My husband Alex is a vegan. I am not–though I keep kosher. Whenever we used to talk about what to feed our son Aiven we both came away feeling frustrated and empty-handed. I wanted to introduce Aiven to all types of food and let him make the decision for himself as to what foods to exclude. But Alex had valid points as to why we should not introduce certain foods into his diet. To make matters worse, we kept discussing it over and over and over again.
What I worried about was the social aspect to food. Food cannot easily be separated from culture and tradition. To even consider saying no to every cheese pizza, birthday cake, and Bubbe’s chicken soup brought tears to my eyes. Aiven would hate us!
I asked Alex what he would do when his 5-year-old son asked for money to buy an ice cream cone with his friends. Alex said he would refuse. I wondered if there was a better alternative. I knew that if Alex always said no to every request for non-vegan food and didn’t let Aiven choose for himself, Aiven will resent his father. And since Alex did not want Aiven to reject veganism out of anger and rebellion, he started to open up to the idea of not raising him as a vegan.
At 5 months, we started Aiven on solid foods and the discussions became more urgent. In no time at all, Aiven was going to graduate from purees, to chunky food, to real solid foods. How were we going to handle this? Alex and I kept discussing the issue (like I said–we talked about it over and over and over and over again). I agreed to watch a video, Meet Your Meat. It was disturbing but did not sway me. I dabbled in some more research, but not much. I was adamant that Aiven should have all food introduced into his diet.
I went back to the Internet for something, but I wasn’t sure what. Information? Alternatives? Excuses? I came across a message board for parents raising vegetarian children. In reading the messages, a new way of thinking dawned on me. I knew I could never agree to exclude all animal products from Aiven’s diet, but I was wrong in thinking that I had to include everything in his diet. There was a middle ground.
Since I’ve been with my husband I’ve eaten much less meat and chicken, and I hardly miss them. I figured it wouldn’t be so hard to exclude them from Aiven’s diet, and as the message board pointed out, he would still have plenty of other sources available for protein. Socially, it would be manageable, too. It’s relatively easy to explain vegetarianism, and I won’t have to worry about my child starving in the school cafeteria like I would with a vegan diet. As a bonus, since I’m not going to cook separate meals for myself, keeping a kosher kitchen will be a lot easier without having to worry about meat and poultry!
Rather than including until Aiven could decide to exclude, I switched it around. I would exclude a couple of things until he decided if he wanted to include them. I approached my husband and he agreed almost instantly. He even said I could give Aiven gefilte fish!
I am proud of us for finding a compromise–as hard as it was. Every marriage has its share of emotionally-charged issues that can take on a life of their own. It’s up to us to communicate with our partners and work as a team to find a creative solution. It took a lot of patience, but we got our happy ending. That is, until Aiven decides he wants a steak, medium rare.