“I’m going to be a vegetarian, ” stated The Tortoise a few weeks before school ended, “But not until summer starts.”
I stopped what I was doing and smiled. When I was about her age, I remember wanting to be a vegetarian too. By high school I had slowly cut-out red meats and by college I only ate chicken about once a week. Off and on for about ten years, I worked at being a Pesco – Vegetarian to the best of my ability. It started as a mild curiosity, but then grew into a way of life because I really felt good. It hadn’t occurred to me that constant stomach cramps, bloating and constipation weren’t normal. When those symptoms started disappearing, I realized what my body was supposed to feel like everyday. Sadly, I went back to my old eating habits because of a boy who strongly did not support my lifestyle. In fact, the first time his family ever had me over for dinner, his mother made chicken fried steak (and fried okra, I might add) in spite of being told that fish was really the only meat I ate. (Can you say “first red flag” and yet I hung on to that relationship for 8 years.) Although I felt miserable, I continued to put things in my body that caused havoc on my system, until it just became normal to feel lousy. Until recently, when my body started yelling at me so loudly, I could not ignore it anymore.
“Why do you want to be a vegetarian, sweetie?” I asked.
“Because some of my friends want to and I want to support them.”
Fair enough. My first concern was that this was a ploy to try to lose weight in an unhealthy way, which as a mom with girls, is a very real concern.
“Then you need to do some research about what a vegetarian eats and help me with meal planning, ” I answered, ” Okay?”
The Tortoise brought me a print out of information she had found the next day, highlighting different sources of protein. There was some concern on her face.
“What’s wrong?” I asked.
“I’m not sure I can eat all these proteins. Some of them sound gross.”
I tried not to laugh. We talked about the different types of vegetarians and came to an agreement that she might want to start as a Pesco-Vegetarian too, maybe even eating chicken once a week. She seemed very happy with this adjustment. Then we went to the grocery store together and got a few things to keep in the freezer for her to eat on nights we were having something she “couldn’t” eat on her new diet. But for the most part, as a family, we are supporting her. Besides, it isn’t really all that much different from how I have been eating over the last 5-weeks.
The first big test came this week when she had a friend go to the lake with us and spend the night. Usually we pack huge deli sandwiches for our beach picnics. Instead, I made them Vegetable and Feta Panini’s. We didn’t order our usual pepperoni pizza for dinner, but made black bean chalupas. And instead of sausage or bacon for breakfast the next morning, I had vegetarian breakfast patties to accompany their home-made waffles. The Tortoise gave me a big hug after her friend left.
“Mom, I think this vegetarian thing is going to be a piece of cake.”