way* overboard.

      Hal is 5 and he’s definitely a challenge. But I also have a 10 year old son and a… *gulp*… 13 year old daughter. That last one is a real mess. The parenting of her, I mean.

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