Super-Mom of the Month, August 2012
For my family, tofu for dinner isn’t torture—it’s a treat. Centered on our Thanksgiving table is thickly sliced Tofurky, complete with stuffing that’s only seen the inside of a saucepan. And if we happen to zip through a fast food drive-through, we request our burgers “without meat.”
Raising two vegetarian daughters, now ages 5 and almost-15, has been a highlight in my experience as a so-called (thanks, Taylor!) Super-mom. Being vegetarian myself since 1991, there was no doubt that I’d one day lead my children down the same compassionate, healthy-eating path that I’d discovered. What I didn’t expect was that it would be such a joyful, bonding experience for me and my girls—or that it’d be as easy as it has been, for all of us.
When my teenager was a toddler, I searched high and low for books that would help her understand why she ate differently from other kids. I worried that my guidance wouldn’t be enough—that she’d be teased and pressured and start sneaking steaks at friends’ houses or hoarding hamburgers in her desk drawers. Besides my uncle, who we rarely saw, we knew no other vegetarians. And though our family and friends were supportive, I dreaded the seemingly-innocent-yet-in-reality-heavy questioning I knew she’d get from strangers wanting to know why she “didn’t eat meat.”
But there wasn’t a vegan version of Pinkalicious (Veggie Girl Extraordinaire, standing up to the broccoli-hating bullies!), as I’d hoped to find. There wasn’t a how-to guide for dealing with birthday parties where only pepperoni pizza was served. There was no script for answering the relentless, inevitable question, “But… how does she get protein?”. I was on my own. And like any Super-mom, I did the best I could to teach my child, and to navigate through whatever sensitive, awkward situations arose.
But really, there weren’t that many. Kids weren’t cruel, they were curious. Adults joked, but my girls both developed confidence in their beliefs—not because of anything a manual could have “instructed” me to teach them. It was more “walking the talk”—together. Being vegetarian, for us, is about respect for life, respect for the planet and respect for our health. And, it turns out, when little, everyday actions revolve around these concepts (carrying spiders outside instead of “squashing” them, for example), you build a solid foundation of thoughtfulness, compassion and intelligence that no snickering over a sans-meat sandwich in your lunchbox can shake.
We got, and still get, a lot of questions. But never have my girls been embarrassed of, or shy about, being vegetarian. In fact, they’re quite the opposite. My five year old asks for extra veggie dogs to share with her preschool friends. And my 15 year old would be more than happy to tell you a thing or two about cruelty-free makeup. Me? This Super-“Veg”-mom hopes to, one day, pen a story starring an adventurous, strong vegetarian girl character who fuels up on tofu and leaps factory farms in a single bound. Goodness knows, I’ve got the inspiration.