>In the spirit of Veguary…
Even as far back as my pregnancy and Lilian being just an embryo, both concerned and curious people wanted to know: will my child be a vegetarian. And the short answer was always “how would I know, I haven’t met her yet!”
As I’ve said before, I’ve been a vegetarian of varying degrees since I was 12. I’ve gone years with NO meat, periods where I have the occasional poultry sandwich or chicken soup, a brief stint in veganism (my college experimentation), etc. But for me, vegetarianism isn’t so much a choice, as just part of who I am. People ask if I “miss” meat. I don’t, and that’s why it’s easy for me. I don’t like meat. Both morally and actually. I would however miss cheese, yogurt, and dairy, and that’s why I’m not vegan. Morally, I’d love to cut dairy out of my diet, but I just “can’t.” More on me another time though.
I did not have an entirely vegetarian pregnancy. My meat-eating wife joked “when you’re preggers, you’re totally going to crave meat.” Well, that didn’t happen either. But I did have the occasional chicken meal both to keep my own health up (I suffered severe anemia while pregnant) and for the fetus’s health. I also explored other protein and iron sources too though, I had for the first time both quinoa and Japanese seaweed salad (both recommended by my midwife) and found both to be delicious.
But when Lilian was ready to start eating foods, people wondered, would I impose my vegetarianism on her? I don’t. Do I hope she chooses my same path one day: yes. But it’ll be when she’s old enough to know, understand, and make informed choices. When Lily was still in baby food, I never once fed her meat baby food. The thought turned my stomach – even homemade. Meat in a blender, really? But when she moved onto solid finger foods, she was given chicken breast pieces, meatballs, turkey coldcuts, hamburger, etc. Things that Missy was eating for dinner, she got too. But now that she’s old enough to order in restaurants, we let her choose, and more often than not, her choice is grilled cheese, mac and cheese, broccoli, salad, soup. She’s actually not a big meat eater. However her favorite meal is Chinese food: chicken and broccoli. 90% of the time, if you ask her what would you like to eat, she”ll reply “broccoli chicken… and rice.” Her favorite part is the broccoli and rice, but she’ll have a few bites of chicken. She actually really loves vegetables. Broccoli is her #1 favorite food. Carrots rate high too. Just last night after work, I stopped and bought some baby carrots and dip to have as a snack before dinner. I told her I got her a special snack, carrots and dip. She lit up and replied “and broccoli” more as a statement than a request. When we go out to dinner, if I order pasta/broccoli and salad and Missy orders chicken, or hamburger, or steak with a potato side, Lilian is much more likely to pick off of my plate in addition to her own. So while she has vegetarian tendancies in her choices, she does eat meat.
One day, I will tell her what meat actually is. She’s an animal lover. Animals are her “thing”, how some kids are obsessed with trains, dolls, or cars. 90% of her toys are animals (the remainders either Disney or Dora/Diego pretty much) and she carries around a few animals wherever we go. Petting zoos are her idea of the “best day ever” and I’ve never seen her happier than when she’s riding a pony, even if it’s a mechanical carousel one. One day, she’ll put two and two together that the chickens she sees at the petting zoo/farms is the same chicken she requests for dinner. And maybe she’ll be OK with it, as many people are. Maybe she won’t. But she’s too young to understand now the killing and eating of animals. She has no concept of death, and she lives and sleeps with animals (chihuahuas) and I’m sure she can’t fathom eating them. But at some point it’ll all click, and the choice will be hers.
I’ve known two vegetarian kids (and by kids, I mean aged 10 or under). One was a little boy I knew growing up. He was Indian and his family’s vegetarianism was religious. But at age 6, he didn’t have the same emotional attachment to the religious beliefs of his family as they did. And birthday parties that served burgers/hot dogs, even when the parents provided veggie options for him, were stressful. It made him different and maybe even weird. Maybe it made him resentful. Who knows. The other was a 10 year old girl for whom I was her nanny for a while. For her, it was a moral/health choice imposed on her by her mother, and it was lifelong. She, however, had no desire to eat meat. She was taught it was disgusting, and quite frankly she was preachy and rude about it, which isn’t really my style either. Both scenarios are not what I want for my kids. I’m sure there are many well adjusted vegetarian kids out there, but I want it to be Lily’s choice. If it weren’t for Missy, i’d probably never purchase it and bring it in the house (I didn’t before her), but if Lilian wanted it out of the house, or asked for it, then she’d get it.
I really appreciate the fact that I was allowed to make choices as a kid & teenager. My parents respected my choices and judgments and I think that helped build independance, free thinking, and confidence. After one year of religious after-school classes I wanted to stop going, and they allowed me that choice. My dance and music lessons lasted as long as I wanted them to, I was never forced to continue OR stop going. And when I refused to eat meat as a kid, my parents said “ok,” which I think some parents might not have been so agreeable to. I grew up to be an intelligent, educated, and opinionated woman. Though some of my opinions differ greatly from my family’s, it is because of the choices they allowed me, that I was able to develop beliefs of my own. I want the same for Lilian. I’ll certainly share my beliefs with her, and so will her other mom, and so will a lot of other people I’m sure. But ultimately, I will respect her enough as a human and a girl to let her make her own decisions. (Though I hope she’ll choose broccoli over hamburgers forever…)