Parenting Blog

Raising A New Vegetarian

Hey fellas, ever have a girlfriend all of a sudden realize, deep down, that instead of sharing intimate moments with your hairy self, she’d prefer the company of the ladies? Me neither, but I can sorta imagine how that feels now. How you’d instictively look inward and question yourself in some way, even though we know that would be idiotic, scientifically speaking.

The Bear announced it out of nowhere at the dining room table last week. We were roughly 75% of the way through her current favorite homecooked meal, Orange Chicken (low sodium edition,) when she made her proclamation, as casual as anything. Pass the rice. My sock has a hole in it. We’re out of toilet paper.

“I don’t want to eat animals any more.”

Shit, was it because I skipped the orange zest this time around? Too many sesame seeds?? What did I do wrong???

(And we’re not really out of TP, right?)

Nothing, it turns out. I did nothing wrong. In fact, as luck would have it, or “isn’t it ironic,” Alanis Morissette might remark, that orange chicken was the best orange chicken I’ve made yet. And we’re cool, we’ve got a dozen more rolls of potty paper. It turns out the Bear had become too uncomfortable with the idea of consuming animals to continue doing so. Eggs, milk, ice cream, other yummy stuff that’s in some way derived from generous still-breathing creatures, those are fair game. But if an animal has to give their life for a meal to be prepared, nope. Not even if they are grass-fed and treated humanly. Massaged and given season tickets to the theater. Nope and nope. No more she says.

I think some dads would be inclined to respond in a snide way, off the cuff, with something mean-spirited like “yeah, we’ll see how long that lasts.” I’ve probably heard that tone before out and about. Parents can be total pricks.

I proved nimble again here, something I am getting pretty good at, if only to selfishly be awash, however briefly, in the self-righteous glow of being an awesome daddy. Hey, it doesn’t happen often, those moments when I can actually feel myself looking at myself, and admiring myself. Whoa. I think I need an aspirin after that sentence. I told the Bear softly that I deeply respect her decision and that I will do everything I can from my kitchen to make this transition easier for her. Granted, I won’t have to do too much. She’s a perfect candidate for a non-meat lifestyle, what with loving nearly every vegetable, fruit, grain, and such anyway. This shouldn’t be hard for her at all, at least not until the next time she spies a cheesesteak. Then all bets are off. That’s not sarcasm. That’s a fact. But I won’t intentionally tempt or tease her with one or with any other meat-food for that matter. That’s too much assholery, even for this sometimes-asshole.

Last night, I made a small pork tenderloin for the Mouse and I. With a tasty red wine reduction, of course. God that’s good stuff. With it, I whipped up a few spinach and onion pierogi for the Bear specifically, although I had one too, and green beans and roasted mini potatoes for all three of us. Yeah, a little overkill on the potatoes for the Bear but whatevs. I might need a bit more time to completely sort out the new menu planning going forward. Oh, and we each started with a salad. It was a pretty epic mid-week meal while the Mrs is away in Texas on a business trip, if I do so say myself. I pretty much used every pot and pan I’ve got to craft and serve a filling, tasty, meat + non-meat dinner.

I just arrived back from the grocery store this morning, after the gym and a quick stop for some blood work. Fun. I like to do my shopping daily when I can, so I don’t always have to plot out an entire week’s worth of meals (it also allows me to feel vaguely small-village European.) This drives the Mrs nuts but it’s one of the perks of being at-home. I went with an easy classic for this evening, after last night’s pot & pan festival: a rotisserie chicken, stuffing & cranberry sauce, plus I’ll cook up more of those beans I bought the other day. I also picked up a box of organic creamy tomato soup (low-sodium edition) to replace the chicken for the Bear.

I never wanted to play short order cook, and never really have until now. But this feels different because I’m finding a substitute for a only single piece of the family meal puzzle, and not every night since we try to only eat meat a few times each week anyway.  And it’s not because a child is being picky. The Bear is being thoughtful and is growing up into herself and I have nothing but mad respect for that, so I will do what I can to facilitate such growth and I will stand and admire her as I always do. You see, the Bear is the person I always wished I could be. I don’t say that out loud too often, because I try not to burden her with expectations, and that sentence, while honest and true, is awfully heavy for a child, even an amazing one, to grasp fully.

It is an honor to have the opportunity to bear witness to her life, and to serve her plate upon plate of fresh fruits and vegetables, and, if she ever asks for one again, a hot Philly cheesesteak wit no side order of judgement.

This post was republished on The Good Men Project.

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  1. Good for her! I love it when kids start to realize that their place in the world is not necessarily the center of the universe, and they can make decisions that affect the lives of others – including critters.

  2. At least the cheesesteaks are obvious, it’s the cheesecakes you have to watch out for — they put gelatin in every thing (which I thought was pretty gross even when I ate meat).

    My boys are pretty funny in that they read every label, and we’ve had to change brands of yogurt, fruit snacks, and other things I never thought of prior to ditching meat. I take solace in the fact that the brands we switch to are generally healthier options across the board, and they are what we probably should have been eating in the first place.

  3. Gelatin is definitely the sneaky and hard one, if you want to be completely meat-free (or if she does). We’re raising two vegetarians and I remember when K was in preschool she’d ask at snack everyday “does this have gelatin? Can you check the label? “, sometimes to replies of “No sweetie, it’s just an apple”. They dump all their Halloween candy in a pile and ask us to “please check for meat” before eating a single piece (again with the gelatin, we’ve gotten really knowledgeable about candy ingredients). I think it’s awesome you’re supporting her, and wish you all luck in navigating it all 🙂

  4. Wow! Loving some of those sentences. So big and present and thoughtful. You’re a really good dad Jeff. And then I re-read it to Hazel (slightly edited) and she was just all smiles. She wants to make sure you both know that we’d be happy to share recipes or support in any way you need – and if it goes eventually to the way of some cheesesteak, or not – that we’re all just so proud of her.

  5. Yes, it’s so important to have a parent take you seriously as you take what is a really intellectual step…thinking about your place in the world and critically analyzing your own behavior against your independently developing moral code. I agree it is a huge moment of parenting…reacting respectfully to the announcement and accommodating her in your cooking. Great post and great reminder that we are here to assist our kids as they become the people they want to be.