I was delighted when Parents Canada Magazine asked me to write an article about our little boy Dylan who at 4 1/2 decided to become a vegetarian.. I wanted to share the story with you as I am often asked how this process has been as a Mom and for our family. Here is our story!
My son Dylan is only 5 ½, yet he has been able to articulate a very convincing answer when he is asked why he has decided to become a vegetarian – “I don’t want to hurt animals” is his concise reply. He has repeated this mantra on countless occasions since he decided to give up meat in 2010, and the time between then and now has proven to be an incredible learning experience for our whole family.
As a family, we would best be described as outdoor enthusiasts, and as such I have an understanding that a vegetarian diet is much more sustainable for our planet, and that eating meat has a huge ecological footprint beyond any questions of morality or ethics. However, it is my son’s perfect summation that triggers my conscience…”I don’t want to hurt animals”.
As I look back on how this all happened I must confess a mixture of wonder and pride in my son, that has at times been countered by my own frustrations and insecurities as a parent. While sitting at a steakhouse in Florida with a plateful of steak and potatoes (his favourite food up until that point) he looked up on the wall and saw a bunch of cattle heads as part of the décor. His reaction was one of horror and confusion, as he put together the facts that most people so readily ignore – the meat on his plate had come from an actual animal! He stated that night that he didn’t want to eat meat ever again, and we sympathized with his feelings at that moment. Surely we figured this was an emotional outburst which would pass at the first sight of a chicken finger, but he remained true to his convictions.
Since that evening we have had numerous discussions about food… where it comes from, how it is harvested and how it gets here. The protein discussion has come up a lot, and at times, it seems as though Dylan could live on cereal and milk alone.
During the last year Dylan has had to defend his beliefs to many friends and family who think it is simply not right that he be allowed to make this decision, yet he has shown a remarkable strength of character and has often filled me with pride. He has stared down many an adult who has chosen to argue the point with him, even having to defend himself from comments such as “man up” and “real men eat meat” and each time he has come out feeling like it was everybody else who is making the wrong decision. He has weakened privately with his family on 2 separate occasions during the last year, and anybody who has tried to give up a good thing knows that moments of weakness occur. His reactions afterwards solidified his commitment to his cause, and he learned from these moments and continues to feel strongly about his beliefs.
As a parent I still worry that he doesn’t get enough protein in his diet, but his energy has been as high as ever and he still runs, skates, wrestles and plays with the same reckless abandon expected of a 5 year old boy. The doctor’s visits have all gone well and there remains no need for the concern that I still feel. With the support of amazing people like Kim Corrigin-Oliver, a Holistic Nutritionist and author of Your Green Baby who I reached out to on Twitter @YourGreenBaby I have been able to find new healthy recipes and creative ways to introduce Quinoa and new proteins into his food. His daily diet now consists of things like a cheese string, yogurt and a handful of almonds to ensure he gets the protein he needs. As parents we continue to strive towards respecting each individual member of our family for what they are, growing individuals with their own hopes and dreams, personal goals and views of the way the world works and their place in it.
We are always searching for new ways to add protein into his diet and on the hunt for recipes he will like. It has been at a challenge at times but slowly but surely Dylan is trying new foods!
Are you a vegetarian? Are you raising your child as a vegetarian? Would love to hear your thoughts!