Busy and thinking of having kids? For those who have yet to dive into the chaotic street bazaar of parenthood, just be informed that the jungle gets thicker as you go. Stress comes from various avenues and some of it has to do with having to consider things that rarely, if ever, crossed your radar before you ever laid eyes on your wonderful child.
Crafts that use marshmallows? Kids blowing and dying real eggs at Easter? Toys on the shelf at daycare like farm sets and circus displays? Or this truck?
Parenting a vegan child in a non-vegan environment isn’t impossible, but it has its added challenges. When it comes to scouting out preschools, it’s a dream if there’s a vegan institution nearby, but for most interested parents there isn’t anything remotely veg*n for miles around.
Some strike it lucky and have the whole school change their diet to vegan fare in order to foster an inclusive environment, like this story of the Scandinavian School of Jersey City, but for most of us mere Earthlings, a bit of extra scouting is in order.
Tips? The basics: many vegan parents have a meeting with school staff to explain their child’s dietary restrictions from the outset before signing up for classes, in order to see from the get-go how open the preschool is to an alternative lifestyle.
Some are accommodating and others not so much. If it seems like a battle from the beginning, this might be a sign to seek education elsewhere.
But if the doors seem friendly and flexible, step inside and be prepared to be specific. Sending in a list of approved and non-approved items from diet to crafts to toys can be useful in giving educators who might not be familiar with veganism some guidance on where you and your child stand. (And don’t forget to focus on hidden ingredients that can be easily overlooked, like broths.)
Those who want to work with and not against you will often take the time to forewarn your family about group activities- like egg dying in spring- that you might prefer your child participate in with a different twist.
Being able to send in your own materials the day-of can ease the situation, such as plastic or wooden eggs in place of real ones, and it will give you less of a headache than finding the craft already finished in Junior’s bag at the end of the day, real egg and all, and having to backtrack with your child and staff.
The magic words? In general being open, patient, polite and precise with your child’s needs and encouraging communication both ways can help to pave the road to vegan success for your child outside of the home.
It will all work out. And if it doesn’t, you can always up and move to California, bask in the golden sun and apply to “join the family” at James Cameron’s vegan school, MUSE, for about $20,000 per year. Looks pretty idyllic.
Or maybe by that point, it’s time to emulate Cameron and start your own vegan early childhood education group- it could be fun.