Thursday, May 6, 2010

The Unraveling Legend of Pretend Chicken

I didn't intentionally teach my daughter that meat and animals are unrelated. But that is exactly what she believes. Lately, she has been stumbling over the truth.

This morning Maya stared a long time at her library book's depiction of a shrimp.

"Shrimp?" She chewed on her lower lip for a minute, looking at the smiling, swimming thing with it's fluttering antennae and surely recalling the scampi we had a few nights back. "They don't look like the other shrimp do they?"

"Other shrimp?" I asked, prepping myself for the circle of life talk.

"You know, the fake ones we eat." She flips the page innocently.

Silly Maya and her soon-to-be farm cat painting an Earth to hang in our window.

This is her general assumption for all meat consumption. Chicken on her plate is clearly fake or pretend. The chickens in the backyard are fond of dandelions and must be chased away from the sandbox from time to time. They deserve their own Disney movie, really. Beef and pork are blissfully opaque descriptors that only contribute to her confusion.

"Eeew," she shrieks, just a few pages later. I stop scribbling my (nearly) futile attempt at morning pages long enough to glance at the new picture. A shark is devouring a tuna fish, or something, and even in a child's book, it seems vicious and frightening.

"That is a bad shark," she points accusingly at the sharp, red tipped teeth.

I tried to take this opportunity to clear a few things up. I told her plainly that the shark was having lunch, that while it looked mean, it was simply natural. And then I told her that we eat other animals. That meat is other animals.

"Like what animals," she asked with her head tipped to one side.

"Well, hamburgers are made from cows." I dove right in, never sure of the right way to address the issues of an almost-five-year-old.

She stared at me a long, long time. I quietly met her clear blue gaze and waited for the fall out. She was definitely trying to decide if I was being the same silly mom that tells her fairies live in the blossoming pink trees up and down our neighborhood or if I was being serious.

The paint dried on the wax paper, leaving a sort of stained-glass-window Earth.

She must have opted for silly, because she quickly switched topics. "Hey mom, Pavin (that would be the boy in her class that she most admires) said poop at snack time yesterday."

Okay, so she either dismissed what I had said all together, or didn't believe me. I felt ridiculous being so primed for a big discussion about this, only to be left int he shallow (soiled?) end of the conversation pool.

But I remember that point of discovery, learning that the cows on my farm eventually ended up on my plate. I am not scarred, but I dabbled in vegetarianism for a meal or two. I wonder how she'll react when the truth catches up to her.

I'm totally prepared. We eat vegetarian a few days a week already, and she is hooked on lentils and garbanzo beans and actual "fake" chicken since Mornings Star Farms does a good impression.

And Maya is now preparing her own meals out of her new child's vegetarian cookbook, Better than Peanut Butter and Jelly.

So when and if she discovers the truth about the grass fed barbecue we had last night and takes a hiatus from meet-eating, we will be ready. And I tried to tell her!

1 comment:

Anna said...

This was fantastic, on so many levels. As I read, I could only smile at those innocent days. Then I had to grimace, as when I'm prepared to dive head-long into something with one of my kids and it ends up on another plane entirely.

Then... There is this fact that you are an incredible writer! As I reached the end, I just wanted to close the book, it felt so perfect. It might be a while before your girls can look you in the eye and say "Mom, you're terrific!" So let me just tell you that today. :)))

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