In a comment on the last post, zwa asks:
I’m curious about your vegetarianism (as one myself) and whether your kids are. If yes, did they choose it, if no did you try to convince them?
My kids are vegetarians, and have been since birth — so they didn’t choose it. I have imposed it on them in a stunning act of maternalism.
OK, it’s actually not that stunning.
Anyway, for the curious, here are my reasons for this particular parenting choice:
- The family dinner table isn’t a restaurant. The choices are to eat what I’m serving or not eat it. This was the deal (at least when I was growing up) in omnivores’ homes (including the one in which I grew up). I may encourage the sprogs to try dishes of which they are skeptical, but I don’t view feeding them as an activity that ought to push my powers of persuasion to their limits, nor do I view it as an opportunity with which they should build the capacity of their free will. I’m cooking, and what I’m serving has no meat. That’s what’s for dinner.
- I’m in no position to do good quality control on a meat meal. I haven’t cooked meat in about 20 years, so I’ve pretty much forgotten how. I’m not going to taste a meat dish to adjust the seasoning. My paranoia about food-born pathogens is such that I’d probably cook the heck out of any piece of meat I had to cook … and my concerns about carcinogens are such that I wouldn’t even be doing it in a potentially appealing way like blackening it.
- Meat is expensive.
- Meat production uses a lot of resources … as does raising a child in the U.S. Having opted for the latter, I prefer to opt out of the former. This is not to suggest that I look at other people and do a mental audit of their impact — I swear, I don’t — but I do look at myself that way. Bathing and hydrating the sprogs use water, getting them places frequently uses gas, and the computer and TV/VCR/DVD axis of entertainment uses electricity. Call the vegetarian diet a do-it-yourself partial offset of our other impacts.
- Meat consumption is not a requirement for human health. I even checked with our pediatrician. The sprogs’ diet is providing them more than adequate amounts of all the nutrients they need.
- A parent-imposed vegetarian diet enables a satisfying range of (non-lethal) options for teen rebellion. Think of how convenient it would be if, as a teenager, you could defy a parent’s values by simply buying a can of chicken soup, as opposed to having to wrap a car around a tree or to figure out how you can get someone to buy you beer.
Am I hemming in the sprogs’ ability to exercize their autonomy? Absolutely. At ages 7 and 5, they need us to hem in their autonomy to keep them alive and in reasonably good mental and emotional shape to exercize their autonomy as adults. It’s just part of parenting.