Dear Baby Fraz,
I can’t believe how close we are to meeting you in person. Five weeks, the day of the Boston Marathon, assuming you don’t jump the gun. If you’re like your mother, you’ll probably leave yourself plenty of time, just in case you run into any delays on the way out. If you’re more like your old man, you’ll get caught up in doing something else and likely show up five to ten minutes late.
A lot of people have been asking how we’re going to handle the vegetarian thing with you, and you’re probably wondering the same thing. I think it’s kind of cool that you were conceived shortly after your mother and I became vegetarian, so no amount of meat has ever passed into your system. In that sense, you’re immaculate. And how neat would it be to know that you lived your life completely “pure,” never consuming the flesh of a single sentient being.
But to raise you with that aim would be completely out of character for me or your mother. Far deeper than my conviction that one shouldn’t eat animals is my belief that life is about experiencing things for yourself, not accepting on faith alone what others tell you is true or right without question. For the same reason that I won’t provide you with a default religion to shape your malleable little mind before you’re good at making your own decisions, I won’t forbid you to eat meat.
Still, part of my job as a parent is to guide you in the direction I believe is right. But “guide” is very different from “force.” I will explain to you, in words you can understand, why in our advanced society I don’t believe we need to hurt animals to feed ourselves. Your nursery will be decorated with friendly-looking giraffes and ducks (sorry about all the yellow, but that’s the price we all pay for keeping your sex a surprise). And some of your very best friends, long before you develop strong friendships with human peers, will be our dogs, Linus and Sascha. Maybe it’s wishful thinking, but I envision Linus being extremely gentle around you and Sascha protecting you like you’re her own child.
In that way, I will attempt to instill in you my values without denying you the opportunity to make many of your own choices. Certainly when you discover Chicken McNuggets at a friend’s house or on TV — we’ll save TV for another conversation — you’ll want to try them, and I won’t deprive you of that experience. And you won’t be the weird kid on the block who isn’t allowed to eat fast food or has to have a special dinner prepared in order to eat at a friend’s house. To subject you to that and all that comes with it would not only be unfair; I think it would lead you to store up resentment towards us that would eventually lead to your complete rebellion when you get a little taste of freedom.
Your mother and I won’t be cooking anything at home that has meat in it, even for you, but when you’re old enough to cook I’ll be ecstatic to teach you. And if at that point you’d like to cook yourself meat, you’re welcome to do so. If you want pepperoni on your pizza, I’ll probably even let you order that. (But before you do, I’ll explain to you that lots of pigs are just as smart as Linus and Sascha, and have the same feelings as they do.)
All of this assumes that your mother and I don’t come across information that leads us to change our mind about the healthfulness of a vegetarian diet for children. As of now, I have no reason to think that you can’t be far healthier on a plant-based diet than you can eating animals.
I can’t wait to meet you. We’re going to have a lot of fun together.
P.S. I had a dream two nights ago that I was eating this mind-blowing fresh pasta dish with braised, shredded pork in it. I used to love this kind of food, but in this dream I was not enjoying it because for some reason I don’t recall, I was pressured to eat it by someone else. Dreams are weird like this, but don’t worry; this isn’t what vegetarians dream about every night! But I figured it would make a good first lesson for you: Never compromise your values because of what someone else wants you to do. It might be easier in the moment, but in the end, damage caused by a lack of self-respect is hard to repair.