My sweet little baby turned 240-months-old on June 12, or 20 years, (hush!) and this occasion had me reflecting on some of the things that I think made it easier for me and my husband to raise our son vegan during a time when things were not nearly as friendly for those who choose this path as it is today.
I’ve got some thoughts. I am not a parenting expert but I am a committed vegan and I wanted our lifestyle to take with as little pushback as possible. All children are different and all parenting choices are different, but I think these are some of the ways that we helped to make veganism an easy, commonsensical and attractive way to live for our son. All mileage will vary, of course, but I think these ten things contributed to an ease of integration for our son and our vegan family. He remains vegan today and plans to be for life.
Although this list comes in no particular order, community is the first thing I thought of for good reason: I believe it’s that critical to a happy, integrated vegan practice. You don’t need to be a social butterfly, I’m certainly not, but I do think if you are planning to raise vegan children, you owe it to them to find families like yours to help them feel part of a larger community. Not only does this help them to feel less alone in a world where eating animals and animal products is the norm (by far!), it will help to deepen their sense of purpose, develop friendships and connection.
When my son was two, I was introduced by a mutual friend to another vegan mom and we created the Chicago Vegan Family Network (CVFN) together. We had monthly potlucks as well as summer camping trips and weekend excursions to animal sanctuaries. We got to celebrate holidays together — the October party for Halloween was particularly lit! — and help one another face vegan child-rearing challenges rarely discussed in the early 2000s. I am still friends with most of those parents from that time as well. Most important was what it meant to our children. When CVFN was at its peak, it was a very fun event to look forward to each month where veganism was normalized and I felt very good about knowing that our young son had this great group of like-minded peers, mentors and support.