Thursday, September 6, 2012

Raising Vegan Kids

Nobody said raising kids would be easy, especially vegan kids....in Wyoming. The first couple of years were actually quite easy. I have a good handle on understanding the nutritional needs of a growing kid (important to know, vegan or not). Cordelia has been thriving. She is extremely healthy, growing like a weed and has a well-balanced diet. Now, we have certainly had issues with pickiness, but those are dealt with easily enough. I am incredibly confident that we are raising children who will be healthy and compassionate. Elise, I suppose, is not technically vegan yet, as she is subsisting wholly on milk; human milk is considered an animal product I would guess. She will be raised vegan just as we are raising her older sister.

We are entering into a new phase with Cordelia. She is becoming more aware that she is different than others.I tend to  think of it as being somewhere between kids with food allergies and religions that are outside the majority.  Obviously there are food restrictions, but they are upheld as part of our deeply held beliefs.  I know many a friend and family member have wondered why we are doing this to our kids. Why would we make their lives more difficult?!

I do have an answer for that...we don't look at it as something we are inflicting upon our children, but rather a gift we are giving them. The right thing isn't always the easiest thing to do, but that doesn't make it any less important. Now, I don't know what your views are and it isn't my job to tell you how to live your life, but for our family this issue is deeply important. I have had people wonder about us imposing our views on our kids and I say that is exactly what all parents do---isn't it? Eric and I are just trying to raise our kids to be kind and caring people and for us, veganism is the right choice.

Obviously this won't always be an easy ride for our girls. We understand that there are times when they will feel bad about being different. Just the other day Cordelia was at a party and couldn't have cake (there were other vegan treats for her) and she was sad that she couldn't be just like her friends. I felt bad that she was unhappy, but I simply explained that we are vegan and we only eat vegan food. I offered her an alternative and she accepted it, coming back  a few minutes later to proudly tell me the other kids wanted to have her treat. I wish that I could say that it will always be so easy, but of course it won't.

Our strategy right now is to educate her to an appropriate degree (obviously we aren't discussing factory farming). She understands that some people are herbivores and others are carnivores (omnivores, more accurately), just like animals.

picking tomatoes

We have been working to help her understand that our food, all of it, comes from plants. We try to involve her in the process to drive that message home. She helps to water the plants, pull weeds, and pick the food from the garden. She helps to choose food at the market and helps me at nearly every meal. Elise is already with us on all of these adventures and will increase her involvement as she is able.

tomatoes

While Eric and I cannot promise that it will always be easy to be vegan (who said life is easy?) we do feel confident that it is the right choice for our family.

tomato picking

Yesterday, as Cordelia awoke from her nap, I asked her if she wanted a snack. She replied,"I do want a snack, but remember to make it vegan, that means it doesn't come from animals."



14 comments:

Geertrude said...

I think you're doing the right thing here. We've compromised a lot when our children were younger. We're not vegan (not even vegetarian), but there were lot of other things that made (make) us different. We so desperately wanted them to fit in (because we never did) that we constantly pushed our own ideas aside and let them do what the other kids did (or at least some of it, compromising constantly). But in the end they still didn't fit in. I never realized that some of the kids who were fully accepted were actually different, but just confident. They just said "we don't do..." or "we just don't like..." and nobody ever gave them a hard time.
If I could do it all over, I'd stick to my beliefs and teach my children to do so too.

Emily said...

You're right-- parenting isn't always easy, but I think you are doing an awesome job at it! Standing up for what you believe can be hard, but it also creates a strong sense of self.

Victoria said...

We so admire they way you and Eric live your convictions. To me, that is the definition of integrity. We can relate, as I think all parents can, to the pressure our children face to misbehave, defy their parents and cave-in to peer pressure. Walking your talk, to me, is the most effective way to insure that children have the strength of their convictions. In my experience, nothing else comes close.xo

Susan Struck said...

Your girls will be fine as you are great parents!

Kate said...

When my son was about 2 or so he'd point out others' shopping carts and announce: "That's empty carbohydrates!", "That's junk food!", "That's not organic!", and, "THAT'S AN ANIMAL! STOP!"

He knows he eats differently than other people/kids, but he is very passionate about his diet and the reasons behind it.

elizabeth said...

we have had to go gluten free . . .
talk about eating differently than "everybody else" . . .
my kids can't eat the cake at the birthday party either . . .

there will be so many times in life where your kiddos can or can't do something that other are or aren't doing . . . it's good and fine to start now. there will be plenty of situations where you are glad your girls are the different ones . . . and they'll be glad, too!

Roxanne said...

I don't like it when vegans say to others "we are allergic to dairy" No you're not! That's a cop out. I much prefer to tell the truth "We only eat plants, no animal products" we could be playing a big part in that big decision if they plan to go vegan someday. Because they will remember that we are plant eaters only. Good for you in raising vegan kids!

Jimmy Mac said...

My wife, Shay, and I have our first baby due this November, and have not found vegan formula ANYWHERE! From your experience, am I wasting my time trying to find it? Possibly ideas for alternatives besides breast feeding if there is no such formula available?

Jimmy Mac said...

Is there such a thing as vegan formula? I haven't seen it anywhere and would like to know if this is a hopeless cause, and what alternatives, besides breast feeding, are available for newborns.

Maria Rose said...

Jimmy,
I do not believe that there are vegan formulas out there. I know there are soy based formulas, but all of those seem to have cow milk proteins. I don't know if your wife is unable to breastfeed, but there is one other option that I know of. I know that you can buy breast milk for your baby and there are vegans who do sell their breast milk. I am certain it isn't an inexpensive option, but if that is your priority then you should look into it at least. I think you would need to talk with your pediatrician for milk bank recommendations.

Anonymous said...

I really enjoy your blog. Though we are decidedly unvegan (??) in our household I appreciate conviction. Isn't part of the responsibility of parenting to train our children up in the way we wish them to follow? Giving your children strength and compassion, teaching them to do the right thing is hard but the most important gift you can give them.

Maria Rose said...

Thank you all for your kind words! I was prepped for some angry messages, but you have all been so kind.

char eats greens said...

My husband and I are also having our first baby in November (relating to Jimmy), and I am 100% committed to having my child lead a vegan life.

I wondered how that would work for birthday parties and even school functions where they bring in pizza, etc. Does your daughter know to just not eat it? I'd always be afraid of a teacher or another parent telling them it's ok and to go ahead and try the cake or hotdog or whatever.

I think you're doing a great job and I cannot wait to experience motherhood with my little one soon :)

Maria Rose said...

Char,

Congratulations on your pregnancy. My husband and I are very much committed to raising our girls to be vegan as well. You asked if Cordelia just knows what she can and can't eat. Unfortunately she doesn't, it is so hard to tell the difference. Our strategy has been to teach her to ask if food is vegan and then we do everything in our power to educate those around her. When we go to birthday parties I check with the host first and then bring awesome vegan food that matches what they serve. Often I will just make a cake or cookies for the whole party. With her teachers I have asked them to treat her veganism as though it were a food allergy. I have worked committed myself to learn how to bake so I can make sweets that will entice all. Of course we can only control so much, but so far so good.

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