Hazel has decided to be vegetarian. She announced it last night as we were sitting down to a vegetarian meal from the Dinner Swap - roasted veggie panini sandwiches, spinach salad, grapes & raspberries. But she had obviously been thinking about it.
We have a handful of vegetarians in our life, so here and there Hazel has asked questions, which I have answered. How do people become vegetarian? Either they choose it (for a variety of reasons), or their parents are, so their whole family just eats that way. Why don't they eat meat? Some don't like how it tastes, some don't like the thought of killing or eating animals, some think it's healthier. Can vegetarians eat fruit? Yes, they eat everything except meat, and some still eat fish. But they eat everything else, like rice, grapes, cereal, yogurt. Et cetera.
Yesterday at school Hazel bought lunch. When faced with cheese or pepperoni pizza, had chosen cheese, not her usual choice. When she told me this at dinner, and said she was now vegetarian, I decided to take her seriously, not like the amused reaction my parents gave me when I made the same announcement at age 11. True, I said was going to be vegetarian "except for ham", and it obviously didn't stick, but people, even children, like to be shown some respect.
We talked about how this would affect our family. We can work with it, making sure there are enough meatless choices for her. Breakfast and lunch are no big deal, so dinner is the only meal to consider, and with the Dinner Swap there will always be at least two side dishes that are usually meatless. And there is always PBJ. Actually Hazel overdosed on PBJ last year and doesn't like it anymore. Or cheese. But I have encouraged her to try to like them again because they will go a long way in expanding her vegetarian meal options. We talked about protein sources - nuts, beans, dairy - and I even told her about tofu, which I have eaten only a few times and never bought or cooked with - Ed says NO to tofu, but I think we could try it out. In fact, Ed feels overall more amused and less supportive, or maybe less believing, than I do. But when he asked her how she came to the decision, she simply told him, "I just feel done with meat." Then tonight the next Dinner Swap meal came. Really fabulous fixings for southwest chicken/taco salad - chips, lettuce, homemade bean & corn salsa, dressing, cheese and slow cooked chicken. Hazel looked around the table and said, "Mom, being vegetarian and picky is hard work." I said, "Yes it is. I think you should drop being picky." I knew she was hungry. She sat down and filled her plate with chips and lettuce and some bean salsa. Then she got out the ketchup and used it to dip her lettuce in. My girls love ketchup. Then she asked if she could have a hard-boiled egg from the fridge. And that was dinner. I didn't say anything; she seems quietly convicted.
It's interesting. I wasn't going to write about this until I knew if it would "stick", but then I changed my mind. Even if she is vegetarian for only a week, or a month, and then wants some chicken fingers, it's part of her story. It's something she has thought about, a personal decision she has made. And can change whenever she wants, like a favorite color. A chance for us to show her our respect and support, and encourage her taking responsibility and consideration for her own health.
But please oh please don't let her go vegan. Or worse (for us) - gluten-free! Vegetarian we can live with. But stop eating butter and flour...and we have a problem.