how to bring up your child

When Jareth was born, Bronwyn’s mother was horrified to find out that we did not want to have him christened. She truly did not understand our objections to it. To sum them up:

  • We are not christian. I am an atheist, and Bronwyn is pagan. To have Jareth baptised into christianity would be hypocrisy.
  • Part of baptism involves the parents promising to bring up the child as a good christian. I most certainly will not bring my child up to believe in one thing and discard all others – especially when it is not something I believe in – it would be like pointing at the sky every day and saying “repeat after me: the sky is purple”.
  • Baptism is an empty ritual for most people in Ireland. People do it because they are expected to. That, I believe, is stupid. For us, it would be more than empty – it would be an outright denial of our own faiths – I have faith that there is no god, so baptism would be a damning lie.

Anyway – that’s not really what I wanted to talk about.

A few days ago, we were shopping, and met a neighbour and her aunt. She must have spent some time worrying about something, because she almost-immediately asked if Jareth was still “not on the beef”.

I was surprised at the question. I have been vegetarian over half my life. Bronwyn has been vegetarian for seven years. Why would we feed Jareth murdered animals?

Her objection was that we were somehow denying him a choice.

I do not understand this. Bronwyn’s mother also used that line as an explanation as to why we should have Jareth baptised – “just in case he turns out christian”, she said.

We are not denying him any choice. If we shoved meat down his throat, would we not be denying him the choice to live as a vegetarian?

If he wants to eat meat, he is welcome to go, get a job, and buy a burger somewhere. If he wants to become a christian, or a buddhist, or hindu, or satanist for that matter, he is welcome to go through whatever rituals he needs to.

My point is that I will not push anything on him. For now, he lives like we do because that is how we live, and he is not old enough to make choices yet (he’s a baby, for fuck’s sake!).

When he is old enough to decide to eat meat, drink alcohol, smoke his lungs out, have sex with whoever, believe what the hell he wants, I will let him. I may not like it, but I will let him.

But, not in my house.

Think of it – if you were a non-smoker, wouldn’t it be reasonable to allow people to destroy their health, but ask that they do not smoke in your house? Personally, I believe that is very reasonable.

It is the same with meat. I do not eat it, and will not have anyone cook it in my house. It is a matter of politeness – when in rome, do as the romans do. When in my house, do as I do.

Of course, if she had looked a little deeper into how we live, she would have seen that we are not the crazed hippie tree-huggers that she thinks we are. I have a leather wallet, and my dogs and cat eat meat. I do not try to deny that animals die to feed “society”. I merely try to moderate what impact I have on the total amount of murder occuring in the world.

I have a choice of whether I want to be vegetarian or not. So does Jareth. So does everyone. I do not believe anyone should ram meat down my throat, or my son’s, claiming that it is in the name of “choice”.

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