Thursday, January 31, 2013

Going Vegan Part 5: Vegan Parenting

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Today is the final post in a series on my vegan life. I thought I would close out this topic by sharing a little bit about our journey into vegan parenting.

After nine long months she was here. Cordelia was born into this world, making Eric and I parents, vegan parents. I celebrated her birth with a gargantuan veggie burger and a plate of fries (I had contacted the hospital in advance to ensure that they'd have vegan food options). Vegan parenting was easy.

When people ask me if our girls have always been vegan I hesitate. Technically they haven't. I nursed Cordelia and am nursing Elise. I suppose any animal product (mother's milk included) is not vegan. So I kind of say yes and no. Other than nursing, both girls have been vegan since inception.

The first couple of years as a vegan parent are so easy if you are able to breastfeed (finding vegan formula is another issue that I have no experience with). You simply make a gradual transition from nursing to feeding fruits, veggies, grains, etc. Vegan babies start out pretty much the same as other kids. I also give Cordelia vegan multivitamins.

I think things only started to get a bit more complicated around the two year mark. Cordelia started to ask questions about why she was/ was not allowed to eat certain foods. It was around this time that we explained the term herbivore, omnivore, carnivore (thanks to Dinosaur Train for a few episodes on Netflix that helped further explain this). Once she grasped that concept we simply explained to her that we were herbivores. For a time that was explanation enough.

Eventually though, she wanted to know why other people in her life weren't herbivores like her. Eric and I did not want to create any sense of separation or self-righteousness in our girl. We simply explained that some people were omnivores and carnivores. She asked about it in the same way she worked through the process of figuring out who is a boy and who is a girl. A lot of repetition as she wrapped her mind around things.

Eric and I have completely refrained from sharing animal right's propaganda with her. She is very little and Eric and I want to protect her innocence for as long as humanly possible. A typical question and answer session will go like this:
Cordelia: Can I have that (non-vegan food item)?
Me: Nope. It's not vegan.
C: Why?
Me: It has cow milk
C: We don't eat cow milk?
Me: Nope. We get to have soy, rice, almond milk!
C: Why don't we have cow milk?
Me: Cow milk is for baby cows.
C: Oh

While most days require little more effort than that there are other considerations....

1) School: Cordelia started preschool last fall. While is is just a handful of hours a week and includes no meals they do have snack time. I met with her school in advance and we discussed the issue at length. With so many food allergies around they didn't even bat an eye at our diet and they treat it like an allergy. I bring in snacks and vegan milk for her. She knows her food is different and that is no problem as I got her gooood snacks. I also provided the school with vegan cookies for special treat days. I gave the staff instructions to share her snacks with anyone who was interested, so other kids often have the same treat as her.

We are still not sure what her schooling situation will be when she is ready for kindergarten, but if she finds herself in public schools she and eventually Elise too, will have awesome lunches packed daily. Yes, it is more effort, but vegan or not I like knowing that I am giving my family healthy food and I don't mind taking a few extra minutes to ensure that it happens.

2) Parties: I have discussed this here before, but it bears repeating. When I was pregnant with Cordelia I decided that I had to learn how to bake as a vegan. I cannot sing the praises of this book enough. I also discovered this product, one box lasts forever and will change vegan baking for you!

I have taught myself how to bake well. Now, when there is a party or event where I know there will be sweets I plan ahead and bring cupcakes, cookies, whatever. Naturally I check in with the host of the party to make sure that it is OK. I make sure the food matches with the party theme (no pink cupcakes for a pirate themed b-day party) and I bring enough for everyone. It doesn't just happen with baking, I will bring good food to any food related event. I have always left these types of events with at least a few people asking for recipes! Cordelia doesn't feel like the odd one out (if there is something non-vegan that she does want I just re-direct her to my awesome food).

3) Clothes: Sigh. Most kids clothes are vegan, but tap shoes, ballet shoes...well you have to just thank your lucky stars for the internet.

4) Vaccinations: To put it simply, vaccines are not vegan. Eric and I decided that we would vaccinate our girls in spite of this fact. How could we live with ourselves if our girls died from a preventable illness? While we hope that there will be alternatives in the future it just wasn't an option for us and we hadn't even considered that issue before pregnancy.

5) Products: There are tons of vegan products out there from diapers to body washes. Some cost a bit more (like a buck or two, it is no big deal), but tend to be of higher quality and have fewer terrifying ingredients.

6) Older Kids: We have yet to cross that bridge as we are parenting a 3 year old and an infant, but I know that there will be highs and lows. We will gradually let our kids know a bit more about the meat and dairy industry (protecting their innocence as long as possible), giving them an insight into our choices. Ultimately they will choose to continue or discontinue a vegan life (after they leave our house) and we can only hope that we have raised them to share in our beliefs.

Do you have any questions? I'd be happy to answer them.

ALSO! Don't forget to stop by tomorrow for a big announcement or two (no, I am not pregnant)!

8 comments:

Sarah Purdy said...

I thoroughly enjoy your vegan baking and have begun incorporating a variety of vegan products into our daily life. Thank you for increasing my awareness!

Kate said...

SONshine had a severe peanut allergy, so I've always packed his lunches. He's happy to be a "non-meater" as he puts it, but I wonder if the day will come when he questions this lifestyle. He's elected not to fish as it causes harm to the fish, (a question he asked. I answered him honestly, because I felt he deserved honesty.) One thing he's been wanting - marshmallows. Our awesome little organic market, (only a few months old and already a favourite destination for us), now carries them!

Vero { This way Mami...} said...

I have a question!
In the future, let's say Cordelia is 8 years old, and she wants to eat something that is not vegan, what would you do? She wants to try other thing and eat what her friends are eating and enjoying, she would be able to choose?
thanks!
I love your blog :)

Maria Rose said...

Vero, Thanks for the question! The answer in no. The girls will live by our rules and morals while under our roof. Just as most parents feel...it is important to show your children to stand firm in their beliefs.

I am a realist though and I understand that they may rebel and we will take those instances as they arise.

Anonymous said...

Whether or not your girls choose to continue being vegans when they are adults, you are doing them such a huge service by giving them this healthy start in life! Kudos to you. My 16-year-old and I are vegan now, but I cringe when I think of all the cows' milk she drank when she was little and wish I'd had the conviction and knowledge then that I have now.

Caitlin said...

We have Ruby Roth's That's Why We Don't Eat Animals and Vegan Is Love to read Melody when she's a bit older. There's some other great veggie kid books I'd love to acquire like Herb the Vegetarian Dragon and Mitch Spinach. I'm sure there are others. Have you thought of reading your girls vegan picture books?

Also, I have heard awesome things about Joel Fuhrman's Disease-Proof Your Child for vegan parents!

Thanks again, looking forward to your announcement. I have this weird premonition that it will be about selling vegan food on Etsy. Maybe I'm way off base!

Rachel said...

I've enjoyed all you've shared on your vegan journey. It's really neat to read about it, especially raising a child. Thanks so much for sharing!!!

Marie Roxanne said...

I like this post and no matter how hard you try to raise your child to your beliefs, it is ultimately the child's decision to uphold them or not. And you are doing such a great job in doing just that - parenting.

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