As a father to three sons, I have embarked on a mission to impart in them life lessons of the utmost importance. These are my stories.
Why Are My Parents Vegetarian?
As I mentioned in my article about grilling, we’re a family of vegetarians. When I met my wife she was a vegetarian and at that point, I had given up red meat. A couple of years later I quit poultry, and seafood soon after.
When we became parents we decided that we would raise our sons as vegetarians. But we don’t want this to be a simple dietary quirk. We want them to understand our rationales.
When they move out of the house, what they eat will be up to them. My wife and I want vegetarianism to stick with them, so they better know why we’ve made our decisions.
Being Vegetarian Is Good for Your Health
First, I should acknowledge that it is entirely possible to eat an unhealthy vegetarian diet. Bear in mind the distinction between veganism (no meat, dairy, or animal products of any kind) and vegetarianism (which does allow for dairy). So even if you avoid meat, you could load up on cheese, carbohydrates, and any number of processed food products.
However, a vegetarian diet does pave the way to less fat and cholesterol. I dropped red meat when I was in college for training table reasons. With just a bit of diligence, all those calories that would have been devoted to beef, poultry, fish, etc. can be swung to fruits, vegetables, whole grains, etc.
My sons indulge in ice cream and candy like other kids, but they already have an understanding of what constitutes healthy eating.
Being Vegetarian Is Good for the Earth
Meat requires considerable resources to bring to the table. It’s just not a very energy-efficient means of feeding the masses.
I don’t propose that everyone become vegetarian, but if humans consumed just a little less meat we would generate far less greenhouse gas, put less strain on water supplies and other natural resources, and would more readily feed people around the globe.
Our vegetarian sons are thinking globally but acting locally.
Being Vegetarian Is Good for Your Soul
The biggest reason that my wife is a vegetarian is compassion. As she has put it, “If it has eyes, I’m not eating it.” Appreciating and cherishing the lives of animals has certainly rubbed off on our sons.
My oldest may very well end up being a marine biologist. My middle son took great pains on our recent beach trip to avoid harming sand crabs. And my youngest’s room is adorned with numerous posters and calendars depicting animals.
Vegetarianism makes a statement about the value of life. Research has shown that family habits and rituals play an important role in transmitting values from parents to children, even starting as early as infancy. 1
So vegetarianism is important to my wife and me and it has taken hold with our sons. But now for the ironic twist! A few months ago our oldest son got into fishing (file this under, “Unexpected Parenting Challenges”). This started because he has neighborhood friends who like to fish. When he first asked about this we pushed back. But he kept pressing us and we acquiesced for a few reasons.
Fishing gets him outdoors and puts him into positive social situations, including with his younger brothers and grandparents. It has given him opportunities outside of school to organize (rods and other gear), think strategically (site selections, bait choices), and develop his executive functions.
He also takes pride in his hobby and we don’t want to stifle that. He likes us to join him when he fishes, even if just to sit, watch, and talk. I still cringe when he hooks a fish, but parents often have to make decisions based on benefits and costs. Will he develop a taste for seafood? For now, at least, it’s all about catch-and-release.
Be sure to check back next month for another of Craig’s Life Lessons for his sons. Have a suggestion? Something you are teaching your son or daughter? Please share in a comment!
1 Rossano, M.J. (2012). The essential role of ritual in the transmission and reinforcement of social norms. Psychological Bulletin, 138(3), pp. 529-549.