A lot of times I just say “no” when my daughter (neurotypical, 11 y/o) asks if she can cook dinner. If I don’t say no, I come up with a reason why it isn’t a good day for it and put her off until some indefinite date in the future. Honestly, the main reason I’m hesitant for her to prepare dinner is because it is a deviation from our routine. And, any deviation from our routine is a potential derailment from the train tracks that keep our life running somewhat smoothly most of the time.
But, last week she went to the grocery store with me and while we were there she asked if she could fix dinner. I couldn’t come up with a good reason for her not to. She rattled off the proposed menu and we tweaked it a little. She was so excited to cook for us and wanted to “make it a nice dinner for us” and I felt like it was wrong for me to deny her that opportunity to serve her family. All through the store she was giddy with excitement about the upcoming meal.
After we arrived home she began working on getting the dining area ready. She wanted to pretend it was her restaurant and we were the guests. She put up a sign for us not to enter the kitchen and another sign for us to remain in the waiting area until time to be seated. Each of us was given a ticket for the meal. She also found a program on the internet to create a menu and printed menus for us so that as we sat down we could place our order. She wanted to have an apron so she brought me a pillow case and we created an apron for her using a belt. Her creative juices were flowing and I was thrilled to see her so into it.
As soon as it was time for the family to arrive Stephen (AS, 15 y/o) immediately disregarded the sign on the door and walked into the kitchen. She protested. He justified it by saying that he had to put something up. He left and entered the kitchen a second time for another reason. She protested again. He finally went to the area where we were asked to wait and waited with his father (I was excused because I had to help remove items from the hot oven).
We were seated and our “server” gave us our menus and asked to take our drink order. Stephen asked for a drink from the menu (but he already had a cup in the refrigerator and wanted her to give him that cup). When she didn’t quite understand what he was asking for instead of trying to explain it to her he got up, went into the kitchen, and got it himself. She protested.
In the world of make-believe Stephen struggles to play along with his sister. When she was younger and insisted that her dolls were real babies, he couldn’t allow her to have that fantasy. When she wants to operate The Reed’s Place restaurant in our kitchen, he has to be the one person that doesn’t fully cooperate.
As my daughter grows older and her personality continues to blossom I want to allow her to express her creativity. I also want to teach my son that he should appreciate her for who she is just as we appreciate him for who he is. That means accepting the fact that she loves to sing and dance and pretend that she is serving us in a restaurant. So, table for four, please…