A Vegan Parent Asks, “At What Point Am I Brainwashing My Child?”

3 years, 7 months.

Dear Jack,

As we pulled up to the red light recently, you proclaimed from the back seat: “Daddy, you’re a veggie-a-saurus.”

I had to ask.

“Jack, what is a veggie-a-saurus?”

Your reply was sincere,  as always:

“I think it’s a dinosaur or something.”

Then a few days later as we were outside playing at your water table. After a few minutes of no real conversation, you sprouted this on me:

“Daddy, people don’t have to eat meat. Someone should tell them. Hey Daddy! Maybe they will drive and see a cow and then the cow will moo at them or something- then they would know.”

When I hear my son say something that clever, I can’t help but be proud.

But I do remind myself: As a plant-based family, we still represent the minority of American families who live this way.

That means as your Daddy, I must be quite sensitive to the mainstream’s view of our family’s alternative lifestyle.

Is it normal to teach a kid that that “soda makes people sick”? Because that’s what you say whenever you see a soda delivery truck.

And you learned it from me.

Is it normal for a 3 and a half year-old to know that the human body does not require the protein or nutrients of animals in order to be healthy, as long as they can get those nutrients from plants (veggies, fruits, grains, beans, nuts, and seeds) instead?

I don’t think so.  But you know that. And you learned it from me.

Of course, I learned it from the documentary Forks Over Knives, and also from the fact that I personally haven’t eaten any meat in 2 and a half years or any animal products (including eggs and dairy) for more than a year now.

Ultimately, am I brainwashing you?

Maybe so.

And I’m okay with that.

Granted, if as you get (much?) older, and you just really wanted to have some meat, I would be… understanding.

However, few American children are like you, having never really eaten meat before.

So it’s difficult for me to imagine why a boy who loves animals so much, and who understands that proper nutrition can came from plants alone, would ever want to eat an animal.

The concept of “eating an animal” to you is probably just as bizarre as someone who eats chicken, beef, pork, and fish to suddenly consider eating monkeys or horses.

Oh well, I have to assume that if I am indeed brainwashing you as a parent, there are plenty of other forms of it out there too.

Asking the question of whether I’m “brainwashing” you is sort of one of those “morality is relative” issues.

Some parents teach their children to fear Democrats… or to fear Republicans.

Some teach their children there is a God, or no God; while others raise their children in an unpopular religion that other mainstream religions say is a cult.

For me personally, to officially cross the line of “brainwashing” would involve negatively categorizing a whole group of people for not believing what we do.

I have taught you that “soda makes people sick,” not that “people who drink soda are wrong.”

I have taught you that “we don’t have to eat animals,” not that “people who do eat animals are wrong.”

What I feel I am doing is teaching you why we live this way, but at the same time not teaching you to stereotype that majority of our nation who doesn’t believe the way we do.

Yes, you will be probably be slightly different among your peers; as you already are at your school, for being a vegetarian.

But here’s a secret, if you are indeed brainwashed by me, you’re not the only one who has been “brainwashed” in some way by a parent. In fact, find me a kid who hasn’t been; because I’ve yet to see it.

 

 

Love,

Daddy

 

Note: This is an opinion piece of the author and does not reflect Parents magazine or the medical establishment.

 

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