Today, Loaf was tired. Both she and Peanut were still up when I rolled in from the gym at just before 9 p.m. – watching James and the Giant Peach
By the time we read to them and tucked them in, it was close to 9:30. Peanut slept late to make up for it. Loaf did not.
All day she was a whiny, difficult kid. She dissolved into tears at the slightest upset. The teeniest bump or bang resulted in fits of drama worthy of an Academy Award.
By the time dinner came around, she was the walking dead. She peered at me from her perch at the kitchen table with a glazed-over look, hair disheveled, cheeks rosy with exhaustion.
As I stood at the counter carving a rotisserie chicken, she seemed to be looking right through me – the famous seven-mile stare kids get when they’re utterly spent.
Then, she spoke.
“What are you doing, Mommy?”
“I’m carving a chicken,” I told her. “I have to take the meat off the bones so we can eat it.”::silence::
“Chickens are supposed to lay eggs, Mommy. They are not supposed to be food.”
Now it was my turn to be silent.
“Weeellll,” I explained, “some chickens are eaten. All the meat we eat used to be an animal. Most people eat animals, but you don’t have to. You can be a vegetarian like Aunt Justine if you want. Vegetarians do not eat meat.”::silence::
“Poor chicken! I feel terrible for that chicken.”
I set the knife down.
“Loaf, do you not want to eat it? I will make you something else.”
Now, at this point, I need to explain something. Mark is not a vegetarian, but he only eats meat that meets strict criteria:
1. It must be organically raised, meaning no hormones, all vegetarian feed (no ground up animal parts in its food) and no antibiotics.
2. It must be certified humanely raised. Which is tougher to ascertain, but equally important to him. He is an animal lover, and is unwilling to eat factory-farmed animals that have lived miserable, dirty, sad, tortuous lives cooped up in small pens, unable to move, living in their own filth, only to be slaughtered in the end.
Happy chickens and cows, a friend used to say. Mark only eats happy chickens and cows.
And because most restaurant and supermarket meat is not from happy chickens or cows, for the most part, Mark only eats meat in our house. (I say for the most part because certain people like my mom, his mom and certain friends know about Mark’s food rules and have happy chickens and cows available to eat when we visit).
However, the girls still eat unhappy chickens and cows in restaurants and other places and we’ve been talking lately about how and when to align their eating with Mark’s. He feels strongly about this, and thinks the girls should follow his example.
I don’t disagree with this. I’m just not sure how to introduce it.
So my asking Loaf if she wanted something else was not about catering to the whim of a fussy preschooler. Rather, I was thinking that if Loaf had strong feelings about not eating meat, even at not quite 4, I would accommodate her.
Instead, she burst into tears.
“That was my favorite chicken!”::sob sob::
“I am so sad!” ::sob sob::
“I’ll never see it again!”::sob sob::
“It was such a good chicken! My favorite!”::sob sob::
And then . . .
“YOU KILLED MY CHICKEN!”
Which, whoa. I may sometimes eat unhappy chickens, but I don’t kill them myself.
“Loaf, you didn’t even know this chicken,” I said to her (and yes, I realize that may be the most ridiculous statement ever spoken.) “This is a farm chicken. It came from a farm.”::sob sob::
“I will miss that chicken. Poor little guy.”
There was no reasoning with her. So I stopped trying.
Instead, I boiled her a vegetarian hot dog and served it up with a side of salad.
Peanut and I ate our happy chicken while Loaf ate her veggie hot dog. When dinner was over, she burst into tears again.
“What animal is a veggie hot dog from?” she sobbed.
“It’s not from an animal. It’s from soy and vegetables.”::silence::
“I will miss that hot dog! It was my favorite.”
At which point, I realized that Loaf’s animal activism had nothing to do with happy chickens or cows, but rather with an unhappy little girl who did not get nearly enough sleep last night.
So I brushed her teeth and sent her off to bed. We’ll see how she feels tomorrow, but I can guarantee you one thing: breakfast will consist of cereal and toast. I’m staying far, far away from the bacon and eggs for a while.
Labels: Adventures in Parenting