The Gifts We Give Our Children

In the last 24 hours I did a bunch of different things.  At first glance these things may seem unrelated but for me they were not.

First, last night David and I went over to Jeff’s to celebrate Hanukkah with him and Sky.  We were a day early, but that worked out for all of our schedules.  First thing this morning I wrapped gifts, wrote out cards, enclosed the “gelt” and shipped it all out via UPS.  Next I spent some time reviewing some estate planning documents that updated my “if something happens to me” instructions.  Finally I listened to a Main Street Vegan podcast about the newly released documentary, “Cowspiracy”while I was eating lunch.

Before I go on, I want to let my readers know that I love this time of year.  I love buying holiday cards.  See, here they are:


I love buying and wrapping gifts, like these:


Such pretty paper.

I happily do my share for the economy at this time of year.

But this year, my first post-vegan-transition holiday season, I also have other things on my mind about parenting and gift giving.  I guess these things can be best summed up by the following question:

“Why is it that the overwhelming generosity of parents and grandparents everywhere does not include doing everything that can be done to provide future generations with a sustainable planet on which to live?”

As I was reworking the estate plan I referenced before, I was thinking about the degree to which we, as parents and grandparents, responsibly tend to our “affairs” both to minimize confusion (at least around financial matters) and continue to provide generously long after we are gone.  Even those with modest means usually have life insurance.  This is about caring deeply about what happens to those we love if something happens to us.   As parents raising children we sacrifice routinely so that our children can have what they need, and often what they want.  We willingly sacrifice our time, our money and very often our own dreams so our kids can realize theirs.

What we will not sacrifice, however, is the familiarity and enjoyment of our animal-based diet in order to leave our children a   healthy planet.  The lack of sustainability implicit in meeting the world demand for meat and dairy is well-documented and undeniable.   And that brings me to this:


This documentary is about just this issue, and I would suggest that anyone interested in giving “gifts” to their children (that’s all of us, right?) watch it.

Since I became vegan I’ve experienced many different reactions to my choice, but the one I find the most difficult to understand is the “I believe that this goes on, but…” response.  I have not spoken to many people (although I’m sure they are out there) who would deny that cruelty to animals is a given in factory farming and that these industries are overwhelmingly damaging to our air, land and water.  My assumption had been that people would want to know that they or the people they love might be in danger and that there was a way out.  Most definitely not the case.

So this brings me back to the gifts.  Those shiny packages and envelopes filled with cash are great, but I believe we owe our children even more.  We owe them a model of another way of being in the world.  We owe them honesty about the messes that we helped create.  We owe them our commitment to leading the way toward a healthy, cleaner and more humane way of living.  We owe them our wisdom.

Last night, after Sky gleefully opened his presents, and he and his Grandpa David read “Herschel and the Hanukkah Goblins” (with all the voices) he asked us if we wanted to share some of his chocolate coins.  David answered “no” and gently said that he did not want to eat the coins because he did not want to eat milk from cows.  He explained that he believed that milk from mother cows should be used to feed baby cows, not people.

There are gifts and there are gifts.

A very Happy Hanukkah to those of you who celebrate!





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