I am a tattooed, vegan, babywearing, bedsharing, crunchy mama to a biracial toddler. Guess what part of the above sentence usually gets me the most heat? Choosing to raise our son vegan wasn’t an easy decision; my husband is an omnivore but does not cook or keep meat in our home and I am a vegan. We respect each other’s dietary choices but live a mainly vegan lifestyle. Feeding our son what we already make at home was only logical and it forced us to put a lot of thought into what we actually feed our child. And let me tell you, he is a big eater and has tried more foods than I have in my entire life. I am working on that. But that isn’t enough for some…
I have heard it all. “child abuser,”, “bad mother,”, “you should be in jail!” “you should have your kid taken from you!” You name it, I have heard it. Pro-tip from an alternative parent: stay away from comment sections. (Actually, just stay away from the comments period, for your sanity.) Vile comments from parents who feed their kids fast food and other junk—which I would never dare judge them for—who then have the nerve to judge us for feeding organic veggies, fruits, tofu and the occasional cupcake. “You do you” apparently does not apply to a vegan parent. And I take that to heart because my kid is going to be at the receiving end of these uneducated comments once he starts school. I’ve heard the rhetoric many times:“how dare you impose this on your child who cannot make his own decisions?” Well, because they can’t. That’s why they have parents to help them make those decisions. Much like you do with yours, and you deem it fair to feed them whatever you think is good for your kid. So do I, and with probably more thought because I do have to make sure he gets enough iron, B12 and—yes—protein. My answer is, how dare you would think I would voluntarily put my child’s life in danger for what you consider a diet fad. Instead of wondering where he gets his protein, why don’t you ask how I am able to feed my two year old broccoli and kale?
We live with two silly (that’s the polite way to put it) dogs. One of them—a beagle —is the reason I became vegan in the first place. Beagles have long been test subjects in labs because of how trusting and kind they are for their size. I have since been on a long and slow journey toward a sustainable, cruelty-free, vegan-as-much-as-I-can (I mean, electronics made in countries full of conflict, amirite?) and, eventually, zero-waste lifestyle. To me, veganism is much more than food. It’s in line with our current societal and environmental issues and needs and a vision that we all share deep inside— a better place and a better planet. To me it’s only logical, but I will not force it upon my child.
We are raising our kid to be compassionate, understanding, and able to make his own choices. At home, we eat vegan. If my son chooses to venture outside this dietary realm I will not stop him. I will support him and show him kindness. I will educate him on the reasons why his mommy is a vegan and why we made this decision for him, but I will not restrict him. No matter how much my little heart will break, and no matter how hurt my sense of ethics will be. My love for my child must overcome it and not become an inhibitor. I did not impose this lifestyle on my husband. He took on the challenge on his own and is now our household’s sole chef, and a fantastic one at that. The kid has his work cut out for him with growing up in today’s society in general, so I don’t need to repeat my father’s mistake and be so restrictive with foods. I grew up on meat, mash, and veg in a can. We ate whatever my father liked.
My husband grew up with junk food and had soda and chocolate bars in his packed lunch, how lucky! I didn’t really drink soda until I was a teen. To this day, our opposite life experiences impact us both. Hubby is a serious cola addict and I am overcoming being a picky eater. This causes divide and judgement on both sides of the family and, in my case, a lot of anxiety. So we pack lunches and snacks and try to educate, but we cannot expect them to know that even stuff that seems like it should be vegan (margarine, for example, has milk products in it) sometimes isn’t, and that carefully picking the cheese and pepperoni off a slice of pizza does not make it vegan.
As a couple, as parents, we come together to compromise and raise our child in this new world we live in. A new world where we care for other lives, the environment, and our bodies. He’ll follow suit. Kids are usually inherently vegetarians and, well, being vegan is so hot right now.