I took Ben and Max out to dinner recently. We sat outside and Ben got grilled cheese, I had a burger and Max ordered steak, his favorite food these days. The cut was on the tough side so I started cutting it into small pieces. Max's chewing has improved over the years, but stuff that's chewy or too large poses a choking hazard for him.
"No thank you!" Max said, trying to brush my hand away.
"Max, I need to cut this up for you so you don't choke on a piece," I said.
"No!" Max said, but by that time I was almost done. I poured on A1 Sauce (Max's other favorite "food") and he went to it.
This was new—Max is typically fine with us cutting up food for him. He is still glad to let Dave spoon food into his mouth. (I refuse to do it.) Now, at 17—and two months away from 18—he did not want my help. But I had to. Max cannot cut up steak on his own, no matter how sharp or serrated the knife.
Max generally knows how to watch out for his well-being. If he's trying a new food, he'll ask if there are nuts in it (he's allergic). If he needs a hand walking up some stairs, he'll reach out. But at times, he has a stubborn streak about doing things for himself. I have watched him attempt to grasp something he's dropped literally ten or fifteen times before he does it.
I respect Max's desire for independence—isn't this what Dave and I have been hoping for, his entire life? But part of maturity, for Max, is going to mean letting us continue to help him when it's truly critical, and ongoing conversation, to be sure. In retrospect, I'm betting he was pretty hungry and just wanted to dig into the steak, so maybe next time we have to make sure he has an afternoon snack before he goes out. If the restaurant isn't too busy, perhaps I could ask the waiter to have the kitchen steak cut up for him. (I am having a flashback back to that time, years ago, when I mentioned that I'd ask for Max's spaghetti to be cut at restaurants and people thought that was asking too much—see The Spaghetti Manifesto.)
Max polished off most of his steak and sat there looking very content. He grabbed a cup of water and downed it easily. And then, he showed his maturity in a whole other way.
"I'm so happy to be out to dinner with my favorite boys!" I said.
"No," said Max.
"Who's my favorite, then?" I asked.
"Daddy!" he answered.