Oh Motherhood.. how you love to throw me curveballs. Whenever I feel like I have the basics down (support, encourage, guide.. got it) LIFE reminds me that I have so much more to learn, and I am humbled. I’m starting to come to terms with the reality that my little babies are growing up, their life choices may surprise me, and all I can do is keep them in prayer. Mind you, my children are under the age of thirteen, we’ve barely scratched the surface of the nitty gritty stuff! So while my eleven year old’s decision to explore Veganism isn’t as earth shaking as if she were to come home married to a one eyed pirate.. at my current stage in life, it’s at least a 3.0 on the richter scale.
My honest thoughts (in no particular order)
Um, excuse me? You want me to what?
This is what I get for moving her from the Bay to this farm to fork nonsense
She got me messed up thinking I’m gonna cook her separate meals
There goes my grocery budget
Maybe “Vegan” is slang for something else (Googles it.. nope)
and then finally
Ok let’s do this.. I gotchu girl.. but can I document it for the blog?
So for one month she dove into Veganism in a way that I have yet to see her commit to any other passion in her short little life. Together we researched, we made mistakes, we progressed, and we enjoyed some delicious food! While I had no interest in becoming Vegan, it was important to me that my daughter felt supported, like she had every resource available to her for her to succeed, that she took ownership of/pride in her choice, and most importantly.. understood that her nutrition goals were a journey, not a race to unrealistic perfection.
While I am in no way a Vegan expert, I thought the lessons I learned while guiding my daughter through her journey were worth a share. If you’re a mom of a kid who suddenly doesn’t share your interest in a T-bone steak, fear not.. mothering a Vegan is not as hard as you think.
Ask: What Are Your Intentions?
I didn’t think I would have to ask that so early in her tween life, but at least it wasn’t in the context of her one eyed pirate husband (that fear is real ya’ll). Whether your child is doing it for their health, or they have a heart for animals, or because they sat in on the babysitter watching a Netflix documentary about their favorite fast food chain.. this is an important question to ask! Not only will it help you understand where your child is coming from, but depending on their response you can gage his/her level of commitment and it will set the tone for how you guide them through their journey. I wish I had this conversation with my daughter early on because it would’ve narrowed down the resources I was offering her and the blank stares I got when starting a conversation that didn’t peak her interests.
Be Prepared to Read (like, a lot)
I had no idea you could be an unhealthy Vegan. The first couple of days, my daughter turned to Google and YouTube for answers, and people claimed that some of her favorite junk food like Starburst and JIF were Vegan.. so that’s all she ate! On the third day I put an end to that nonsense and decided to apply my meal planning knowledge to her new lifestyle. My strategy was to design a menu with sides that the whole family could eat, two main dishes three days a week, and an all Vegan menu two days a week.. the weekend would be for leftovers or dining out.
Easy enough right? It is til you start looking up recipes and realize that you’re better off feeding your child raw foods than Googling through the list of additives in processed items. Instead of overwhelming myself, I kept it simple and just made sure to hit the main food groups. Finding substitutions for her favorite foods like grilled cheese, pizza, pasta, and ramen that were rich in plant protein was not too difficult with stores like Trader Joes, Sprouts, Whole Foods, and our local Co Op. I was proud of her for exploring a variety of grains, fruits, and vegetables, and elated when she discovered her love for tofu! Our grocery trips seemed to take double the amount of time due to label reading, so a big shout out to companies that are Vegan certified & proudly stamp the label on their products, your transparency is appreciated!
It Takes a Village
Ya’ll.. the support was overwhelming and I seriously wonder if consuming meat makes people angry because the Vegan community is SUPER friendly! I had followers sending
me supportive messages/suggestions, brands wanting my daughter to try their Vegan products, and the Vegan cashier at our local Sprouts would recommend restaurants for our family to try. My daughter relished in the attention and I’m sure it made her feel good to know that others thought she was making positive strides toward a healthy life.
So what if you don’t have a large social media following? I encourage you to dive in, whether it be on Pinterest or a parenting group on Facebook. Connecting with other moms that fed their child this way was encouraging. I never felt judged for continuing to eat meat, and if I made a mistake (I think I fed her Jello one time) they gently informed me why an ingredient was not Vegan and what a proper substitute was.
After exploring Veganism for one month, my daughter decided that she did not want to continue living that way. Was I surprised? No. While I never considered her a picky eater, she didn’t necessarily make healthy food choices before this journey. Am I okay with the outcome? Yes. I’m proud of her willingness to try, the time she put into researching information, and the grace she showed herself when she did not eat “perfectly.” During that month she stayed at her grandma’s house, we vacationed at Disneyland, and she went to science camp.. considering how limited her food options were, I think she did great!
Her journey wasn’t for nothing. I’d like to think that she is a more thoughtful eater based on the things she learned.. I know I have definitely made a few changes to my family’s meals since then (less dairy consumption being one). She has been a great role model to her nine year old sister, who is on her third week as a Vegetarian. For her, and any of my other children, that express interest in a healthier lifestyle, I’m adamant about keeping an open mind. Whether it seems inconvenient, a bit non traditional to our culture, or not in the budget.. I have to remain fluid. Parenting isn’t about imposing my beliefs on my children and creating mini carbon copies of myself (dang it, that’d be awesome). All I can do is encourage them through life and pray that they grow to be decent, contributing members of society.. that don’t marry one eyed pirates.