Friday, October 14, 2011

The Vegetarian Toddler with Two Mommies?

Meals have been changing around here lately.  Firstly, Yogi has suddenly become VERY enthusiastic about food.  He gobbles up whatever we put on his tray faster than we can replace it.  He's not a tidy eater but he loves to feed himself.  Whatever he can get in his (right) fist he shoves (mostly) in his mouth.  It's adorable.

The second thing that is changing is that my wife has zero interest in food.  Maybe we have super short memories, but the nausea seems to be much worse this time around.  Most of our standard fare is off the list and one of the only things that doesn't make her feel worse after she eats it is meat.  Yup.  Meat.  Great.  She noticed after getting chicken out at a restaurant last week that she felt better than usual after the meal.  Our house is almost entirely an animal-free food zone and now it seems that might need to shift.  I've got to get her to eat something....

This is a frustrating development for a few reasons.  One is that I don't want to eat the meat and the other is that in order for her to feel ok about eating it, it needs to be local, which means expensive.  I do feel like it's worth it if you're going to eat meat, but I don't want to eat meat.

But....back to Yogi.  All of this makes me wonder about the little dude's diet.  When my wife eats chicken or beef (usually at a restaurant we know sources locally - not easy to find around here) Yogi shares.  In practical terms this means that he has had very little animal-based proteins in his life.  So, I've started wondering if he gets enough protein.  Every source I can find says that toddlers need somewhere in the neighborhood 16 grams each day.  Given that there are 8 grams of protein in one cup of milk, it's not hard to meet that bar.  

In spite of the fact that I can do the math, I still worry that I'm disadvantaging him in some way by not feeding him a more "typical" diet.  I'm sure it's the voice of my father in my head who is forever asking when we're going to give the boy a cheeseburger, (not funny), but sometimes it gets to me.  I want to feed him the best food I can get for him and I'm doing that to the best of my ability.  But...... I don't want to make him the weird kid that eats tofu and has never had a hot dog.  I am very aware of the fact that his mothers (by the very reality of our existence) are already setting him up to be something of an outsider.  A kid with a "different" kind of family.  I guess I don't want to contribute further to that, but I also don't want to sacrifice values that are meaningful to me.

This is shaping up to be one of those posts that doesn't resolve itself neatly.  Yogi is paging me from his crib and I have yet to write myself to a question.  I guess I'm asking, are there any other veggie Mommies out there?  Does anyone else worry about this kind of thing?


Thanks for this post. It's nice to read about another veggie household's struggle with these issues....

I'm not a veggie mommy, but I'm a veggie parent (papa) and we don't cook meat in our house. However, I do offer my son meat when we're out or at other people's houses. He's four years old now and has been picky ever since he started eating. Interestingly, one of the first foods that worked with him was cubes of raw tofu, and still to this day, he likes to eat raw tofu, dipped in black bean garlic sauce or blueberry jam. Strange boy, I know. But in his pickiest phases, when he seems to eat hardly anything, I've felt tinges of guilt. That maybe if I cooked meat, it'd guarantee a more filling diet. But I just can't bring myself to cook meat. Instead, I'll occasionally get him (nitrate-free, local) hot dogs or ask if he wants bacon when out for breakfast. I imagine that's how we'll keep doing things...not preparing meat at home but letting him choose it elsewhere.

Good luck figuring out a good balance in your household!


I can't speak to the issue of veggieism as we are a meat-eating household (though I grew up veggie), but in terms of worrying about putting too much "otherness" on one child, in terms of being both veggie AND the child of two moms- well, I think we all worry about how much otherness we put on our children. In my view it doesn't matter really what combination of issues it is- whether the issue is vegetarianism or non-tv watching or gender paradigms- it all has the potential to ostracize our children even more, and so we worry. In our society, growing up in a two-parent household is very much something that sets our kids apart (though it's becoming less so) and it's scary to do anything that might add to that burden.

The way I see it, though, is that we're not "burdening" our children by passing our values onto them. I think that as long as our children have a strong, wholesome, supportive home and family, no matter what form that home and family may take and what values they adhere to, they themselves will grow up into strong and wholesome people- the sort of people who can stand up to the pressure of being "other" and make it through just fine. Furthermore, the very fact that you are willing to raise your child loudly and proudly in a way that doesnt necessarily conform to the "typical" society views- I think that is the best sort of role model he could possibly have to show him that it's okay to not conform and that its okay to be different.

So, in a nutshell, my view is that you're not hurting Yogi at all by adhering to vegetarian diets- you're simply raising your child in a way that you feel us best for him.

Ahem. Okay... /end longest comment ever. :)

J and I were both STRICT vegetarians for years. I still am, but it sounds like J's more in line with your wife's meat-eating practices.* Still, when we met, we weren't ethical in other ways. We weren't buying cruelty-free skin and hair products. We weren't buying local or ethical dairy or eggs. We have lots of friends who are still like this: rigidly ethical about one thing (meat eating), but not at all ethical about the countless other ways that this culture blindly abuses animals.

Over time, we've moved towards what feels like a more holistic stance. I don't think it's somehow worse to kill an animal in a factory farm than it is to hook one up to a milking machine several times a day (while leaving her in a tiny stall the rest of the time). And I don't think factory farms are worse than the cosmetic industry. I mean: I don't think I'd prefer having my eyes coated in mascara. Cruelty is cruelty.

I think vegetarianism is easy. Until very recently, my vegetarianism was a quick way to feel really good about my impact on the world, without actually having to do the work of understanding how much cruelty I was supporting. So I think that's what I want to teach my kids most of all: to be thoughtful about the choices they make. To be flexible, and to be thoughtful.

So I don't know exactly what we'll do with Rabbit, but I hope we trust our instincts. We've never cooked meat together, but I'm not wholly opposed to trying it out. I'd rather do that than see my child eating inhumanely-raised meat (or even dairy) at a restaurant. I haven't eaten meat for years, but that's because I really don't think I need it. If I felt like it would help me, I'd probably eat some. If, once Rabbit is here, I sense that it might help him, I'll probably cook it for him. I know that it's helped J throughout this pregnancy, and I'm grateful for that. But I'll keep buying dairy from the that hand milks. I'll keep buying cruelty free shampoo. And I hope these values come to matter to my kids, too, as I'm sure they will matter to sweet, sweet Yogi once he's making these decisions for himself.

* Shocking, right? That our wives are similar?

Just a quick comment-
we have a 14 month old, and a vegetarian home- I am a vegetarian and do most of the cooking/shopping - but he does eat some meat when out (his other mama is not a vegetarian) or when we are at other family member's homes. I think it's natural to think about how choices like this impact your child socially, and it was something we also considered. I think we are taking the "flexible" approach when outside the home, but sticking with remaining vegetarian at home...

We're a meat-eating household, but I don't think there's anything wrong with raising your child as a vegetarian as long as they are getting enough protein sources (which it sounds like he is). I think if Yogi eats yogurt, beans, eggs, dairy, tofu, etc, he should be fine. When he gets older and can make the decision for himself, it'll be interesting to see if he keeps it up. Regardless, people who judge you all for being vegetarians are just ignorant anyway.

Just stumbled across this post. I'm not a vegetarian but a friend of mine is vegan and has always allowed her child to eat meat and animal products. She is also Buddhist but has not raised her son to be. Her idea behind it was that he's his own person and it was her job as a parent to explain to him why she chose to eat a certain way, not wear leather, etc. but allow him to make his own decisions. He's 12 now and is crazy about animals but still chooses to eat meat.

Post a Comment

Twitter Delicious Facebook Digg Stumbleupon Favorites More