”I am raising a vegan child… ”
A triggering line for so many. Everyone has got their own parenting style right! I do frown upon some styles but I won’t challenge them like omnivores would challenge vegan parents.
Why are you forcing your beliefs on your child?
What will you do if he decides to eat meat when he grows up?
Why are you depriving your kid of so much?
What about malnutrition?
One kindergarten teacher asked us: Will he stay vegan forever?
Raising a child on a plant-based diet is surprisingly very controversial and those questions most of the time come from people who would never eat pork or beef because their parents said it’s wrong or that it is against their religion. Parents, whatever their beliefs are… right or wrong, do raise their children with their own values. So how is this any different?
As a first-time mum, navigating through this perilous unknown journey of parenthood is already overwhelming as it is and now raising him on a plant-based diet with all the eyebrows being raised at our decision does bring along its load sometimes.
Amidst criticism and judgemental comments from family, friends, doctors, and sometimes total strangers and colleagues I barely just said good morning, the thing that bugs me more about raising a child vegan is the complete lack of understanding of others. I shouldn’t care but I do because a vegan child, one who strives on a plant-based diet gives out a very strong message of hope and compassion. A child who will most probably become an adult who will care and God knows how much this broken world needs such people.
While I can on some level understand the questions being asked [well as long as it is to understand rather than to prove us wrong], I have myself gone through those questions because a vegan child can feel very outcasted in this society we are living in. As an adult, I feel like this sometimes but I am mature enough to know that sometimes when following the mass, the M is silent [I love that quote. HA! ] but a child will certainly not.
I grew up as a very rebellious kid, whenever my parents would say no to me, I would out of nowhere take a sudden interest in that very thing I wasn’t supposed to do, the more ‘NOs’, the more interested I would get… and seeing my 1.8 months old son today, well the apple didn’t fall very far from the tree hey. But we are another generation, our parents did the best they could for us with whatever they had but we know better today. With the amount of information available, we now know that just saying NO to a child without explaining the WHYs and the rationales behind do not yield anything good. Today we know about child psychology and we no more consider kids as stupid little humans who do not understand. They do… more than we believe.
People think that vegan parents are imposing their beliefs on children but omnivores do the same with the exception that it carries along a lot of lies and hidden truths. I can show my child where the veggies and fruits come from but can a meat eater show a kid the reality of a slaughterhouse?
For nearly 2 years now, experiencing pregnancy and motherhood has been magical and also quite a rocky journey but it also showed me a different perspective on how we are raising our children today, and it is no wonder that we are creating human beings who are confused and lost. We are creating human beings who will have existential crises about their choices or be completely disconnected from themselves. We feed them with so much contradictory information like loving the dog, being kind to the dog, do not hit the cat… it is not nice… but eat the chicken and do not worry about the other animals. We buy them toys of pretty cows, and read them lovely stories about cute chickens and lambs but feed them those same animals at dinner without telling them that those are the same cute animals we read about earlier. We make them watch movies like Nemo and then have fish for lunch or visit aquariums because it is fun and the kid has no idea.
I do not believe in imposing my choices on anyone, my son does not understand animal cruelty, climate change, or healthy food choices, but…
HE CAN FEEL!
Kids come into this world with hearts as big as the universe, they have an emotional intelligence beyond understanding and they connect to the world in the most amazing way.
I will not forbid him from eating chicken, right now he cannot decide on his own, so mummy and daddy are doing it for him… like all the other parents do. However, I can make him feel. Understanding through feelings rather than words will help him make his choices one day. There is that famous line that animal rights activists use quite often: Put an apple and a chick in a crib with a baby and let me know if the baby chooses to eat the chick and play with the apple. Babies and toddlers and naturally compassionate and they can feel a friend. Imagine if a child gets to have chicks as friends? They will grow up understanding that they are little beings of blood and flesh who experience happiness and pain just like us. That they love to be cuddled, love a good play in the rain but also a warm, dry, cozy place to tuck in to sleep at night… just like him. How do you think this child will ever be able to deliberately decide to eat this beautiful amazing creature when he grows up? If he grows up and wants to eat meat, totally his decision to make, but one who has felt… just doesn’t eat friends.
Children have no desire to eat animals but they have no idea what is on their plates, so a plant-based diet is what comes naturally to them. Another amazing thing for us as parents is that we will never have to lie to him or sugarcoat the truth about where his food comes from. We will tell him the truth about food and he can make his own informed decisions when he grows up.
I believe that as parents, we need to provide him with all the tools he will ever need to live life. When I say tools, I mean the values, the ethics, the truth and teaching him how to care and be compassionate without discrimination. What do you think happens inside a tiny innocent little mind when they have to make sense of loving one and killing the other one? Right now my son calls our dogs ”Toutou” and pigs ”Toutou” because, in his mind, he sees all the similarities unlike most of us.
How does telling my child that killing and eating animals is wrong makes me a bad parent? I am teaching my baby to make the world a better place and that being different isn’t that bad.
I know that we were raised to believe that we need meat and dairy to be healthy but in this age of information, one cannot keep on sticking to the myth that feeding anyone the flesh of a dead abused animal and teat juice from another species can do any good.
So yes, I am thrilled to be raising my baby vegan because I am nurturing his compassion towards animals and people alike, I am making sure he eats healthy food for his physical and mental health, I am giving him a great start in life and in this way safeguarding the planet for generations to come. The future concerns his generation a little bit more than mine now and we are taking care of that… by caring.
For vegan parents out there… Keep going!