Since entering the wonderful world of babies, I’ve become much more aware of the constant barrage of animal stereotypes.
Almost every baby book has the same pictures: happy pigs in their pens, chickens pecking contentedly in the barn, cows munching on green grass while their calves frolic nearby. Other books describe a day in the life of a zookeeper, and we see the sleepy lions, the huge elephants and the bobbing meerkats all happy to be taken care of so well. And there are countless books showing cute puppies, kittens and rabbits all delighted to be pets, kept clean and happy in suburban back gardens.
Littlepixie loves books so I am constantly in the bookstore or shopping online, which is great! Now while it is certainly not my intention to shield her from the realities of life, I prefer to buy books which show animals being animals in their natural environments not books which normalise the concept of their captivity. Books about monsters or pirates always go down a treat too of course!
As she grows, I’m really grasping the fact that raising a vegan or vegetarian child is about so much more than just the food. As an adult, we take a lot of our perceptions for granted, she is only forming hers, what a huge responsibility for us! It is my hope that by teaching her about animals and how they live their lives in the jungles, deserts and seas, she will develop a compassion for all life which will enrich her own life and help her to understand why we choose not to eat meat or have pets, even though many of her friends will do those things.
Now more than ever before, children are being bombarded with an onslaught of “stuff”. It’s just relentless with heavily advertised junk food, chicken nuggets, happy meals, ice-cream treats, chocolate bars, Easter eggs, cream buns, birthday cakes, visits to the circus, the zoo, petting farms, the list goes on and it’s not a very veg*n list!
A tv show last year highlighted the issue of school lunches in Great Britain and the fact that most children eat shocking amounts of processed meats and cheese and very little vegetables. We have no school lunch program in Ireland which means Littlepixie will be getting a home-made lunch each day when she goes to school. I have my copy of “Vegan Lunch Box” by Jennifer McCann already waiting eagerly on the shelf!
We are often warned that Littlepixie could be teased for not eating meat, but realistically, children will always find a reason to compete and tease each other, it’s a part of growing up and learning to live in society. Choosing to feed your child meat to avoid any possible teasing is just not a good enough reason.
Honestly, I don’t know what it will be like, raising a vegan child. We’re aiming to make our lifestyle choice a positive one, not a negative one filled with “can’t haves” and “not alloweds”. Eating plant foods and respecting nature will be what Littlepixie grows up with, what she’s familiar with, we don’t use the word “vegan” at home, children are labelled enough these days without hearing more labels at home!
As with all kids, I’m sure there will be hard times as well as easy. We’ll take each experience as it comes, and talk it over with Littlepixie while sitting on the porch eating her favourite treat, be it a creamy avocado dug out with a spoon, a frozen soy yogurt on a stick or a juicy popsicle full of berries.
Now, it wouldn’t be one of my blog posts without a book recommendation, so if you’re raising a vegan child or know someone who is, have a read of “Raising vegan children in a non-vegan world” by Erin Pavlina. It goes through a lot of the day-to-day experiences you and your child may encounter on your vegan adventures, and it’s a good read for those of us new to the parenting lark!