THE BLOG
08/31/2016 02:30 pm ET Updated Sep 01, 2017

To The Wonderful Parents Of Vegan Children

Nzinga Young

My mother raised me vegetarian in the '90s for health (not ethical) reasons. Considering it was nearly 30 years ago, raising a vegetarian child then was probably as rare as raising a vegan child today.

I remember my mother explaining to school faculty what I was and wasn't allowed to eat. She'd pack a lunch for functions and birthday parties and stock my grandmother's fridge with vegetarian meats when I visited every summer.

It was just our way of life. I didn't think much of it until I became an adult. Now that I'm vegan and understand the harms of the meat and dairy industries, I realize my mother did me an incredible service by raising a meatless child.

I'd assume any parent raising their child(ren) vegan knows it's the right thing to do, but I can also imagine the questions and pushback from friends, family, school faculty, and Italian lawmakers can be a nuisance. I just wanted to remind you that you rock.

Here's a peek at my trajectory. It obviously won't apply to every veggie kid, but my story may give some insight into what your child may experience.

I got made fun of
I was never tormented or bullied, but I was always the odd-kid-out when food was involved. The criticism from kids wasn't half as bad as the comments from adults. Parents and teachers always implied that my mother was harming me by keeping meat off my plate.

What got me through was the the daily assurance from my mother than not eating meat is what's best. My education at home prepared me to handle the judgment.

I turned my friends on to vegan food
Sharing vegan food has been part of me since I was young. It wasn't to create change, it was to get people to stop thinking I'm weird for not eating animals.

I'd cut pieces of my vegetarian meats for my classmates to try. When friends came to visit, they ate the same veggie dogs I ate and loved them.

As an adult, sharing vegan food has been the most effective strategy for getting friends and family to adopt plant-based diets. It stemmed from my childhood and is still going strong today.

I experimented in adulthood
I spent a good chunk of young adulthood wavering among being vegetarian, pescatarian, and full-out omnivore.

But I never ate meat for long stretches of time. My foundation was set in stone. Even when I wavered, the discomfort I felt and cravings for vegetables brought me back to my childhood diet.

What I appreciate was my mom letting me make my own decisions once I moved out of her house. She never made me feel guilty for eating animals, but her commitment to her lifestyle was an inspiration even as an adult.

I found my way back
During my last sway from pescatarianism to vegetarianism, I realized I needed to give up eggs and cheese if I had any chance of sticking to a proper way of eating.

I went plant-based first and vegan soon after learning more about animal exploitation. Now, I'm a committed ethical vegan with a business dedicated to getting omnivores to stop eating animals.

So that's my journey. A kid that was raised still eating animal secretions with only a vague understanding of animal ethics evolved into a vegan who works hard to convert others. If that's what I became, imagine what your vegan children are capable of.

Every few months, I thank my mother for the way she raised me. The foundation she set prepared me for a healthy, happy, and meaningful life--I know you're doing the same for your children.

For more on my initiative to get our friends and family to go vegan, visit Wanyama Box.