My sweet, strong-willed, spitfire Arbor girl. It feels like just yesterday I was arguing with her in the early hours of labor, telling her not to dare be born on April Fools Day, so she waited 38 hours to make her appearance on April 2nd. She did what I asked… but in her own way. It never surprises me when she decides to take a strong position on something. That’s her nature and I know exactly where she gets it from.
While driving home from school the other day, I was half-way engaged in her chatter, trying to respond to her while also paying attention to the congested neighborhood after-school traffic.
“Mom, lambs are baby sheep. *chatter continues* Do you like lambs?”
“Yes, they’re delicious! Especially in gyros or kababs.”
“No, not like meat lambs like animal lambs.”
Oh my damn. We’re having one of those parenting moments where I can teach my kid a bit about the facts of life or I can protect her innocence just a little longer. My daughter is a smart kid. We’ve talked about some of the big things like childbirth and the permanence of death. She can handle some abstract discussion. Okay. Let’s tell her the truth.
“Well, baby, it’s the same thing. We kill animals so we can eat their meat.”
“What?! That’s so mean! I’m never eating meat again!”
“Okay, baby, that’s fine with me. But you know there’s a lot of foods you won’t be able to eat, right? Like bacon, hamburgers, chicken nuggets, spaghetti with meat sauce…”
I continued giving her the practical disadvantages of choosing to be a vegetarian. She insisted she didn’t want to eat anything from animals. I asked her about eggs and milk, explaining that we get these products from animals but don’t have to kill them to get them. She insisted, no food from animals. Well, I guess my daughter is a vegan now.
Much to my delight, I was a vegetarian up until I became pregnant with Arbor. Severe anemia made me crave meat, then pregnancy caused me to become sensitive to nuts. Vegetarianism was out the window for me. Having the very child that caused me to change my lifestyle decide of her own accord that she wanted that lifestyle for herself was a singularly special moment for me. And to have her so committed to her values on the topic that she would go full-blown vegan? Impressive, to say the least.
Forty-six minutes later, Arbor was on the couch eating a cake pop, made with butter and eggs and who knows what else. I razzed her just a little, reminding her that it would be really hard to never eat these foods again. She softened her stance and decided animal foods are okay as long as they aren’t meat. Fair enough, kid. Fair enough.
It was at this moment I knew her vegetarianism would probably only last until dinner time. When she saw her options for meatless proteins on short notice, she was less than thrilled. Her prospects included about four varieties of canned beans, vegetarian breakfast sausage, sunflower seed butter and eggs. She settled on kidney beans and much to my surprise, cleared her plate of beans, mashed potatoes and green peas. Alright, I see you, Arbor. You can do this.
Before we headed to bed, I loaded the crock pot with celery, carrots and onion, then filled it to the brim with water. All night it cooked together to make a simple vegetable stock for me to use to cook for her. Over the course of the next week I would be all in on finding vegetarian and nutritions foods to keep her diet balanced and her taste buds happy. She tried bean and barley soup, seasoned kidney beans, mock meat spaghetti sauce and every lacto-ovo vegetarian’s go to– eggs.
The week carried on and I continued to cater to Arbor’s newfound dietary choices. She was still excited to be living her truth, even if it was mildly inconvenient. She visited her dad that weekend, and I packed leftover mockmeat pasta for her dinner and lunch. I’ve got your back if you wanna do this, baby. When I picked her up on Sunday, I felt certain she would have succumbed to the fragrance of bacon in the morning and given up. Much to my surprise, she held strong.
Then a couple days after she was home, Arbor came to me between meals and said, “It was fun trying to be a vegetarian but I’m ready to be my regular self again.”
“You did a great job, baby! The first time I tried to go vegetarian, I don’t think I even lasted a full day! I’m so proud of you for trying something new, sticking with it and having the courage to say you were done when you didn’t want to do it anymore. Good job!”
See, here’s the thing. Not everything is worth fighting with my kids about. Trying to cook for my babies when one of them was living her principles was a bit of a pain. But it was so worth it. I was able to show her that I can support the decisions she makes for herself, that we can all pull together and try new things to support one another and that just because we try something doesn’t mean we have to stick with it. Since our vegetarian week, Arbor hasn’t fought about the food on her plate as much. She’s more open-minded and feels empowered in making choices about herself. Whether she decided to be a vegetarian again or not, I know that we all left this experience admiring Arbor’s dedication and feeling good about our ability to rise to the Occassion to support her.