It was quite a long process. I stopped eating meat at first, and let them figure it out, and they were pretty pissed off at first. back in the days when we were a family struggling to make ourselves more upper-middle class, I can remember how we were all sat around the table on a sunday evening, a rare occurence in our household, but a desire to be "normal" (And my mum is obsessed with being "normal" and making sure that her kids grow up "normal") meant that we were sat down, around a roast dinner - what normal families eat on a sunday.
And my mum had decided that I was going to eat meat at that meal, and she had placed some on my plate, and decided that we had to eat everything, so i ate everything but the meat, and told her where to stick it. (I was a little more polite, don't worry) Both parents spent half an hour trying to get me to eat it, saying I couldn't leave the table until I did, and the atmosphere was so tense that I could have cut it with one of the many blunt knifes littering the table. We had "the talk" which I'm sure you're all familiar with, about how vegetarianism is unhealthy and how i'm going to die unless I eat meat.
Anyway, when it looked like I wasn't going to give in, they gave up, and I decided that it would just be a phase, and that within three months, I'd be eating meat again, and that they would have a happy, monogamous heterosexual omnivore son who they could be proud of. There was much tension in the first couple of years. For instance, when we visited restaurants with vegetarian options which frankly, were awful, they would say "Well, if you ate meat, you wouldn't have this problem." and my mum let forth a few remarks saying how shopping was difficult since when i went with her, i wnated to try new products, and looking at ingredients and seeing what a product was took time, and my mum is very impatient whilst doing the shopping.
It was the first christmas we had as a family together round the table that saw one huge debate start, and that was over fish. My mum didn't know what to make me for christmas and suggested fish, and I said that I wasn't eating fish, since fish is not vegetarian. Then it was me VS the rest of the family in an argument going nowhere. They were quick to point out the hundreds of "vegetarians" they knew who ate fish, and that I should eat fish as well. My mum insisted that fish wasn't meat until a couple of years ago.
After a few years, my parents started to notice that i was in vegetarianism for the long haul. Yes, they noticed that it wasn't a passing fad, and started to think that maybe I'd be a vegetarian until I was in my late twenties, at which point, I'd revert to an omnivorous diet, and my parents would have the happy monogamous heterosexual omnivore son of their dreams, who would later settle down with a wife, have kids, and raise them as omnivores.
Of course, about a year ago, it began to sink in that I was still vegetarian, and that I probably would be for the rest of my life. So i got plenty of questions about how i'd raise my future kids. (Kids which i don't plan on having.) i stated that i don't plan on having kids. ("Don't be silly" they said "the whole point of you being on this earth is to have kids") but i would probably want to raise them as vegetarians. Of course, my parents weren't exactly pleased. I got a lot of discouragement, and my mum wa sbasically saying that it is deprivation. "of what?" I said, "kids can get anything they need from a vegetarian diet. It's not like they need meat." Of course, my mum, being unable to see things through a different pair of eyes said "But they'd be missing out on the taste" I basically said "Mum, you never fed me falafel as a kid, and it's not deprivation that I missed out on such a joyous food, until i later discovered it." I had pretty much won the argument. Now, more discussions followed, including the one about how we're supposed to have kids. (But this discussion belongs elsewhere.)
My vegetarianism now isn't much of a problem. My family has learned to live with it. I've found that time is the best way to gain acceptance. My family knows now that I don't view meat as food anymore, so offering it to me in the hopes that i will cave in is pretty much useless. And the story comes to a bit of a slowdown now, because what's left is what is to come. My mum still looks forward to having a "normal" son, but that looks like it's going to be my brother. I just think a little bit too differently. At least my family is accepting, but they pretty much have to accept it, as they have no say in the matter. They either accept it, or eating out and other social occasions become hell. My dad's various business trips to [insert city here] have meant that he's interacted with hundred of yuppies, many of them vegetarians. (he's in the dietary supplement business) So he pretty much understands it now. My mum has ben forced to accept it, although I know she isn't fully comfortable with it.
Anyway, we're a happy family. (We get on better than many others) Four omnivores and one vegetarian. We can make it work though.