My three-year-old wanted a sandwich for lunch. I told her, "I'm tired--why don't you make me a sandwich?"
She giggled, "No, Mom. You make me a sandwich."
"But I always make you a sandwich, it's your turn to make me one."
Okay, so I didn't make her start making my lunch. But I realized that she is fully capable of helping to make her own sandwich. She helps us bake and cook all the time. She can crack eggs on her own and only rarely gets any shell in the mix. She likes to help me pull off cilantro leaves when we're making salsa and helps with all sorts of dumping and stirring. Why not a simple sandwich?
I got out the ingredients, we pulled a stool up to the counter and she counted out two slices of bread. Then I opened the Vegannaise and let her dip in the knife and spread it on the bread. When she was done, I spread it a little more so she wouldn't have a glob in the middle (eww!). Then she put on the meat and cheese, put the two slices together, and (with help) cut it with her butterfly sandwich cutter.
Seriously, why haven't I had her help with such a simple task sooner? I know why. It's because the difference between her need for me to do everything for her and her ability to do it herself (or at least help) doesn't change overnight. My realization of her abilities comes slower than her abilities do.
I think that I help her be reasonably independent. She's been getting her own dishes out, clearing her own place, and putting her clean dishes away for a long time. She almost always dresses herself--with help when things are "outside in." She likes to brush her own teeth, though I insist on helping once a day so that I know they are actually getting reasonably clean. She's in charge of putting her folded clothes away (maybe she can start folding too, if I ever get around to folding clothes at a reasonable hour and not late at night when she's in bed). She also helps clean up toys all the time--sometimes happily and sometimes with many tears.
What else can she do herself that I'm doing for her? Some of my discoveries are fun for her, like making her own sandwich. Others have started with a battle of wills over whether she can do it herself or not. But if she can truly do it herself and I don't give in, we only have to fight over it once and then she simply starts doing it on her own.
When my big girl was done eating her first self-made sandwich she wanted a cutie. I opened my mouth to say she'd have to wait because I was still eating. Instead I got a cutie out, started the peeling process and handed it over. At first she struggled--a little bit because she'd never done it before, but mostly to see if I'd just do it for her. I prompted her with a better method of peeling than she was trying and then went back to eating. Pretty soon, she was happily eating the little orange that she had peeled by herself.