Parenting is all about being flexible. Before we had kids we were the “perfect” vegans. Now, three kids later, we do the best we can in the situation we’re in. Sometimes that means picking the cheese off the pizza and letting our kids eat a non-vegan cupcake at a Birthday party. I’m sure some of you pre-kids vegans are probably gasping at that thought, but hear me out.
Before kids, there’s this romantic notion that nothing non-vegan will ever end up in our children’s mouths. We imagine we will be baking vegan cupcakes every weekend for all of the birthday parties we attend, hilarious! Most days we’re lucky if we get to shower—let’s just say dry shampoo is our best friend. Children come out with their own ideas and agendas and most days we are just chasing them trying to keep them alive. Raising 100% Vegan kids at home is easy, but when you leave the house things can get messy—so we said forget perfection, the tiny vegans we chase will just have to be 99%. Here’s why.
Parents need to keep their sanity. Imagine walking a toddler around a toy store every day and never letting them play with any of the toys, sometimes that’s how raising a vegan toddler feels! You can purchase every vegan snack possible and bring 10 of them to every outing, but if a toddler sees their friend eating goldfish, game over. They will want it, and they will have a full-blown meltdown if they don’t get it. Toddlers are irrational creatures and capable of making your life very, very difficult. It’s all about choosing your battles, and if a few goldfish get eaten to prevent a 20-minute temper tantrum, so be it. That 1% of non-vegan allowances can save lives, parents lives in particular.
Let’s talk birthday parties. We live in a small town where the closest vegan cupcake is an hour round trip. Not happening. If our kids sit in the car for more than 15 minutes they scream bloody murder. Baking with children you ask? I prefer not to cry today, thank you. Parents deserve a break, and if you are just cooking and cleaning when your kids nap you’ll drive yourself crazy. They say “rest when your baby rests” for a good reason, so you don’t lose your mind! Even if a vegan cupcake magically appeared at your doorstep, kids want what everyone else has, food included. Heaven forbid I show up with a vanilla cupcake with chocolate sprinkles and they are serving chocolate cupcakes with rainbow sprinkles. Forget about it, the world will end and a tiny human will throw a cupcake in my face, for sure.
We used to be extremists…if there was a “perfect” vegan, it was us. The problem was that we seemed rigid and made veganism look impossible and seem unachievable. We believe that the key to spreading and promoting veganism is by making it seem easy, fun, and accessible! Now that we are more flexible, we feel that we reach more people and at the end of the day, we save more animals. As parents, we want to be approachable, non-judgemental and loving. To our children first as foremost, but also to other non-vegans. Changing hearts and opening minds comes from love and empathy, not from condemnation and judgments Allowing that 1% of wiggle room in emergency situations humanizes us to other moms and makes veganism seem more obtainable.
We want our kids to WANT to be vegan. By not allowing them to partake in fun activities with other kids on a regular basis it sends the wrong message. With our first little vegan, we would bring her a pack of Oreos to school every time there was a birthday party in class. She ended up sitting alone eating her Oreos while everyone else got to eat cake. Not cool. She would come home crying because she felt left out and like she was missing out on life.
She felt different from other kids and honestly, she felt punished. She was too young to understand and make that decision for herself. It broke our hearts and we decided we needed to make some changes. We want to instill vegan values in our kids in a flexible manner so they grow to love being vegan. We don’t want them to resent veganism because they feel they missed out on their childhood. For us, the worst thing would be if they grew up and decided not to be vegan because they felt isolated as a child.
Young children are not going to understand why their parents are choosing to raise them to be an ethical vegan. You can’t explain to a 14-month old that the reason you don’t eat milk chocolate is because dairy cows are raped, tortured and have their babies stolen from them. You can’t tell a toddler that the reason you don’t eat the gummy bears handed out on Halloween is because they contain gelatin which is boiled down bones. All of our kids are too young to internalize this information and make the connection as of right now. If we don’t let them eat a Reese’s peanut butter cup on Halloween, they believe we are a monster and they are being punished. They are too young to understand who the real monster is—the meat, dairy, and egg industry. So sometimes they may eat some gummy bears or a Reese’s—and we’re ok with that. Will we eat the gummy bears or Reese’s? No, so we continue to lead by example and hope that when they’re older, they make those same decisions for themselves.
Now that we are parents, Veganism is not about being perfect—it’s about being flexible and doing the best we can in the situation we’re in. It’s also about maintaining our sanity. Being a parent is the hardest job anyone will ever face and there’s no such thing as the perfect parent. Sometimes we bend the rules just to get through the day. Is preventing my child from eating these goldfish worth the temper tantrum? Is preventing our kids from eating a small piece of birthday cake worth them feeling isolated and possibly creating a negative association with veganism? Our opinion is no, it’s not worth it. We choose our battles, lead by example, and hope that they follow our moral footsteps when they grow up.
~Chasing Tiny Vegans~