Once upon a time I was married to a very nice man who was always telling me that he was so thankful I wasn’t a vegetarian anymore – and then he read The China Study. In fact, he read The China Study aloud to me during those first few post-partum weeks after the second baby beetnik was born and I was strapped to a rocking chair nursing non-stop. The result of this was we changed our diet to cut out all animal products and both of us felt great and life carried on more or less the same but with more adventures in the kitchen and my 2-year old first born telling every one we didn’t eat “animal projects” anymore.
Fast forward a year later to a conversation with our oldest daughter:
Us: What did you have for snack today at preschool? (It’s a co-operative preschool, the snack is provided by the parent-helper of the day.)
Daughter: *suddenly paralyzed by fear is unable to speak (for the first time in her life).*
Us: Didn’t you get a snack?
Daughter: *eyes get even wider but she still has not regained the ability to talk and is about to panic*
So, husband and I kind of looked at each other and shrugged it off – until it kept happening every time we asked. A seemingly innocuous question that was really more an attempt to make her feel good about preschool than us caring about what she had for snack.
Until one day while I was thinking about her strange reaction it just clicked: she was afraid to tell us what she had for snack.
The reason for this: cheese.
The snack at preschool almost always has some sort of cheese with it. Which makes sense right? Kids love cheese and you can almost always guarantee that they will eat it. Plus, it provides protein and as North Americans we are often obsessively concerned by the amount of protein we – and everyone else – are getting (that’s a whole other topic of discussion).
Anyway, I immediately went into that downward spiral of mommy-guilt because my daughter was afraid to talk to me about something. This was obviously a crucial moment in parenting. So I asked her, “was there cheese?” To which she answered meekly, “Yes… …I ate the cheese.” My husband and I stared at each other and then… we didn’t make a big deal about it. The last thing we wanted was for her to be afraid to tell us what she ate (or anything for that matter).
I can understand her fear though. We were all relatively new to navigating this way of life. Since then I have laid down a couple ground rules:
1) If you are hungry: eat.
2) This is how we eat at home (whole-foods, plant-based), when you are out you make your own decisions.
That’s pretty much it. As someone raising three daughters the last thing I want is for them to feel like any particular food is bad or off limits – society is going to put enough pressure on them and what they eat/what they weigh/how they look soon enough. Sure, I encourage them to avoid dairy (our oldest had some real problems with it before we changed our diet) but if they are at a birthday party and cake and ice cream is being served then they eat the cake and ice cream. I already feel like our family is a little out of the norm most days. I don’t want to be one of those parents who forbids their kid to eat cake and ice cream for any reason. Life is just to damn short for that.
(Disclaimer: I do not get paid to endorse The China Study and I have no affiliation with it so if I link to it and you click on that link the only thing that happens is you choose to read the link or not. I get nothing. Thought I would make that clear.)