A sad day is on the horizon: the day Dylan no longer fits into one of our favorite items of his clothing. Given to him by his dear Auntie M, this stylish onesie is not only made from soft organic cotton, it also boldly encourages our boy (and everyone else) to discover the yumminess of a certain veggie too often unfairly disparaged.
As a nine-month, our son is still getting the vast majority of his calories and nutrition through his bottle of formula, so his diet isn't that different from most kids' his age. We've introduced the typical purees and then small pieces of fruits and vegetables slowly, and he's been a pretty good eater. Even though he furrows his brow and grimaces (adorably) with the first bite, he will usually even finish his peas.
But as he matures, most "experts" advise beginning to feed him small pieces of meat. This is something we have no plans to do. Dylan is a vegetarian baby.
Way back when, during the first, nervous phone conversation M and I had as singles looking for love, we talked about a lot of things. But it wasn't until the subject of food came up that I became really enthusiastic about the deep-voiced guy on the end of the line.
I asked M what kind of cuisine he enjoyed, and he said something like, "Thai, Italian, Middle Eastern..." There was something about the way he excluded "ribs" and "burgers" that prompted me to make a confession. "I like those foods too. I'm a vegetarian, and they all have great veggie options."
"You're vegetarian?" asked M. "Me too!"
Although we'd already found a lot of commonalities, this was a big one (especially for me, since in the U.S. there are so many fewer vegetarian men than women). We talked a bit more and learned that we are the same kind of vegetarian: we both eat diary, eggs, and seafood, but not other kinds of meat.
Most importantly, we learned that we made our dietary choices for the same reasons. We both don't like the way animals are treated as commodities and tortured and killed for a meal. We both don't like how distant consumers in supermarkets and restaurants are from the process that brought animals to their plates. We both have serious concerns about how the food industry impacts the environment and how much more damage is done because of livestock. (Do you know how much corn is used to feed chickens? Why not just eat the corn?!) And, we both think that a plant-based diet is the healthiest option.
We have, from time to time, asked ourselves, "If we believe all of those things - and we do - why aren't we vegan, avoiding all animal byproducts entirely?" The answer is, while we admire vegans, that is a lifestyle we personally can't tolerate. It's too extreme - at least right now - for M and me. It would take away more of the enjoyment we get out of dining than we can handle. (Is a life without chocolate gelato really worth living?)
In fact, I'll share that when we travel, our diets sometimes vary from the usual in the name of "cultural immersion" so that we can try local specialties.
So, now back to Dylan: when M and I shared our adoption plans with friends and family, we often got the question: "Will your child be vegetarian?" Truthfully, I was always startled by the question.
M and I both choose to be vegetarian because it reflects our values, and since we see that one of our most important roles as parents - adoptive or otherwise - is teaching our child our values, of course Dylan will be vegetarian.
But then I feel I need to modify my declaration.
For both of us, what we eat is a very personal decision. Fortunately, it's the same decision...which makes dinner planning much simpler. While we think there are very good reasons to eat the way we do (see above), other people obviously reach different conclusions.
We expect to only feed Dylan the same foods that we eat. And why we eat as we do will be part of our family conversations. But as our little guy develops and has opportunities to explore other options, we won't discourage eating things that aren't on our family's menu.
Like we will with religion and politics and other manifestations of our values, we will guide our child to the best of our abilities. And we will try not to be too shocked when our teenager rebels by requesting ham for Christmas dinner!
One of Dylan's first exposures to legumes