A magazine called "Parenting" started showing up in my mailbox about a year ago. I have no idea why, in as much as I did not order it. I usually just flip through it while I'm eating dinner. It's actually a pretty decent little publication; I've just drifted away from parenting magazines because I've already kept my kid alive for 4 1/2 years and most such mags address infant-related issues such as "when to start solid foods." This little gem in the October edition caught my eye, though:
Is it cruel to make your preschooler follow a vegetarian diet?
YES 63% NO 37%
This has to be the most skewed survey I have ever seen. The majority of the population eats meat so gee, do ya think the majority of respondents are also carnivores?
The yesses said things like, "I think it is ridiculous to do this to a child."
So, let me get this straight. I am supposed to prepare meat for my child even though I don't eat meat myself? Not only would the smell make me gag, I don't even know HOW to prepare meat (and have no intention of learning). I think the people who voted yes in the survey probably assume that we vegetarians are serving our hapless toddlers a bowl of lentils every night. I don't actually know what lentils are but I'm assuming they are pretty grody. My daughter gets her protein from sources like black beans (which she loves), soy products such as chik'n nuggets (made by Morningstar Farms), eggs, and peanut butter. Like any four-year-old, she isn't too fond of green things. The rule in our home is that you can't leave the dining table until you at least try what's on your plate. So, she may gag her way through a green bean and then wash it down with copious amounts of apple juice (followed by the obligatory shudder), but I think this is typical of many/most kids her age. Her pediatrician has never had even the vaguest concern about my daughter's diet.
Having said all of that, though, I'm trying to raise a free thinker here. I won't be serving meat in my home, but she will always know that she is free to choose her own diet once she's on her own. Likewise, she is free to choose her religion, life partner, etc. Obviously, my hope is that she will remain a vegetarian and continue to find a home in the Unitarian Universalist tradition (and marry a handsome veterinarian who will give me free vet care), but my main goal is to support her in being the kind of person she wants to be as she grows into adulthood. I will weep openly if she joins the Republican party, but I will do my best to accept ALL of her choices.
A has started to notice that what she eats is different from what her friends consume. I just try to keep the explanations in line with her age and reasoning abilities. Ultimately, I want her to understand the importance of walking gently on our weary little planet. We are visiting my mom in Oklahoma and just yesterday my daughter was petting Carol, one of my Mom's chickens. The kid understands that Carol is our friend (a quirky little friend who regularly gets her ass kicked by the other chickens, but a friend nonetheless). We don't eat our friends.
To have some goober tell me that I'm doing something TO my child instead of FOR her is truly irritating. I don't care what other people feed their kids - I really don't. It ain't my bidness. I may not understand the desire to eat meat, but anyone who knows me will tell you that I'm not the type to say, "I can't believe you're eating THAT." Sure, I may secretly wish they'd Google "factory farming" and do some reading, but I would never tell another parent how to care for their child. Well, except for the moms who let their prepubescent daughters out of the house in shorts with the word "Juicy" on the ass. They've got a screw loose, for sure.