My 16 year vegeversary! or It’s dawning on me that raising kids on a plant-based diet, might be hard…

I know I’ve been tending more towards the pregnancy side of things instead of the plant-based diet side of things, but after another fantastic Greek Easter (sarcasm!), I have some venting to do. This venting may not appeal to you, which is fine, I do not judge the way other people eat. But when other people criticize the way I eat, I think I’m allowed to rant about it.

Greek Easter (usually 2 weeks after regular Easter) holds a special place in my heart because it’s my vegetarian anniversary. As you may know, it is tradition that lamb be served on Greek Easter, or even more traditionally, that a lamb be slaughtered and roasted on a spit. Sixteen years ago, after one such meal (it was store bought, not slaughtered and roasted thank God), as I was washing bloody –looking lamb gravy, I started involuntarily crying for the lamb, thinking about how it was just a baby and was taken from its mother and killed. I haven’t eaten meat since then.

Eight years later on a farm in British Columbia, I helped birth a little lamb who was then rejected by her mother. That first night, I fed her warmed up goats milk, wrapped her in a towel and snuggled with her in my bed to keep her warm. I was nicknamed “Mary” since she followed me everywhere (when she wasn’t playing with the other lambs on the rocky hillside; their favourite game was jumping from rock to rock). She would wait for me to by the fence to come back from the garden every day, and I would bring her out to the pasture to graze. Once she was full grown and didn’t need to be hand fed anymore, she went with some of the other sheep to a different farm, where she was used for her wool, but I received a solid promise she would not be used for meat. She was such a friendly sheep, because she wasn’t afraid of humans at all.

So I sit through Greek Easter, silently, eating my potatoes and broccoli and salad. I don’t complain, or make gross faces, or hint towards how disgusting I think eating lamb is. I say no thanks when it’s passed around and I endure the taunts I get from the rest of my extended family.  They mostly “baa” at me a little bit, and ask me if I want to bring some home for my husband. I have put up with this for SIXTEEN years. This year it culminated in a family member telling me that the reason all vegetarians are fat is because they don’t eat enough protein and they eat too many carbs. There was so much wrong with that statement that I was honestly speechless.

But now I have two little people coming into the world. Two little impressionable people who I want to teach compassion, nutrition, and love for all animals, whether they’re dogs and cats, or sheep and cows.

I understand that meat-eaters often feel judged by my way of eating (even though it’s my choice and has nothing to do with them) regardless of what I say.  Just by virtue of me saying “No thanks” they seem to feel like they somehow have to justify their choices.  And I understand that when a person gets defensive, sometimes they can say hurtful things just to make themselves feel better. But I can’t explain that to 3-year-olds. If these sorts of conversations continue in my family, they are going to feel judged and not know why. I don’t want them to question what they eat when they are young, they can decide how to eat when they are older and have all the information. I don’t want anyone slipping my kids some meat because they don’t think the way I eat is healthy, or because they think my kids are being deprived in some way. Am I naive to hope that for my kids eating meat will not be an issue? I don’t want it to come up; I don’t want it to be a question. I want to read books about farms to them and not have to explain why Bessie is also found on a dinner table, because there is no reasonable answer to that question!

I am a bleeding heart, I know that. I am overly-sensitive, and I allow the way animals are treated to affect me. But so what??? Why is that a sign of weakness? I fear for the day when (if I have a boy) my son realizes that Real Men Barbeque Meat, and that he HAS to have a hotdog at a baseball game.  To me, there is nothing sexier than a vegetarian man and that’s what I hope to raise, someone who is compassionate and informed, able to stand up for those who have no voice, and not afraid to be different from others. But I hope at least for the first few years, my children don’t need to hear about the rest of world’s insanity, and judgement, especially coming from their own family. I just want to protect them for a little while, and give them a safe place to eat good food.

This might be harder than I thought.

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About Sarah Tombler

I live in Ottawa, Canada with my husband and our twins. I work for the Public Service, and I have been a vegetarian for 18 years. Over the years, I have started to understand that what we eat effects us, through mood, weight and positive thoughts. I am working towards cutting most animal products from my diet, in an attempt to live a life of compassion, and to do what I can to help this small planet of ours. I also love letting people know that the secret to happiness may be as simple as what we put in our bodies. View all posts by Sarah Tombler

9 responses to “My 16 year vegeversary! or It’s dawning on me that raising kids on a plant-based diet, might be hard…

  • Wendy Rose

    I feel your pain! I’ve been vegetarian since the mid-90’s & vegan since 2003. My family *still* doesn’t seem to understand my diet choices. My twins are due in September and I’m already dealing with snarky comments from them about how they’re going to sneak them meat when they visit & buy them “Where’s the beef?” bibs. Ugh! Good luck to you & me both!

  • Kelly C

    I’m raising my kid vegan or at least I have been fr the past two years. It hasn’t been too tricky for me, thankfully my in-laws and extended family haven’t voiced any issues with it. You will find there are lots of things people including strangers will have different sometimes vocal opinions about unfortunately. I have taken to explaining it to my son as “everyone does things different, it’s not wrong just different and this is what we choose for us” when he asks about why everyone else eats meat and all that. If you look for them, there are lots of blogs dedicated to raising vegan families. There’s even a VegNews Twitter chat on wednesday evening with Mayim Bialik, Jesse Miner and Sayward Rebhal. There are books about it too! I have The Complete Idiots Guide to Raising Vegan Kids that is great and overs what nutrition they need. Ive found it’s the same way I deal with naysayers when it comes to me, just stay strong with what you believe and don’t worry too much about what they say! You do have support out there too and there will be other kids out there that will have similar diets. It’s definitely becoming more popular!!

    • Sarah Tombler

      Hi Kelly, I’ve definitely found the blogging community to be so helpful in finding the support I need. Whenever I’m feeling unsure, a good vegan book always helps me remember the reasons why I eat the way I do!

  • Kelly C

    Oh and congrats on your vegaversary!

  • Tara

    HEAR, HEAR!!! Love your post Sarah – really relate to this one!

  • Aline Kelly

    I’ve been wrestling with the exact same thing. We’re a vegetarian household (me 10 years, my husband 5) and I want to raise Quinn vegetarian but the concern is what other people will do and say. I’ve been lucky to have avoided comments about my vegetarian pregnancy, but I have a feeling people will have more vocal opinions if we don’t give the little guy meat. My husband is worried that he’ll feel excluded at birthday parties, BBQs, stuff like that, and not understand what the issue is.

    I got a book recently called Raising Vegetarian Children. Haven’t read it yet but hopefully it’ll have some insight!

    • Sarah Tombler

      My husband worries about that too, that they won’t really understand why they’re given different food, or that they’ll feel left out. I guess we’ll have to cross that bridge when we come to it 🙂

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