Friday, February 7, 2014

Critical Thinker

Kailey has always been a pretty good eater.  She's more picky now than she was when she was younger -- which is frustrating.  But, she'll still try bites of whatever we put in front of her and eats a wide variety of fruits and veggies, which I think is pretty good for a 5 year old. But, lately, she has a lot of questions about the food we eat.  Especially the meat.

As I've written about in the past, Kai is fascinated with all things related to the body and medical stuff.  She likes looking at pictures of the human body and learning about how our organs work.  A long time ago, she made the leap to thinking about the animals we eat and wanting to know about the blood and the veins in the food we were putting on her plate.  But, when she first made the connection -- I don't think it fully sank in that the animal had been killed so we could eat it.  She knew it was an animal, and she wanted to know what part of the animal we were eating, but it didn't really bother her. 

These days, though, she seems a bit concerned about the animals we eat.  The other day I roasted a chicken and was cutting it up for dinner and Kai said, "So, that was the chicken's leg, right?"  I told her it was.  She asked me which parts were the muscles and which parts were the veins. 

Seeing where this was going, I told her it was just meat and let's go eat.  Kai followed me to the table and we sat down.  She picked up the chicken leg and turned it around in her hand a few time before saying, "So, how did someone kill this chicken?" 

It was sort of funny.  She said it the way you would say, "so, how was your day?" As though it was just a normal conversation starter.  Only it wasn't, because what she was asking was for me to explain how the chicken was actually slaughtered so that we could be sitting there eating it.  And, it made me uncomfortable.  I'm 37 and I know we eat meat and I know it comes from animals that have been killed -- and, I don't like to think about it much.  But, it was hard to ignore with Kailey staring innocently at me and asking me to point out the chicken's muscles and veins and to describe in detail how it spent its final hours.  

Usually I answer Kailey's questions honestly trying to give her enough information to satisfy the question without overwhelming her. But, in this instance, I was afraid answering I was going to ruin my own appetite, so I told her, again, to just eat her food.  She put the chicken leg down and said, "I don't really want to eat a leg." 

I gave her some breast meat and she nibbled on a few bites while making a face, clearly still thinking about what it was she was being asked to do.  I told her to eat three more bites and finish the other things on her plate, which she did.  So, we got through the meal. 

But, I think its foreshadowing things to come.  And, if I'm being honest, I agree with her hesitation.  It's not very environmentally friendly to eat meat, and it's clearly not great for the animals.  We expend so much water and other resources producing meat to eat.  And, even though we buy local, organic meat that is produced at smaller farms, I am sure that there are still many practices that go into the production of that meat that I would find totally gross.  But, I mostly choose to ignore these pesky facts.  Except when my 5 year old is asking very pointed questions as we try to eat dinner! 

So, I have a feeling we may not have too many more days of meat eating in front of us.  Although there are many things that Kai has to do and has no choice about, eating meat isn't really one of them.  In fact, I'm pleased to see her really thinking about it.  We encourage her to evaluate our choices with a critical mind and I want to teach her to think issues through and decide what makes the most sense for her and her belief system.  I want her to evaluate the political and social ramifications of the choices we make-- that's part of being a critical thinker.  So, even though she put a damper on dinner, I was proud of her for asking the questions and thinking about the answers.  

That said, until she gets to the protest stage (ie declaring that she is morally opposed to eating meat), we'll still be serving it several days a week.  I like it (as long as I'm not thinking about it) and it's so much easier to get dinner on the table every day if a few nights a week I can just bbq some chicken or grill up a hamburger. But, her days of moral outrage are coming.  I can feel it.  So, I better start collecting a wider array of vegetarian options!!  

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