“I want to eat meat,” and other things our kids might say to us one day

It probably happens about once a month. That question that we get asked as vegan parents raising vegan children and the question that crops up in one way or another yet is so rarely asked in reverse of omnivorous parents raising meat-eating kids.

“What will you do if Jasmine (and Summer) turn around when they’re older and say they want to eat meat?”

“Will you give them a choice?”

“Do you think they’ll want to try meat one day?”

“Do you think they’ll always be vegan?”

Honestly, my first response…sigh. You see, I know that this question is asked with genuine intrigue and interest but to be on the receiving end of it, and frequently, implies that there is still a level of uncertainty and perhaps sub-conscious judgment from the questioner and therefore reflects their own stance about eating, or not eating meat. In other words, it could sound more like this:

“The way you’re raising your children to be vegan is restrictive/unfair/forced/weird/not normal/dangerous/makes me uncomfortable/not what I would choose and I think they will rebel against it one day because of this.”

Perhaps that’s a little unfair but this type of question, along with, “how does your child get enough protein?” is asked 100 times more often than, “I’d love to make more vegan food for my child. Could you share any recipes?” The difference is stark and one subtly requires us to defend our choice to raise vegan kids whilst the other would indicate understanding and respect.

Veganism as a way of life and a belief system is based upon the following facts:

  • Breeding and killing animals for food is unnecessary* in a world where we have access to plant-based foods that offer every nutrient necessary for a healthy and balanced diet
  • Animals killed for food suffer in life and death
  • Animal agriculture & fishing industries are the leading causes of climate change
  • A vegan diet is not restrictive or limited
  • If you can live a life that causes as little harm as possible to other creatures**, why wouldn’t you?
*for those of us with the privilege of choice
**in this case, I am referring to non-human creatures although veganism in itself benefits the human population but is not a perfect system in protecting humans from harm

It is because of these facts that I don’t actually worry about this question being asked by either of the girls. That’s not to say it won’t happen and in fact, they are both likely to have numerous questions about veganism which we will encourage, but I’m certainly not worried about it. We are raising the girls to choose (and enjoy) foods that align with our core belief system that we believe most other children have too…that causing unnecessary harm to animals and damaging the planet is not cool!

Our girls are thriving on their vegan diets and both have a very healthy relationship to food for which I’m very grateful. They eat a huge variety of fruit and vegetables, beans, lentils, tofu and grains (the list goes on) but they also enjoy crisps, ice cream, biscuits, cakes, pizza, chips and any other special treat going. A vegan diet is not in the least bit restrictive and therefore it doesn’t make children feel “forced into something,” but rather that their pure and genuine desire to foster positive relationships with animals is being respected. It’s therefore more unlikely that at age 16 they may turn around in a fit of anger and wish they’d never been raised vegan. It just makes sense. Kids love animals and don’t want to eat them.

 

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Jasmine with her vegan “chicken” nuggets, eating what all kids eat, but without the dead animals

 

We are equipping our children with the ability to live in alignment with their beliefs, challenge societal norms, contribute to the well-being of the planet and to enjoy the huge range of delicious and healthy plant-based foods on offer to them. 

My biggest worry is not whether they’ll turn around and ask to eat meat (of course by the way, this will be a choice they can make). No, my bigger worry is how they will cope as vegan kids living in a non-vegan world. How they will cope with difficult questions at school, how they will cope with being different, how they will cope with being misunderstood and ultimately how they will cope when they finally learn the truth too.

So if you’ve also wondered whether vegan children will grow up to get a choice or if whether raising vegan kids is fair, I kindly ask you to consider the following:

Which child is more likely to grow up and turn their back on the way they have been raised to eat? The child who loves animals and doesn’t eat them or the child who loves animals but eats them too?

 


Moving house, a lesson in saying Goodbye. 

Four and a half year ago when Ben and I bought our first home together, newly-ish married and full of young naivety about the world and our future, I couldn’t have dreamt of the happiness that was due to come our way and I couldn’t have imagined how at least ten years worth of our lives would appear to squash themselves into just four (and a bit). I couldn’t have dreamt about my two girls, Jasmine and Summer, and all the joy they have brought into my life. I couldn’t have dreamt about how it would feel to bring my first baby home from the hospital and through the door of our home, to start my life as a Mother and our life together as parents. I couldn’t have dreamt of the smiles and the laughter that would come from watching our child grow, through all the first times and proud moments and through all the tears and the sleepless nights. I like to think that the walls have watched us all grow up, soaking up all the love they’ve seen here, all the good energy and all the happy moments. I like to think they’ll hold onto that goodness forever, and sprinkle those happy sparkles onto anyone who needs it next.

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I couldn’t have dreamt of the deep heartache and pain that losing a baby here would bring upon us too. This home was my anchor, my safe place to grieve and cry but also get me back up and it supported me in more ways than one. I couldn’t have dreamt that I would ever, ever, then welcome another baby into our family, whose first breath was taken in this home, in the very room where we have grown together as a family and shared almost every single day. That little baby girl has once again brought me back closer to home as babies do when they’re so small. I couldn’t have imagined the ripples of joy that would wave through my body as I watch two sisters laugh together, giddy with glee, pure with childhood wonder. I couldn’t have dreamt how watching them could be enough to stop me in my tracks, to bow down in gratitude and know that if nothing else, my world and my heart are full to the brim. I couldn’t have dreamt up the half of it, probably not even a fraction and back then I was probably too scared to dare to dream this big.

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Summer, born at home

Now I’m here, surrounded by boxes, all of our things wrapped and ready to go. I’m staring at empty shelves and empty walls, where special photos used to hang and filled jars used to stand, the very items that became part of our everyday environment yet that become strangely unnoticeable over time. They’re noticeable now that they’re no longer here. I can see the marks on the wall where Jasmine has rubbed her sticky hands whilst carefully climbing the stairs and I can see those little holes where we hammered in nails, trying to get frames to lay straight before giving up and getting on with more important things in life, never ones to have been good at DIY. So now as we prepare to bid our home farewell, I sit with the comfort that we are taking our memories with us, that they are not lost but merely traveling too. But with that comfort, there’s an ache in my heart. It hurts my heart to think that Jasmine and Summer won’t remember this house and the way they chased each other along the corridor upstairs or fought over toys in the living room. They won’t remember their garden and the games that we played and they won’t remember their birthday parties and the family celebrations we held in their honour. They won’t remember the baths we took and the snuggles we had or the cakes we baked. I know though, that they’ll remember the feelings that go hand in hand with these memories that I suppose are mostly mine. They’ll remember the warmth and the connection, the happiness and the love and those are the feelings that will be familiar to them forever. Perhaps with time, my own memories will fade too, however much I hope they won’t, I know that’s just what happens over time.

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Jasmine and Summer

This home is part of a community too, a community of neighbours (the best kind) and a wider community of friends. Friends who have held me up through the early years of Motherhood and friends whose children mean not only the world to me but to Jasmine and Summer too. Children who have played here and snacked here and smiled at me at the door. Children who Jasmine calls her best friends and who I wish we could stay close to forever.

Tomorrow is the start of a new and exciting chapter in all of our lives and I feel so grateful for every moment we’ve had the privilege to spend in our first family home. I’ll miss doing yoga under the skylights and I’ll miss sitting on the stairs taking deep breaths having finally got both girls down to sleep. I’ll miss things I won’t even know I’ll miss until we’re gone but I’ll notice those moments and I’ll stop to realise that we only miss things that once meant so much to us.

Farewell, lovely home,

Take good care.

 


How going vegan has transformed my health

I was about 14 years old when I first went to the doctors complaining about being chronically bloated. I sat with my GP and explained how my stomach would balloon after each meal, how I looked like I was 6 months pregnant (having now had 2 children, I can confirm that is not an exaggeration!) and often felt horribly uncomfortable. Sadly, my GP at the time dismissed my “teenage concerns” and suggested I spend less time comparing myself to pictures of celebrities in magazines. Whilst I think she was trying to be kind and express concern that perhaps I just had low self-esteem, dismissing my symptoms in this way really angered me. I clearly remember feeling both angry and helpless at not having been listened to and to be so profoundly misunderstood.

Fast forward a few years, more doctors appointments and zero improvement in my symptoms, I now had a diagnosis of IBS, or “Irritable Bowel Syndrome,” just the sort of label every teenage girl wants to have and a diagnosis that is given to thousands of people each year who seem to have unexplained, but very real, difficulties with their digestion. I was given a prescription for tablets that promised to ease my digestive cramps and that was about it. It seemed as if this was an all too common complaint with no real treatment, that stress played a big factor and that handing over a prescription would at the very least put a plaster on the problem for now.

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Vegan, plant-based food has transformed my health

But the problem hadn’t even remotely been solved, nor would it be for many more years to come. Several years later, again fuelled by a desire to really get to the root of the problem, I went back to my GP and pushed for a referral to Gastroenterology. Now in my early 20s I underwent a whole host of less than pleasant tests in hospital to try and establish why I looked and felt so chronologically bloated, why I suffered from painful and frequent stomach acid flare-ups (I would be doubled over in pain for hours and was now taking more medication) and what was causing me to, um, let’s say, always have to know where the nearest toilet was!

As I looked at the long list of tests and procedures I was about to go through, I was so hopeful for answers that would finally change my life. Surely there must be an answer! I longed for the day that I no longer had to wear baggy clothes to hide my massively bloated tummy, take anti-acid medication each morning and never be able to make it through a trip anywhere without dashing off to the loo. TMI, I know, but I also know that this is a far more common problem than people often discuss! I was fed up of coming home early from nights out because the pain in my stomach from acid reflux was so severe and the only thing I could do to help was to lie down and go to sleep. Ironically the advice I was given by my doctors for this was to drink glasses of milk before meals. Cow’s milk, of course.

Sadly, the results of the tests were all fairly inconclusive and as is the case when expectations are high, my disappointment at not having the doctors declare that they’d solved the issue, was palpable. Following the specialists’ advice and willing to try anything, I started on a low FODMAP diet under the guidance of a Dietician. I cut out wheat, lactose (not dairy), onions, garlic, broccoli and all sorts of other things. To say I felt restricted was an understatement. I kept a food diary and slowly re-introduced foods that are considered to be “triggers.” It was then decided that due to some family history of coeliac disease, that it was most likely to be gluten causing my issues (something I’d been told countless times before) and that I should consider going gluten-free. So I did! For years I ate a gluten-free diet, assuming that I had a fairly severe intolerance when all other avenues had been explored. It wasn’t much fun!

 

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I’ve never felt better, eating vegan food

Then one day, I guess temptation and curiosity got the better of me and I ate some gluten, probably in the form of a decent piece of toast or a crumpet. Surprise surprise, nothing drastic happened (as it would do for people with Coeliac disease) and my symptoms were unchanged. By this point, I just felt a little bit done with it all. Nothing was working, I felt like I couldn’t go back to the GP again and I had run out of steam.

In 2015, unrelated to these health issues, or so I thought anyway, I stopped eating meat and fish having become more and more aware of the ethical and environmental impacts of eating animal products. In 2016 I ditched eggs and dairy and adopted a fully vegan lifestyle and I’ve never looked back! In the early days of being vegan, I was also a sleep-deprived first-time mum caught up in that transformation more than any other. I certainly wasn’t bursting with energy all day long as many new vegans claim to be but a year or so into being vegan, I realised one day that I hadn’t experienced my “IBS” symptoms for months. I hadn’t had a single flare-up of stomach acid (and haven’t once to this day), I hadn’t taken any IBS related medication for as long as I could remember and the concerns I now had about the appearance of my tummy were down to very weak muscles and a lot more stretch marks, more so than anything else.

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Feeling very vegan picking my own spinach

I feel very fortunate that adopting a vegan diet has had these dramatic effects on my health and in many ways I really do feel better than ever, although I’m still a sleep deprived Mum, that’s for sure! I never really considered myself “unhealthy” as a meat eater and being “vegan for health” was last on my list of reasons for going vegan. But over the years, I’ve furthered my learning and research and I’m now sure that cutting animal products from my diet has had profound effects on both my physical and mental health. As the slightly sarcastic but also very true saying goes, “you’re not lactose intolerant, you’re just not a baby cow!”

There are still days when I look and feel very bloated and days where my digestion feels “off” but now I can rule out what I’m eating as being a cause and think more about how I’m eating. Off days are usually a sign that I’ve eaten too quickly, I’ve eaten too much or too little or that other things such as lack of sleep, stress or hormones are the bigger factors at play. In these moments I’m reminded of the importance of slowing down, making time to eat meals without rushing and fuelling my body with all the good (vegan) stuff.

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Vegan for health!

 

 

 


Happy Birthday, Summer!

Dear Summer,

Happy 1st birthday to my sunshine girl!

As I was thinking about what I wanted to write to you for your first birthday, I was stood holding you in my arms before your nap, singing ‘twinkle twinkle little star’ as I have done so many times since the day you were born. I stood in front of the long mirror in our darkened bedroom, the bedroom which you still share with us, and it struck me. Read More