I have been a vegetarian all my life and never thought too much about it till there came a time I had to explain to A that some people eat meat and seafood. And this was at a time when she absolutely loved animals. She had given me the longest stare possible when I first told her about it. I had started it off with just telling her that some people eat chicken but we don’t eat chicken; if anybody offers you chicken say “No chicken”. So there she was around 18 months…when anybody asked “A you want chicken” she would go “No chicken”.
That was easy and she went to a home day care and did not really have a lot of problems of being a vegetarian. Then she started preschool this September and turned out to be the only vegetarian in the class. So she reminds the teachers every day that she is a vegetarian. If she sees anything brown in her plate, maybe even grilled potatoes, she calls them and tells them she does not eat meat. It is kind of a joke at her school that she is so cautious and reminds her teachers every day. But I am so proud of her to have been able to understand the fact that we are different and that is how we have to be!
And then there are our grocery shopping experiences at international markets where there are live sea animals. She is enthralled by them, she repeatedly asks us to take her closer to them so that she can see them. After that she is very quiet deeply thinking about how people eat them. We have not introduced the concept of death to her as yet. So in her tiny mind there is one piece of the puzzle missing. She knows that people eat them and they look different when they cook it (thanks to food network of which she is a big fan). But she doesn’t get what happens to them after they are cooked and go inside people. I can almost read that question on her face every time she thinks about it. But she has not brought out the question as yet. Thank god for that, I am in no hurry to explain this to her. Already I feel she is growing up too soon.
And now when I am on this topic how can I forget the many questions I had from friends as soon as she was born if she is going to be fed meat. The first time I heard this question I gave them back such a stare as though to say are you out of your mind. Why would I make my daughter different from what we are?? And I heard many theories of how our vegetarian food lacked this and that and how many parents are opting not to bring up their kids as vegetarians. Well, I think generations of us have survived without any issues different from meat eaters, so why will things go wrong for her? And moreover it’s a personal choice, if somebody decided to give their kids meat, it is their choice I am not saying it is wrong. But what gets to me is when people react as though we are depriving our daughter of her basic rights or something. When she grows up and is capable of deciding for her own then it is totally her choice.
So in the meantime she is being raised as a vegetarian and will probably go through many such experiences. Her future will probably involve going for a group lunch to a restaurant and finding there is no vegetarian dish on the menu, talking to the waiter about making a standard pasta dish with meat without the meat. And sitting with her friends watching their food arrive, and still waiting on hers and wondering why, just why does it take so long for somebody to make pasta with lesser ingredients than what her friend is now eating!