Hello out there! It's me, Kelly. Yes, we abandoned you. It was bound to happen. But we're still here and we're still vegan. The vegan kid is 11 and has a 19 month old little brother (whom I am nursing as I type). Today I'm going to repost an article I wrote for an online vegetarian magazine (that is now defunct) when Shae was 4.
I have a friend whose family just went vegan- against all odds!- and she reminded me of those days today. Way back when we decided not to be apart of the masses and to make better choices for the animals and also for our bodies, even if they were the choices that involved more effort. Sometimes it's hard to remember ever not being vegan...
Veganism for the Four Year Old
Veganism isn't about drama for Shae; it's just his life. Shae doesn't eat animal products because he loves animals. One quirky thing about our family is that when he asks me questions about food, farms, life, anything really... I tell him the truth….not the graphic truth, but the edited for-his-little-ears truth. I see it as my job as a mother to educate him, to prepare him for the world. Lying or dumbing things down for him is just holding him back. Why would I withhold knowledge from my child? Isn't knowledge the key to his future?
Shae: Why don't we eat meat?
Me: Because we don't want to hurt animals. Meat is the body of an animal...and to get the meat, the animal has to get dead. Besides, meat makes our bodies not healthy.
Shae: Why isn't everyone vegetarian, Mommy?
Me: Not everyone takes the time to learn things, so they don't understand how bad eating animals is yet.
Shae: Why don't we drink regular milk?
Me: That kind of milk comes from cows. It comes from the mommy cow's body to feed her babies. It isn't made for human bodies. The farmers that take the milk from the mommies are very mean to them and hurt them. If we drink soy milk it is healthier for our bodies and doesn't hurt any one at all!
Shae: Why don't we eat honey?
Me:The bees spend their lives making the honey for themselves, it would be mean if we took it from them and if we take their honey from their hives, it could hurt them or make them die.
Shae sometimes gets frustrated when he sees family members eating meat. It's hard for him to understand why so many people just don't care about the animals, but then again, that's hard for me to understand too. He's been known to ask people, especially his many grandparents, "Why are you eating that animal?" and follows up with "Don't you want that little cow to live with its mommy and daddy instead of getting dead and going into your tummy?" This has led to many a meal abruptly turning at least vegetarian to please him. He has influenced so many people with his wide-eyed innocence than most hardcore activists could ever imagine doing. How can you look into such a sweet, loving little face, and say that you don't care if your meal had a mommy or daddy, because you like how it tastes?
It isn't just family & friends that Shae has influenced; he's also been turning the heads of pure strangers. With his homemade vegetarian t-shirts and sweet words he has been able to explain his cruelty-free lifestyle to willing, open-minded people. They aren't angry or defensive as they might get with adults, so he's able to get his point across more clearly.
The thing about Shae that makes him special is that he isn't trying to preach like a lot of us activists find ourselves doing. He just does what comes naturally to him! Maybe that is why when people learn of his veganism, he's never been met with any opposition or challenges. He's just a regular kid that plays on a tee ball team, runs around the yard with his dogs, loves to paint… and happens to not eat any animal products.
Cutting all animal products out of his diet had many benefits for Shae. As an omnivore, he got sick easily and frequently. He caught all the viruses that went around, and would get sick to his stomach easily after eating certain meals. As he went vegetarian, he started getting sick a lot less frequently. Then we began slowly cutting the last cheese products out of his diet, and started to notice that if he got sick it would be after something cheesy. Now as a vegan, he hasn't been sick at all. He never even gets an upset stomach. He has slimmed down and has tons more energy. Even his pediatrician has commented on the positive changes, saying "whatever you're feeding him, you're doing something right!"
So, when you hear the word, "vegan", think beyond the crunchy granola hippies and hardcore scenesters images, and picture an average, bright-eyed 4-year-old little boy! Shae doesn't meet any of the stereotypes, but he sure wants to break some boundaries.
---Kelly Dyer is the happily married, vegan, full-time mother of Shae.