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Vegan children and non-vegan grandparents

by Katie
(Seattle, Washington)

How do I navigate having my parents or my husbands parents baby sit and they are not vegan? I feel like they might take the "what mommy and daddy don't know, won't hurt them." Do I just trust them? What can I say to them to have them understand why we are raising our children this way? My husband's family is very southern and my family just rolls their eyes at our lifestyle.

*Vegan Momma's response:*

Hi Katie,
This is a really important question because it touches on such a deeper issue; whether your parents respect the way you choose to parent.

People typically feed their kids exactly the same way they were fed when they were children, and most vegans I know are doing the exact opposite. I was fed what I consider to be a "healthy standard American diet." My parents didn't let us have too much sugar and we ate plenty of fruits and vegetables, but it was super heavy in dairy, meat, and fish.

Food is so deeply ingrained in culture that it can't easily be separated. It's part of culture, so when you choose to go a different way it can feel to the people who raised you as though you're choosing completely apart from your own people. So, basically, it's threatening to them. It feels as though you're saying, "you didn't do it right, and I am now doing it right." There's a good chance you don't actually have such an aggressive view on it, but that's how it feels on the other side.

I think it's important to keep that in mind when you're addressing this issue with your parents so that it doesn't feel as threatening to them. All parents do things differently in some ways than their parents did, but it's often something less fundamental than food. But we do need to maintain respect for their choices if we expect them to ever respect ours.

Once you have that empathy in place, I do think this is something that needs to be addressed. They have to understand how fundamentally you believe that it's wrong to consume animal products. My parents understand that I have a strong ethical view that it's completely wrong, and I believe that is why they respect how I feed my kids and I trust that they would never go against it. To me it's as strong as any religious beliefs.

What's interesting is that my mom has actually taken notice of how similar my feeding style is to how she taught us. She recognizes the fruit for dessert and the abundant vegetables and the basic rules for sitting together through the whole meal, and she focuses on those. Not only does it not upset her that we don't feed them animal products, but I believe she's actually proud that we're taking a stand for what matters to us.

On the other hand, I have experience where people in our lives don't seem to respect our food rules, and I have to bring that back onto my shoulders since I don't think I've properly explained to them how fundamental our ethical beliefs are. It's a necessary conversation.

Now, if you have explained it and answered any questions and provided food for grandparents to feed when you're not around (or given recipes if they want to cook), and they go against you, I absolutely believe that is cause for not allowing your kids to be alone with their grandparents until they show they can follow your rules. Watching their grandchildren is a privilege, not a right, and if it's abused it should be revoked. That may sound like a hard line, but that's where I personally set it. They can not disrespect our rules and still be given the same privileges with our impressionable kids.

If nothing else, they should be worried about how sick the kids might get if they eat a food their body has never had before. That's how my dad is- he doesn't want to be in a position to deal with vomit or diarrhea!

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