Please list your family members’ names and ages along with something special about them (occupation, favorite food, favorite past time, etc.):
Mike (37 year-old auto mechanic), Loraine (34 year-old stay-at-home mom), Aiden (very active and highly sensitive 5 year-old), Oliver (quiet and loving almost 2 year-old).
Is everyone in your family vegan and if not, what’s that like?
We are all vegans. Loraine has been a vegan since 1990. Mike was an omni when they met and started dating in 1998. Loraine was very clear that she was not interested in being married to man who was a not, at the very least, a vegetarian. As Mike and Loraine’s relationship become serious, Mike decided to become a vegetarian and they married a year later. Two months ago, Mike decided to become a vegan. As Loraine did the majority of the shopping and cooking, when Mike was a vegetarian there was rarely an occasion when non-vegan food items were present in the home. For Loraine, it’s important for their home to be a vegan sanctuary of sorts.
Were your kids raised vegan from the start or did your family transition into being vegan?
Aiden and Oliver have been vegan since birth. Aiden, although 5, has always asked if a food item being presented to him is vegan. He is highly sensitive and a very caring and compassionate little boy to his baby brother, to the many rescued cats living in our home and to his classmates. He is also a self-described rescuer of bugs!
Are extended family and friends supportive of your lifestyle? If you recently transitioned to veganism, how did they react to your change in lifestyle?
Loraine’s in-laws were somewhat skeptical of the vegan lifestyle, especially for the boys. However, they see the children thriving and have voiced no more concerns.
Is vegan food easy to obtain in your area?
Yes and no. There is a pretty good selection of vegan food items at the local grocery and health food stores, however the items seem to be scattered between them all and a lot of traveling (and sometimes to the United States) is required. There are very few restaurants in neighbouring towns that serve vegan food items. There are no vegan/vegetarian restaurants in our town (Welland).
How do you handle holidays and birthday parties?
Birthdays and holidays celebrated in our home are 100% vegan and guests are aware of that and don’t bring non-vegan food items into our home. Birthdays celebrated at Loraine’s side of the family are almost always 100% vegetarian as most of her family are either vegetarian or vegan. Birthdays and holidays celebrated at Mike’s side of the family have vegan food options provided, but there is always meat present.
Do you have any favorite recipes or cookbooks?
Loraine loves the Sarah Kramer cookbooks! Favourite recipes include pasta with chickpeas and articokes, potato goulash, lentil stew and shepherd’s pie. Aiden says Loraine makes the best cupcakes.
Please describe any social or emotional issues you’ve had to deal with in raising vegan kids.
Having a vegan child in public school has proven to be more difficult than anticipated. Aiden attended a seminar in junior kindergarten put on by the Ontario Dairy Council and regularly receives pamphlets and other materials promoting the consumption of cow’s milk. The school has partnered with the local M&M Meat Shop to raise funds and their fliers often come home in Aiden’s backpack. Class trips to the zoo, marine park and outdoor educational centres to see spring lambs (to be sent to slaughter in the fall) have all been discussed as a family and then avoided.
Have you met any resistance (or ignorance) when dealing with doctors and/or teachers?
We’ve been very fortunate in that we haven’t met with any negativity from the medical field. The children were born at home with midwives and we see a naturopath. Our family doctor (born in India) has been fabulous. We are all very healthy (the children, although small by north american diet standards) and are thriving on a vegan diet.
Teachers have been difficult at times. They seem to make no effort to include Aiden’s veganism in school activities. They choose class trips we cannot attend and they do crafts that use non-vegan items, such as dying chicken eggs for Easter. The most difficult, especially for Aiden, is putting non-vegan holiday candy items into Aiden’s backpack to be brought home and discarded. It is very distressing for Aiden to have all the positive feelings associated with being given a gift painfully disolve when that gift is discarded or given away. These issues have been discussed with Aiden’s teachers, however, there is no interest on their part to change. As parents, we are giving the children positive feelings about being vegan by doing such things as having favourite vegan treats on hand (at home and at school) and by taking the children to places like Farm Sanctuary and amusement parks that don’t have animal exhibits. Aiden has developed a sense of joy about having animal friends and not eating them and for all the wonderful things that veganism does for the environment and for our bodies and souls.
Do you have any words of advice to offer other vegan families or families in the process of transitioning to veganism?
Children can and will thrive on a vegan diet. To us, there is no greater gift than to raise children that show compassion to themselves, the world and everyone around them—fur or no fur.