Childrearing

My Son Is A Vegan. But I Pretend He Has An Allergy–For Convenience

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Unfortunately, by first grade this policy changed. Apparently food decisions are left up to individual teachers within the school board. I guess it was assumed by age six kids should know what’s healthy and what’s not. (A bit of a conflict since many kids that age still don’t know their hamburger used to have a face, but that’s another story.) In Noah’s class that year there were two kids allergic to dairy and eggs. A note was sent home to parents requesting no dairy whatsoever be sent for lunch in case of cross contamination. Some moms thought that was taking it too far and complained, but I was secretly thrilled. No dairy! Woohoo! Since most birthday parties don’t celebrate with a chunk of steak or a piece of salmon with a candle in the middle, all the treats brought in that year were plant based. It was proof kids can still enjoy a delicious cupcake or cookie without dairy or eggs. After all, it’s not the sugary sweetness I have a problem with (I love dessert!), it’s the animal products stuffed into the treat that doesn’t work for us.

But my small victories were lost by second grade, when this policy went completely out the window. Now anything goes, except of course for the killer nuts. But if you want to promote an all-inclusive education, why not include every child in the celebration? This year there are no kids with allergies in Noah’s class, so there are no alternative foods provided during classroom parties.

It seems when it’s an ethical reason not to eat a food it is not taken seriously, but when it’s an allergy, policies change and rules are made (Yes, I know Noah won’t collapse from eating the gelatin filled gummy worm cupcake but his little heart will be broken). Quite often, instead of being congratulated for his strong willed passionate decision, Noah is punished because he is forced to watch his friends devour sugary sweets while he sits sadly staring uncomfortably at the blackboard. After this happened a few times I jumped into action. I ensured the parents knew Noah was vegan and if given a heads up I can send him with his own cruelty-free treat. Despite the ever-rising number of vegans in the world, Noah still remains the only plant-based kid in school.

On a playdate once the mother bought the kids ‘regular’ chocolate cake and glared at me and said defensively, “If Noah wants to eat it he can. It’s his decision to be vegan. It’s not like he is allergic to it.” So that’s what got me thinking. Perhaps the world is not ready for passionate children making strong choices. I know that mainstream restaurants aren’t. A typical conversation when the server comes to take our order goes like this;
Miriam: Hi, can you please tell me what vegan options are available?

Server: We have chicken, it’s very popular.
Miriam: Oh. Actually we don’t eat any animals or products from animals. We’re both vegan.
Server: I see. Okay. How about the pizza? There is only cheese and veggies on it.

Miriam: Cow cheese? Like from a cow?
Server: Of course. But it just has a bit of cheese, not too much. So that should be fine.
Miriam: Do you have anything without any animal products?

Server: Um. Bread. Well it has eggs but that should be okay for you, right?… (Long silence) Or you can order the burger and just eat the bun and lettuce (Are you serious?)
After countless visits to mainstream restaurants throughout the United States and Canada (I work as a family travel writer) I decided to take a new approach. I started telling our servers that Noah was allergic to certain foods. It started innocently enough while in the Bahamas (Home of seafood) and I just wanted to know what foods didn’t have fish. Nobody understood why, so by the fourth restaurant I said, “My son is allergic to fish, can you please tell me what foods he can eat?” It was the best white lie I ever told. The chef came out to tell us the specials! I was overjoyed (Except I couldn’t look him in the eyes because I am the worst liar). Noah happily ate his pasta and fresh vegetables made especially for him. My plan was brilliant!

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