Most of us “in the prime” of our senior years were hippies. As such, we have a longstanding tradition of free-love that includes birds, flowers, and trees. So how is it that we flower children gave birth to a generation that idolizes not free love and organic food but McDonalds and Hummers? Did we, a generation that knew a thing or two about being rebellious, get beaten at our own game?
I struggle with offspring who have sprung off just a little too far. The apple, it turns out, does fall far from the tree.
Since neither of my sons are vegetarian, their kids are not meat-free either, although I did get one of them to switch from cow’s milk to soymilk. So I, like many of my animal rights (AR) brothers and sisters, am living among carnivores-a difficult situation, to be sure. How do we survive the predicament in which we find ourselves?
I recommend humor-and lots of it.
For example, there is no more difficult situation than the following: Your son announces that his girlfriend is pregnant. The moment is tense, the air is palpably ice-hard, and everyone is looking at you to see what you will do. The frightened girl looks like she has been crying for hours. What do you do? You look at the girl, as I did in this situation, and ask her if she is absolutely sure the baby is hers.
My Irish humor saves me every time. One night, my eldest grandson, Austin, asked me why I wasn’t eating the chicken dinner like everyone else. “Animals are my friends,” I told him sweetly. “And I don’t eat my friends.” Austin looked confused for a minute and said, “But G-ma, it’s not animals, it’s chicken!” Everyone laughed, which confused Austin even more. I didn’t laugh; I smiled indulgently.
“Oh, and what is a chicken then?” I asked. “Is it a flower? A bug?” My son shot me a warning look; he was not comfortable with where this conversation was going (Really? What a shame!). I left the child to ponder the question. At 5 years old, he couldn’t be expected to make that connection. Yet. This was a teachable moment. (A great resource about animals, by the way, for young children is PETA Kids!)
Issues like lifestyle choices can be deal-breakers. They have been known to shatter families. One of my AR friends has not seen her grandchildren in years because her daughter-in-law refuses to let her kids be around “that nutcase” who “spouts that vegetarian stuff.” Tread carefully, fellow grandparents, or you may lose your visitation privileges, too, and that would be a terrible thing. You may need to be patient now so that you will have the opportunity to influence them later. Don’t preach. Teach. Look for teachable moments, because they are gifts. I didn’t bring it up-Austin did. I simply seized the moment and gave him something to consider.
It’s no fun being the one at the table who has to stuff your feelings down inside for fear of making everyone uncomfortable. But you are not alone, and gently making those around you uncomfortable is not the worst thing you can do. One of the four agreements in Miguel Ruiz’s book (called Four Agreements) is never to take anything personally. This is a good principle to remember on your vegan journey. Those around you who are uncomfortable are feeling that way because of their own guilt at doing something that they know, intuitively, is wrong. After all, in suffering, all animals are equal, and those around you, on some level, know this. So no matter what they say to you or how they treat you, know this: It’s not about you. It’s about them. It’s always been about them.
Got a good story to share about using humor to make it through a meal with carnivores? Please share.
Make your time with your friends and family—including your animal companions—even more meaningful.