Conversations on life and death with a three year old gentle soul.

Winter is here and we are stuck inside growing more pale by the moment.

When we are stuck inside I find that our conversations get intense. The twins are nearly four and just yesterday, Clover told me that she does not want to eat fish any longer because “them have tails.” After school we talked about it further and I realised how much she has been thinking about life. I guess it did not occur to me that such a small child could be so aware of things that as her fortysomethingishyearold mother, I am still coming to terms with.

I searched my memory for where she could have picked up on such life and death talk. The kids are not really sheltered, I mean the news is on when they are in the room, but we don’t sit and read crime novels with them. I really think it sort of all started a few weeks ago when she told me that she was going to take the toy hammer outside and “dead things” with it. I stopped her and asked what she meant and she clarified her intention was to go kill bugs. I told her that I did not thing that was a nice thing to do and she said “but they are just small.” My immediate response was “You are quite small and I don’t want anything to dead you.” (Forgive me for not encouraging the proper word usage, but I thought “to dead something” was kind of cute and I hate death so , yes, sue me later for therapy bills…) Anyway, the connection seemed to click as she asked “because you are my mom? And them have moms?”

Now after some more frank (but not to the point of showing them PETA videos) conversation, Clover has stated that she does not want to eat anything that had a mom, basically. Kieran, on the other hand, is totally fine with eating animals. Myself, I can’t imagine life without sushi (sorry, fish) but I am more than happy to help Clover eat as much vegetarian fare as possible. It may actually be the best thing for Clover anyway as she has some sort of mystery metabolic disorder and animal protein is often hard for those kids to break down.

A small few have expressed concern that a three year old is not able to make an informed decision about major life issues such as diet and that we should parent! I feel like I am being the best possible parent I can in this situation because if Clover has such strong feelings about living beings, I might actually have stuff to learn instead of teach here. I know her decisions may change tomorrow, but for now, I will listen and talk openly and see where her beautiful mind wanders next.

If you are not convinced of who is actually the boss in our home, the photo you see here is taken of Clover staring out the window from INSIDE the house because it is TOO COLD to go outside without a coat. Why? Because I am her mom and I said so.

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    • Karri Hall via Facebook - What a beautiful story!ReplyCancel

    • Lisa Hoang via Facebook - Beautiful.ReplyCancel

    • Luana - Aww Clover. That’s nothing wrong on being so sensible. I believe that human beings keep progressing throught the years and decades and we are highly evolved than human beings of other generations. In that order, the kids of today will be and make decisions more evolved than us right now. Is just life…the constantly evolution. You’re right to not break it. Guide her, helping her in her evolution is a great sign of love. Congrats. ;)ReplyCancel

    • Kate Jones - As an aspiring parent educator, I really applaud this decision. I know I already said so on Facebook, but this vote of support for Clover is awesome. I have followed your family since the twins’ early Flickr days and and love watching the way these precious, thoughtful children develop. Kudos to you for showing Clover that her convictions have merit, no matter how young she is.ReplyCancel

    • Donna Hutchins via Facebook - Is there a LOVE button for this post? Very touching…ReplyCancel

    • ralph - Ah, Rachel. What a touching story. I love that you stopped and listened to her, and are helping her turn her thoughts into actions. Obviously, at three, she may change her mind about her diet by tomorrow – but what a great lesson that she knows (already) that her thoughts count for something, and you can feel her mind working in her adorably wise words (“and they have moms?” gah!). I don’t have kids, but if I haven’t completely missed my window and have them someday – I’ll remember this story too.

      xx,ralph

      p.s. gorgeous photo too!ReplyCancel

    • Kristy Shupe via Facebook - She is so aware, how cute!!ReplyCancel

    • Melissa Hicks - I think our society desperately needs to cut back the amount of meat being consumed. Although I have been a vegetarian since I was 13, I decided not to raise my 4 kids as vegetarian. If they decide they would like to stop eating meat I would be more than happy. I know several people that have been vegetarian all their lives either for ethical or religious reasons. They are healthy people, and foods such as legumes, tofu, fresh veg etc…are of course healthy foods. All the best, and hope you share any recipes you try and love!ReplyCancel

    • Ann Sorrells Wicke via Facebook - What a great blog post Rachel!ReplyCancel

    • Karen - Love this Rachel. Your children all have such sweet souls. I think you are a fantastic (and real) mom and doing a great job parenting. I think you might be on to something about her diet. Piper has a little friend who is highly allergic to eggs. I asked his mom how she handles things like birthday parties where there are cakes and such and she says he doesn’t want any of it so it doesn’t bother him that he can’t have the cake. He is tuned into what his little body is telling him. As adults, we should learn from these kids.ReplyCancel

    • Jennifer Fields-Summer via Facebook - You’re a wonderful mother, Rachel. ReplyCancel

    • Rebecca - I decided at 3 or 4 years old to stop eating animals too. Going to the European markets I made the connection between the animal meat there (where they display an entire cow cut in half) and the meat on my plate. Feeling very strongly about it, I just quit meat. I think it would be much worse if you forced her to eat something she felt so against. Go Clover! and Go Rachel! :) xoxoReplyCancel

    • SarahKane - ‘Dead things’….that’s one of the cutest things I’ve ever heard. Bravo for letting her have a say in what she eats. I don’t care what others might say, I think it’s great that you’re letting her express herself like that and helping develop a concious mind when it comes to the bigger picture in life.ReplyCancel

    • karen linnell - great post. i would support a child at any age if he or she decided not to eat meat. i am not a vegetarian now but i easily could swing that direction. but right now i live with a bunch of carnivores.ReplyCancel

    • Krista - I think it is wonderful that you’re supporting Clover in her desire to not eat animals. I’m not a vegetarian and my child is 8 months old, but I like to think that I would do my best to support her if she were decided she no longer wanted to eat animals. And I think your use of “dead” was right on because it was what made sense to her.ReplyCancel

    • Tifani McMaster via Facebook - <3ReplyCancel

    • TracyDQ - oh, it’s so easy to judge people across the internet world. Please don’t bother with the comments on how you “mother” your children. I think the conversations you’ve been having with Clover are developmentally appropriate and perfectly tuned in to the core of the matter. Way to go and support your little one (and the idea that you may be learning a thing or two from her). I loved this post!ReplyCancel

    • Siobhan - I had a similar conversation with my big boy – now 14- about lamb. I really only ever cook with mince & chicken, so when one I did lamb cutlets – I think he was around 6 or so – he asked what they were. When I told him “Lamb” he nearly vomited and said, “no – I won’t eat that, because it is a baby”. He hasn’t eaten it since. (Well, not consciously, there may have been one or 2 spit roasts when we have been out & I may or may not have told him was beef!) Apparently though, he is fine with chicken & beef! I on the other hand cannot stand to eat anything directly off a bone, therefore, do not cook it for the family. One of my other poor boys was served up a chop at a friends house & had no idea what it was or how to eat it! Ah, the the conversations we have with our kids – the older they get, the more interesting they get!ReplyCancel

    • Corinne Sherry via Facebook - What they eat is one of the few things three year olds can control. I applaud your decision to give her space to explore this arena.ReplyCancel

    • Erich Wilhelm Zander via Facebook - Very well spoken Rachel.ReplyCancel

    • melbo - Dear little thing.

      One of mine does not eat meat but it isn’t for ethical reasons – he has food phobias and it is a challenge to get him to eat anything. I basically ensure he gets iron from a supplement as that is the only choice in his case.

      At a very early age, my nephew informed my sister that he would not be eating meat. She respected his wishes and found ways around his dietary choices. He willingly helped choose alternative protein sources so it was all good. I hope she makes it easy for you in this way.

      I imagine there are some people who will think that you should override her on this one. I think though that one of the biggies in parenting is learning to accept that the child while part of you is NOT you. It is easy for other people who have not had this kind of experience to say that all you have to do is make them eat what you serve. Truth is, you can’t force anyone to eat anything and what angst it creates if you do go down that road.

      I wish you luck with it but I know there are alternatives out there and it can be done.ReplyCancel

    • M - Wow. Very smart girl. In fact, in psuchological development of childre is naturally fear of death. Many children want to talk about death. They just embrace the subject. I’m not againts vegetarians, but I’m not sure, the child (even with so beautiful mind) can decide about what they want to eat in so important thing. Of course, if eating animals is for her so difficult, that is good moment to try something new, but if she would be my child, I would be cautions is she completly blocked for some food. Ok, I’m carnivore in my nature, I can’t eat only vegetairan food, because I’m still hungry, so I think I don’t want look at my children vegeatrian choice :) But I wouldn’t be sure, this is good for her health.
      Of course this is just what I think and I don’t judge. Better, I’m sure, You know that everything, and You think about it.

      because….

      Around this everything is at most important thing in this story. Beautiful mind of your daughter and Mum who listened. This is at most important. You talk with three years old little human! That’s amazing and beautiful. Many people looks at children as puppets without peronality. You don’t. You look and see a real person with their own indenpendent thoughts.

      I hope my english is understandable :) LOL ;)ReplyCancel

    • Andrea Dowling via Facebook - so adorableReplyCancel

    • Andrea - How sweet to share the memory of what four years olds think. I remember when my caterpillar died and my sister, created a coffin from a matchbox and we had a little funeral, buried the poor thing. From then on anything that died pet wise was buried ceremoniously in the garden. Reminds me of Poltergiest when the little girls budgie died, “for when he’s lonely” photo “for when he’s cold” tissue “for when he is hungry” so sweet and well portrayed. Then typically “Can I have a goldfish now”
      Bugs, I remember when my nephew who is autistic, wanted to kill a bright orange bug I begged him not to but his determination was limitless, I told him he was naughty for doing it. He got upset, “I not naughty” he showed remorse. I agreed he was not naughty and the bug was gone and that was that. Like Clover he didn’t go on a killing spree to “dead things” but I can see Clovers logic, not so much the prospect of killing things with a hammer but her not wanting to get her fingers messed up in the squashing process.
      Perhaps as you say Rachael, vegetarian diet is the way for Clover to go, if its better for her to digest, this might be her way of dealing with it, though she doesn’t understand the condition her body knows whats best for her and she is developing a natural way to deal with it. “Body does not like animal protein” and “I don’t want to eat anything that has a Mom, ie animals” saves endless struggles of why she is not eating certain things later, [if that makes sense], she has decided early on its better for her.
      My nephew did the same thing, unbeknown to us Milk is harder to digest for children with autism, he won’t drink it, he only drinks water, and may be the odd cup of tea, he restricted himself at an early age from eating most foods. Not fads just sheer frustration or tears if he was made to eat certain things. Was his body telling him thats not good for him, that it will make him unwell.
      Sorry for rambling but I just wanted to share a story, any one who judges a Mom, for talking to her children in their language hasn’t had kids, back off psychologists you know nothing about the bond between a Mom and her children.ReplyCancel

    • Leah - Isn’t a child’s perspective on life wonderful? I don’t know what your family’s view on abortion is, but I heard about what it was when I was very little and had the same perspective that Clover had on the animals. It has carried with me throughout the years. This was a great post, and I think that it’s great that you will support her in this.ReplyCancel

    • christine - I am absolutely convinced that if we listened more to young children the world would be a kinder place. What a beautiful story. And I think this is my favourite picture of her.ReplyCancel

    • Elysa - Aw Clover, you’re such a caring girl. I’ve been dealing with my own feelings lately about eating meat and hearing similar thoughts come from such a small girl is encouraging. I think you guys are doing the right thing taking her feelings seriously. Yes, you are the parent, but eating “something with a mommy” when she feels so sensitive about it could be a lot of guilt for such a small child to handle. And, like you said, if it helps her health problems anyway then that’s an added bonus.ReplyCancel

    • jess s - I can’t believe people would say “You need to parent” about something like that. There are many, many healthy vegetarians in the world. It’s not like you’re letting her eat candy or agreeing that ‘broccoli is gross.’ You can eat a perfectly healthy diet without animal products. People are so idiotically defensive about the ‘healthfulness’ of eating meat – reality check, it’s actually not vital. Thanks for listening to your kid, and thanks for not being afraid of a vegetarian diet.ReplyCancel

    • se7en - Oh the sweetness!!! I have one live in vegetarian because my sister was visiting for his very first try-out of a piece of roast chicken – he was one-ish. She said: Bock, bock, bock… cocka doodle doo… and he straight ways associated all meat/fish with animals and flatly refused to eat them. There was never any decision for him – just how it was. And certainly never any discussion – flat refusal!!! So it is never too young to have a sensitive heart!!! I never tried to disguise it and hide meat or fish products in his food – somehow that seems deceitful and lying isn’t the best technique when working things out with any kids let alone these kind of kids!!! He is nearly fifteen now and no worse the wear… Some kids are just more sensitive souls than others!!!ReplyCancel

    • kyla - it’s all already been said here – so i’ll sum up the gist of it. you are an amazing mother to an obviously amazing girl.ReplyCancel

    • Helena - Beautiful post!

      I think it’s great you respect and support Clover’s decision about her diet, even if she’s a tiny 3-year-old, since she can get protein from other sources, too. I don’t have kids but it seems to me that you’re handing this very well. It’s not like she wants to live on french fries and pizza :)ReplyCancel

    • Cass - Beautiful. And knowing that her little voice is listened to, that her opinion matters, that’s what will help her become a beautiful and happy person. Not forcing her to eat something that she doesn’t want to. There’s a world of difference between trying to get your child to just eat something… anything!… because you’re worried about them being a hungry terror for the rest of the day and not respecting their desire not to eat one particular type of food for a specific (and thought through) reason.ReplyCancel

    • DawnK - I had my doubts about an online friend, who is vegan, who intended to raise her daughter as a vegan as well. I don’t doubt anymore, though, because the child is healthy, happy and growing! She must know what she is doing. It’s nice of you to accommodate her feelings.ReplyCancel

    • DawnK - I meant to say that my online friend’s daughter is now 5 years old and very healthy.ReplyCancel

    • Sabina - Dear Rachel, Clover is such a wonderful little girl! Thank you for sharing her thoughts :)ReplyCancel

    • Zakochani w fotografii - Hey Rachel, Clover is just lovely! I’m her fan! :)ReplyCancel

    • Gabriella Kelemen - What an endearing story. I also have a 3 year old girl. She only eats fish and meatfree products, so she is a vegetarian. People pressure me to get her to eat meat. As far as I’m concerned I will not force the issue to do more damage than good. I know people who had lifelong illnesses they’ve suffered with and it has improved so much when they became veggies. Nothing wrong with not eating meat for whatever reason. Also my daughter is not around when the news is on but she still picks up things like death and killing from classic fairy tales. Most of the classics include it.ReplyCancel

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