Wife doesn’t re­spect son’s veg­e­tar­i­an­ism

Honolulu Star-Advertiser - - DETOURS - CAROLYN HAX ——— Carolyn Hax is a colum­nist with The Washington Post. Email her at tellme@wash­post.com.

Dear Carolyn: My 8-year-old son de­cided to be­come a veg­e­tar­ian be­cause he doesn’t like the idea of killing an­i­mals. He’s kept it up for about three months. It’s slightly in­con­ve­nient in terms of going out to eat and hav­ing to pre­pare dif­fer­ent things.

Re­cently I said some­thing about it and my wife said, “I wish you’d talked to me be­fore you made this de­ci­sion.” She’s also sug­gested a cou­ple of times we just don’t tell him meat is in some­thing or com­mented that he’s not get­ting all the nu­tri­ents he needs but can’t specif­i­cally name any­thing he’s not get­ting (I make an ef­fort to make sure his diet is bal­anced).

I’m just not sure how to re­spond from here. We’re usu­ally on the same page and of course both par­ents should make de­ci­sions in­volv­ing the kids, but I don’t feel like it’s even our de­ci­sion to make. My son made it, and at 8 I think he’s ca­pa­ble of de­cid­ing he doesn’t like an­i­mals be­ing killed for his food. — My Son Likes Let­tuce

Dear My Son: Good for your kid, and good for you. Not for quit­ting meat, per se, but for the will­ing­ness to stand up for some­thing and the will­ing­ness to stand up for him, re­spec­tively.

That’s how I sug­gest you talk about it with your wife. Don’t ap­proach it as a meat/no meat thing, but as a mat­ter of re­spect. He de­cided this, you didn’t; your de­ci­sion was to treat this as a mat­ter prin­ci­pled self-ex­pres­sion for your son.

But in­stead of re­spond­ing with this line of rea­son­ing up­front, I also sug­gest you ap­proach your wife not with dec­la­ra­tions but with ques­tions. Or, if you’re com­fort­able with it, with re­flec­tive lis­ten­ing — i.e. a re­state­ment of some­thing she says, as you un­der­stand it to mean: “It’s both­er­ing you that Son chose to be a veg­e­tar­ian.” Your wife then gets to re­spond with a cor­rec­tion — for ex­am­ple, “No, it’s not that he’s a veg­e­tar­ian, it’s that I had no say in it” — or she can ac­knowl­edge that’s how she’s feel­ing. “Yes, it’s re­ally both­er­ing me and I don’t know why,” or, “Yes, it’s re­ally both­er­ing me be­cause I don’t think an 8-year-old gets to run an en­tire house­hold like this.” Or what­ever else. The point of the in­quiry/re­flec­tion is to draw out the real source of your wife’s ob­jec­tions.

And I do think there’s an­other source, be­cause she’s all over the map — wish­ing she’d been told, sug­gest­ing food-sneaks, fret­ting about nu­tri­tion. When there are mul­ti­ple points of con­flict that aren’t par­tic­u­larly co­her­ent, that sug­gests a big­ger, un­der­ly­ing com­plaint that hasn’t yet been iden­ti­fied or ex­pressed.

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