I always promised myself that when I became I parent I would never say, “Because I said so, that’s why.” This promise was obviously made when I was child-free and naive as to just how many questions of an increasingly ridiculous nature a 5 year-old can ask in a matter of minutes.
Sometimes, however, my daughter asks questions that are not ridiculous but that I still struggle to answer. Recently at her school they have been studying animals, learning things like which animals lay eggs and what a group of geese is called (a gaggle, FYI). Sitting at lunch last Saturday, Liliana asked me if eating eggs was killing baby chicks. I’ll admit the question took me by surprise. While vegetarian and vegan eating has certainly become a part of our household, I haven’t discussed it with Lili aside from telling her we’re eating more vegetables to be healthy (which is true).
My brain was whirling at this point–was I really prepared to discuss fertilization with my pre-schooler? No, I wasn’t. Instead I told her that the eggs she eats aren’t the kind that turn into baby chicks–the rooster has to take care of them first. (Lame, but sort of true.) She took a few more bites of broccoli and asked, as if she had been thinking about it for a long time, “Do other animals have to die for me to eat?”
What should do you say? I didn’t want to lie to her, but I also didn’t want to scare her. So I winged it: “When you eat chicken, honey, it comes from a chicken. We can’t eat chickens or cows when they’re alive.”
I know, lame again. But I really was at a loss. She was quiet while she finished her lunch (a rare thing for her) and then threw this one at me: “I don’t think I want animals to die for me to eat. Can I just have vegetables instead? Is there a way to eat meatballs without hurting animals?”
I can’t explain how proud of her I was. Not because she selected the lifestyle I’ve been leaning toward, but because she thought of something besides herself and her own happiness. She considered a bigger world that is not about immediate gratification.
In the end I told her it was up to her; if she wanted to eat meat, then she could eat meat. If she didn’t, that was fine, too. And I meant it. She is her own person and ultimately it is her choice. But the fact that she is even being more thoughtful about what she eats and how the world is impacted by her actions is lovely. (And because those who read regularly know that she is a ‘spirited’ child, I can be excused for bragging that she now asks me to put broccoli in most of her food.)
My recipe experiments continue and you will see a new page for Recipes. The drop down menu contains things I’ve personally tried with my kids and meat-eater husband. I have now added a vegan cookbook to my collection (I already have one vegetarian) and have already been rocked by some of the recipes.
Now I just need to figure out a vegan meatball . . .