By Melissa Face
***First published in Sasee Magazine – 11/1/2019
My son, Evan, jabbed his fork at the meal in front of him, but he didn’t take a bite.
“What’s wrong?” I asked. “Do you feel bad?”
“I’m fine,” Evan responded.
He continued scooting his meal across the plate, but he still didn’t eat.
“Talk to me, buddy,” I urged. “Are you sick?”
“No,” he whimpered.
Evan’s face turned crimson and tears slid down his cheeks.
“I just can’t eat meat anymore,” he said. “I don’t feel right about it. We’re being mean to them, and they didn’t do anything to us.”
My husband and I exchanged helpless glances. We were both completely caught off guard, so instead of responding too soon, we encouraged him to express his feelings.
“I just don’t think it’s right,” he continued. “Animals are my friends. They have feelings, and I feel like I need to protect them.”
“I understand,” I told him. “And I’m glad that you are comfortable telling us how you feel.”
Through tears, Evan continued telling us about his thoughts, and while he talked, I brainstormed about what I might say that could be helpful.
“Plus,” Evan said, “Gandhi was a vegetarian.”
Well, I certainly didn’t know that, and I realized my child had just closed his argument with the ultimate mic drop. Not bad for an 8-year-old. How could I argue with Gandhi?
So, I encouraged Evan to do something about how he feels. I told him he could avoid meat, and we would find other sources of protein. I also reminded him that dwelling on the things that make us sad is not productive. I asked him instead to think of ways that he could make a difference in the lives of animals.
Evan suggested volunteering at our local animal shelter, and we agreed that we could definitely take them some food and supplies. We spent a large portion of the afternoon talking about ways Evan could help animals and participate in activities that coincide with his beliefs.
That night, Evan was scheduled to attend a birthday party without us. They were eating at a fast-food chain, so Evan and I discussed possible menu items for him. I wanted to be sure he had a plan and would be able to eat something meatless.
After we picked him up, we talked more about his decision and some meatless meal options. Evan’s new diet restrictions present an additional challenge when we already deal with a nut allergy. But it’s very important to my husband and me that we listen to our children and try to support their beliefs, within reason.
So, whether it’s a true lifestyle change or a short-lived childhood phase, we’re going along on the vegetarian ride. I’m looking forward to trying some new veggie recipes on our new venture.
“I am glad that you listen to me, even though I’m still a kid,” Evan told me. “I am still figuring out the world. I know I have a lot to learn.”
“We are all figuring things out,” I agreed. “And we should always be learning something new.”
Maybe I’ll start by reading more about Gandhi.