I have always been overly worried about Eden. Not her safety nor her development but her feelings of fitting in. I’m sure this is connected to my move across the country at age 11 from small town Oregon to one of the most affluent suburbs of Chicago – a move which, as you can imagine, set me up for being a bit of the biggest dork in the 6th grade and resulted in me having a hard time making friends – and has very little to do with how Eden is experiencing the world. Since Nash has been born I worry that Eden will feel replaced, left out, forgotten, unloved, etc. These things, added to the fact that she’s a slightly odd child who would prefer to sit in the corner with a pile of books than run around with the other kids, gives me a lot of fuel for my fear.
This fear extends to her relationships where she is the only vegan kid she knows. She doesn’t know that she is a vegan – she is still too young to understand any of that – and when we give her crackers with (Diaya) cheese, she assumes she is eating the same cheese as everyone else. But I know it, and I pay attention when her plate of food is different than everyone else’s. Does she notice? Does she care? Is she going to feel a bit like the biggest dork among 2 year olds? See, over-worrier.
In response to this, I have always been hyper-prepared when she’s going to birthday parties or other children’s events. Living in Portland makes this easy because if I don’t have time to make something, I can swing by the local grocery store and find an assortment of vegan cookie or cupcake. Every party we go to I bring some sort of cake-replacement for Eden, and every time Eden doesn’t really care. More enthralled by the surroundings and other kids (okay let’s be honest, other kids’ libraries) she had no idea when it was cake time and usually I ended up eating the cupcake on the way home.
I tell you all this because I’m about to tell you something else in which I’m sure, by at least a few, I will be judged.
I gave Eden a non-vegan cupcake.
At the beginning of July we went to another kid’s birthday party. I was in the middle of a solo parenting week as Jason was out of town – exhausted and stressed. We had two events we had to hit up that afternoon, the party being the first and in the chaos that is life these days, it completely slipped my mind to come prepared with a vegan treat for Eden. When we got to the party I noticed the cupcakes right away. I worried about it for a second then figured I could easily distract her when cake time came and she would be none-the-wiser.
But that’s not what happened.
We gathered everyone around to sing happy birthday and then the cupcakes were handed out, each kid choosing between a chocolate or vanilla cupcake. Eden and I were sitting right in front and as she watched the kids come and pick up their cupcakes, I started to panic. My daughter, the girl to which I have promised the whole world, is not going to get a cupcake! My daughter, the girl who keeps me up at night in worry because I’m afraid she won’t fit in, is going to be left out. And then in her little, shy voice she whispered “cupcake?” and that was enough for me to make the decision I would never have imagined making. I gave her a cupcake.
Do I regret it?
No. I don’t believe in regret. I believe in learning lessons. I now can acknowledged that this vegan parenting thing won’t always be easy. And sometimes down-right hard. Most of the time I will be figuring it out as I go along, surely making mistakes. It’s got me thinking about this new generation of vegans mostly being raised by parents (like me) who were raised very differently. When it comes to vegan parenting, I can’t pull from my experiences, nor do I have much of a community from which to draw.
With all of these ideas floating around in my head, I’ve decided to start a new series called “Raising Vegans” I am looking for contributors who would like to share their stories and experiences, give there advice, or ask questions in hopes that we can create a healthy conversation for all parents who are choosing to raise veg kids. If you are raising veg kids and want to be featured on The Sweet Life, please consider taking the time and filling out this Raising Vegan Questionnaire. You can email me with any questions at sarah @ thesweetlifeonline (dot) come
Thanks! Let’s start talking.