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Relationships Our daughter and son-in-law are strict vegetarians. What if our grandson wants to eat regular food?

The question

Years ago, our daughter became a vegetarian when she married a guy who is a strict vegetarian. He wouldn’t allow nonvegetarian foods at their wedding (even though we paid for it) and they won’t eat anything that has any trace of meat, for example marshmallows and jello. For family gatherings, I always have to make two main courses to accommodate their wishes. Now, they have a son who went into daycare as an infant. Our son-in-law had checked that the daycare would serve him only vegetarian food once he began to eat solids. Now that our grandson is starting to eat regular food, I am wondering what will happen when they come here for a meal and he wants to try some of our food. Also, if they leave him with us for a time, can we feed him as we feed ourselves, which is what we want to do? Basically, what do you think are the rights of a grandparent vs. a parent in terms of this?

I always say stupid things at parties. How do I stop?

A good friend always lectures me about my life. Why can’t she stop bossing me around?

My friend keeps cancelling on me at the last minute and I can’t take it any more. What do I do?

The answer

I hate what I’m about to say because I’ve always felt grandparents are given short shrift in our society. But I’m afraid in this case, you may not have any say. Parents are the ultimate arbiters of what to feed their kids.

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It can be painful, I know, for grandparents to stand by and say nothing if their offspring are feeding their children foodstuffs the grandparents don’t agree with.

Example: my sister lets her kids drink pop with most meals and I know my mother has wrestled with her emotions on numerous occasions about whether to pipe up about that or not.

But vegetarianism is actually a healthy option, so in your shoes I would just accommodate it.

I’m starting to change my tune when it comes to vegetarianism and/or veganism. I used to pooh-pooh it. I had two kids who became vegetarians at ages 10 and 12.

And I’ll admit, at times it was a pain in my posterior region. Now I, the chef of the family, suddenly have a lot of thinking and shopping to do. My wife loves a good steak above all else; I’m a seafood person; and suddenly I’ve got two vegetarians on my hands.

I confess I tried to trick them out of it, using as my chief weapon the humble doughnut. In a bakery, “Hey, kids you want a doughnut? Oh, wait, sorry, I forgot, you’re vegetarians now – and they’re made with animal fat.”

(Which I’m not even sure is true any more.)

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“Okay, Dad, we changed our minds! We decided not to be vegetarian after all!”

But it didn’t last. Soon they were back to their vegetarianism.

The only thing I did say to them was: Don’t proselytize about it. (I suppose I used a different word, since they were 10 and 12, but that was the gist.) Don’t be superior about it.

And don’t force other people to accommodate you. Once when we were invited for dinner somewhere my oldest son said,“I’m going to phone the hostess and tell her I’m a vegetarian.”

Me: “Oh no, no, you’re not going to be that type of vegetarian. Just eat whatever vegetables are on offer.”

Once we went to Prince Edward Island. Seafood heaven for me, but driving along I noticed at one point in the rear-view mirror my oldest, who was now not only a vegetarian but a recent convert to Christianity, scowling grumpily in the back seat.

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Me: “Something wrong?”

Him (after a moody pause): “I prayed to God to punish you and Uncle John [my brother-in-law] for the way you torture lobsters and clams.”

I pulled the car over. “Hey, kiddo, that is neither good Christianity nor good vegetarianism.”

I understand it may have been a pain in the peace-pipe to pay for a wedding and have the food-type dictated to you. Also having to prepare two different types of meals when your daughter and son-in-law come over. But people with dietary restrictions is the new normal. When we have people over we always check, “Any dietary restrictions?” And do whatever it takes to accommodate.

In your case, in the interest of family peace and harmony I would honestly just inhale and exhale and accommodate their wishes. Anyway, it’s good for your health to enjoy a vegetarian meal from time to time.

Are you in a sticky situation? Send your dilemmas to damage@globeandmail.com. Please keep your submissions to 150 words and include a daytime contact number so we can follow up with any queries.

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