Alexander was watching the tail end of the news last night. There was a report (I didn't see it, so I'm getting it second hand) on the damage done to the fishing industry after the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. Horrifying to realise that livelihoods are still being affected (many have been destroyed) by something that happened so many news cycles ago - how quickly we forget (can you believe it's been almost exactly 2 years). The effects are still being felt.
I'm told there was talk about the shortage of fish (or at least, safe fish). Alexander asked why people fished for a living and Joel explained that we eat fish, so people go out to catch them for us. It's at about this time my ears (I was in the next room) pricked up. I'd been waiting for this, expecting it for about 3 years. Joel, the poor, deluded fool didn't see it coming at all. Sucker. ;)
So Alexander (all things being black and white to him) asked why we didn't simply not eat fish for a while. Joel explained how most people eat fish and meat, but that some people did, in fact choose not to. For a variety of reasons. Environmental, ethical, health, sustainability etc.
And my boy pounced. It's like it all clicked together for him. "You mean, some people don't eat meat, because they don't like killing animals?"
"Err. Yes. Some people. Not many though. Most people love eating meat. You love eating meat. All of your favourite dinners have meat in them".
Enter Mama into the discussion. Trying not to lead him or sway him in any way. "Alexander, did you know that I was a vegetarian for 3 years, just before I got married". Big eyes. "Why?"
Time for honesty. "I didn't like how I felt about eating animals. I hated to think about them dying. And I really, really hated the way that they are treated before they die. It made me feel sad and sick, so I just stopped. I only started again because I got really sick and the Doctor said that I really needed to go back onto meat, as the vitamins I was taking weren't being absorbed at all".
"So I could be a vegetarian?".
"Yes, if that's what you want" (Cue strained look on Joel's face. The Mitchell family is really, really a meat 'n' Potato kind of family. Who LOVE their steak).
"I want". Instant. I don't think I'd even finished my sentence. And I know that look in his eyes. Determined. In his head, the rule was made.*
Slight panic in Joel's eyes. (I love that look. It's usually me putting it there, but it turns out it's fun no matter who does it). "But. But. You love Lasagne. And Spaghetti bolognese is your favourite food. And Chicken Nuggets. And Chicken Parmigiana. And Hot Dogs. Sausages". The list went on. And on. Actually, on some more.
He was firm. He understood, you could see he looked pained with each of his favourites being taken off his menu. I thought he'd cave after Lasagne. He didn't.
He asked if Ice Cream was off the list. I was honest. I said that some people choose not to eat dairy products. But in truth, I'm not prepared to support him giving up dairy at this point. He's still growing. He's active. I want him to drink milk (he loves milk and drinks a fair bit of it), yoghurt and enjoy ice cream. So for now, dairy stays.
I asked him again this afternoon. He said he was feeling a bit 'weird' about it, that it was a 'harder decision' than he thought. I steeled myself, I didn't want to show any disappointment. I told him it was fine, it was completely up to him, and that no one was going to expect or pressure him to give meat up if he wanted to eat it.
"See, I love Lasagne and Spaghetti Bolognese and 'stuff'. I really do." I nodded, understanding that for now, he's not ready.
I kissed him and told him that was fine. He called me back. "I wasn't finished" (Man, he sounded like me when he said that,lol!). "This isn't just about me, is it? I might miss those foods, but that doesn't mean I have stopped caring about what happens to the animals. I just have to decide which is more important. Me or them. And of course, it's them. So I still want to do this".
Turn back so little tear doesn't show. Big smile then. I promise to do it with him for at least a month (we've agreed to trial it for a month. He's only 9, I don't want him feeling like he has to make a lifetime commitment at this age). Joel's going to join in. For an entire week! :-) Sam won't notice. He'll still live on breakfast cereal, spaghetti and milk. I've promised to make it as easy as I can. None of the 'favourites' will be served at all in the following month (it starts next week, in earnest. Unfortunately, Alexander made the decision less than an hour after my weekly grocery delivery was made). I won't have anyone eating those things in front of him this early in the game.
So, there we go. I'm actually really pleased with this. I genuinely thought it would happen 2 or 3 years ago. And even if this turns out to be a one month experiment for him, I'll still be pleased that he thought about it and decided that some things are more important than him. I respect that in anyone.
I'm scouring (and searching for) good vegetarian blogs, particularly ones that have entire families not eating meat. It's going to be somewhat tricky. Alexander, while he has made enormous strides in the past year or two, has very strong food aversions. I've already explained to him that there are going to be new foods he is going to have to try. Where I can, I'll hide them. But that won't always be possible. And more than taste, it's a textural thing. I don't know how he'll cope with cannelini beans or kidney beans or mushrooms (well, this one I know,actually. He hates them. They'll have to be hidden well).
I have my own food aversions too. Cannot abide chick peas. Which is probably a little tricky for a vegetarian. In the same vein, hommus is detestable to me, as is tahini. But I think this is a great time of year to be doing this. Risottos, minestrones, stir fries, zucchini slice, I look forward to finding more recipes.
Any websites or recipes you can recommend (or tips) would be greatly appreciated. Do I need to get him onto a multivitamin? Anything specific to look out for? Help me vege friends.
*While not all chidren on the spectrum are the same, many of them become fixated on rules in their head. Don't go past this house if you're playing in the street. Don't say these words. Sleep is for nighttime (ugh. He decided this one when he was exactly 2. Broke.My.Heart). Once the rule is in his head, it is unbreakable, even when you want it to be broken.