QUESTION: Our college-age daughter is a vegan and we are not. For her, this is recent as in the last three years. When she visits, I try to steer the conversation away from that subject. She seems to be on a mission to change the world and frankly, we’re not interested. Her last three visits have resulted in angry words from her – not us. Is there a way to keep peace in the family when our beliefs differ so drastically?
This question brought up so many of my own: Angry words over what specifically? Does your daughter ask you to eat vegan while she’s there or gag at the smell of a grilled steak? Do you insist she eat what you do or go to bed hungry? Does the family make fun of each other’s choices? Agreeing to disagree, with mutual respect and as much good humor as you can muster, is the solution if any of the above is the case.
Why the term “college-age?” Does that imply she’s not in college and you are unhappy about it? Yet she lives elsewhere per the use of “visit.”
Apparently she’s on her own. I’m also wondering who initiates the visits. Do you invite your daughter and then not want to hear about what she’s been doing? If that’s the case, try to get to know the young woman she has become even though she’s not what you expected her to be.
Is your daughter coming just to flaunt her rebellion and get some attention? If so you can explain you contribute to the planet in different ways and wish her well.
It’s always difficult when adult children adopt values different from what they’ve learned at home, even more so when they want their parents to come to the same conclusion. Three years of veganism means it’s not a whim. We raise our children to be independent and make their own decisions. Shouldn’t we accept them when they do? Many parents would be very proud of a child who wants to change the world.
atheist/agnostic/secular humanist/free thinker
Dear Non-Vegan Parent,
Apparently even fruits and vegetables have Evangelists! I’m an Evangelist myself. I love telling people about Jesus, who died for our sins and rose again. But as an Evangelist, I can tell you that there are rules of courtesy I follow in order not to reflect badly on the Good News, or in your daughter’s case, the good food. Why not hand this article to your daughter? She’s not the only one with an opinion.
1. Have permission to share. If your listener has made clear he doesn’t want to hear it, then honor his request. Why not happily talk about something else? For example, “Wow! Did you notice ribs are on sale this week?”
2. If you have permission to share, then remember that a gracious spirit attracts whereas a know-it-all … just … well, just makes everybody mad! Instead of: “What is it with you people? Can’t you get it through your thick heads that the food industry murdered this chicken your serving?” Try something like, “You know, while that chicken sure looks terrific, since I’ve gone vegan, I sure am regular!”
3. It’s true that once you reach college age, you really do finally know better than everybody else, including your parents. What a relief! But when you visit their house, overcome the urge to condescend. Instead of encouraging them to join you on your enlightened path to better living through vegetables, why not try saying something like this: “Mom, Dad, for years you’ve kept a roof over my head, clothes on my back and good food in my stomach. I owe you a debt I can never repay. Thank you for everything. As you know, I’ve become a vegan now. Would it be OK with you if I came over after dinner? Or maybe brought my own food to dinner in Tupperware? I promise not to push okra and tofu on you if you won’t push meat or dairy on me. Either way, I love you.”
Rev. Jon T. Karn
Light on the Corner Church
QUESTION: I’m 83 years old, have been a widow for 12 years and am in excellent health. I still drive and attend church regularly. My four children all live out of the area, and although we all get along great, all I hear from them is how worried they are about me because I live alone in my own home. Nothing has happened to cause them this great concern. They tell me they would feel better about my safety if I would go into a retirement home. Needless to say, I don’t want to do that. If and when I feel I can’t take care of myself, I’ll willingly make that move and I’ve made that very clear to them. In the meantime, what can I tell them because they are constantly pressuring me to make the move.
Crescenta Valley Great-Grandmother
Dear Independent Great-Grandmother,
It is wonderful that your family is expressing their concern about your welfare. Consider having a serious discussion with your family about their worries. Worry is unexpressed fear, and fear is not healthy in any relationship. The acronym for F.E.A.R. is “False Evidence Appearing Real.” Communication is one of the keys to easing your family’s fears. Share with your family how you have prepared for the rest of your life. Create a notebook with your important information, doctors’ numbers, neighbors’ and who to contact should you need assistance.
Go through the “What If List” with them. What are the circumstances and plans your family should follow if you need assistance? Maybe a “Life Alert” or similar type system in your home would put them at ease knowing you can get help at a moments notice.
Do you have a final service plan? Show them your ideas. Give your family reasons why you feel your independence is so important to you, especially in your golden years! You obviously have ideas on how to be independent and if you can allow your loved ones to have more information about your plans, maybe everyone will feel a little more relaxed about your independence.
Rev. Steven Van Meter
Center for Spiritual Living-La Crescenta
Dear Great Grandmother,
First of all, let me congratulate you on reaching 83 years of age and being in excellent health. It is wonderful that you can still drive, are able to attend church regularly and have given your children no need to be worried. Those are all wonderful gifts that you have received.
That being said, I understand your children’s concerns, particularly with their living out of the area. I remember my own anxiety about my parents when they were about your age, even though they had already chosen to move to a retirement community where they had many friends.
The unfortunate thing is that most retirement communities have waiting lists, some as long as a year or more. So when you decide you need help, the best fit for you may not be available. I would suggest that you at least check some of the local options to find out what they offer and what their usual availability is – just so you know.
If you are still convinced that staying in your own home is the best option for you (and I certainly understand that), you might ease the concerns of your children by having someone – perhaps someone from your church ¬¬– check in on you regularly to assure them that you are OK. Or they might be willing to engage someone to provide you with regular home support.
Whatever you work out, please try to understand that your children care about you and don’t want you to experience any unnecessary risks. The love of our families is a blessing, and it sounds as though you have been richly blessed.
Rev. Dr. Betty Stapleford
Unitarian Universalist Church of the Verdugo