I have a super gross confession to share: When I was a little kid, I used to kiss worms.
I also rescued injured birds, cried when I ate roast beef, and treated my pets like kids. So it was no surprise when at age 24, I decided to go vegan.
Today, I’m raising my daughter the same way.
Just to give you a quick run-down, living vegan means I don’t eat any animals or their milk and eggs. I also try not to buy products that test on animals or have any animal ingredients in them. The goal is to do the least amount of harm to all living things — and that’s exactly what I aim to do each day.
About 7 years into being vegan, I became pregnant with my daughter, Juniper. Like most parents, I knew I wanted to share some important principles with her. Adopting a compassionate lifestyle has grown to become the closest thing to a faith for me, so it made all the sense in the world to pass it down to my kiddo.
I just had to convince my burger-loving husband. No big deal, right?
Luckily for me, my sweet hubby, Matt knew what he was getting into when we met in 2014. My OKCupid profile clearly stated I was vegan (alongside other stuff like “good at underwater handstands” and “gin rummy champion”). I was initially hoping to find an open-minded boyfriend who’d lovingly accept how I lived.
What I received was an unbelievably encouraging and accepting partner … who happened to love pizza with extra cheese and sausage on it.
While Matt and I differ in how we choose to eat, we’ve both been respectful of each other. Supporting my choices has opened Matt up to looking at food with more mindfulness — something he tells me is a very good thing in his book. So I wasn’t surprised when Matt gave his full blessing to raising Juniper vegan.
I am, however, delighted to see how meaningful the experience has become for us all.
My daughter is now a healthy, happy, and active 22-month-old. She started grabbing for my green smoothies at around 4 months old and has been enjoying a ton of yummy vegan food ever since. Juniper also doesn’t hesitate to say a warm hello to bugs and hugs animals every chance she gets. The inherent compassion I exhibited as a kid is alive and well in my daughter — and it feels amazing to help her connect that compassion with her daily choices.
I thought the coolest part in all of this would be seeing Juniper thrive as a vegan child, but I was wrong. Hands down, the most awesome thing has been how much Matt and my 11-year-old stepdaughter, Bella have opened their hearts while helping raise her this way. It’s definitely been a learning curve for us all, and a heck of lot of compromise, too.
However, it just might be the best thing that has happened to our family.
We keep a largely vegetarian house, which means that every dairy-based option usually has a vegan alternative right next to it. My husband loves to cook, so he’s invented some pretty rad new dishes we all enjoy together. Both he and Bella have gone great lengths to make sure everyone — including them — feed Juniper animal-free options. And Bella doesn’t hesitate to gently explain to her little sister why she eats differently sometimes.
This past year in particular has included some positive developments for Matt and Bella. My stepdaughter requested to have her birthday party at a local farm animal sanctuary. When I explained to her that the place required us to bring plant-based food, she was totally on board. My husband has also recently started eating vegetarian to see if his body would feel better without meat. So far, he’s loving the changes and wants to keep it up.
I don’t know what the future will hold for us. I’m sure there will come a point when my daughter asks her sister or dad if she can try something off their plates. I spoke about it with Bella when Juniper was just a baby, and she assured me she knows exactly what to do when the time comes.
In fact, her response filled my eyes with happy tears. She told me she’ll remind Juniper that her mommy has learned a really cool way to be nice to animals. She’ll read her sister books that remind her why it’s important to be kind to them. She’ll also be sure to find enough food that they can eat together.
In fact, Bella thinks some dairy-free ice cream is a sensible place to start.