A Little Bit Extra
Is there anything you feel like you're a little "extra" about? I don't have many things, but one of my things is I really like sending my friends cards for birthdays and anniversaries and thank yous. I'm most definitely not 100% consistent but I am preeeeeeetty good about it. It's something I really enjoy doing, and I know people enjoy receiving cards, so why not make people smile? :) Another thing I like to do is find food that takes into consideration allergies and dietary needs (as long as it fits within the walls of veganism, of course) if I'm hosting people or taking food somewhere, like when I take food to daycare for my kids' friends and teachers. When we had my daughter's first birthday party, we had a guest who was gluten free and another guest who had a dairy, egg, and peanut allergy. I wanted them to be able to eat and enjoy themselves comfortably without having to think about bringing their own food, so I made them their own food and used gluten-free ingredients when possible. For the dairy and egg allergy, obviously vegan food excludes those ingredients anyway; however, there are some packaged products that are processed in facilities that process other products that contain those ingredients. There is a risk for cross-contamination, and that is usually a no-no for people with allergies, even if vegans are OK with them (our family is ok with the products that say they "may contain" those ingredients). So, when it came to purchasing items for the party, I made sure to buy only products that did not have risk of cross-contamination.
I do these things because I enjoy it. Full stop. I do it regardless of whether it's reciprocated. However, now that I have vegan children, I have become grateful for those who are a little bit extra with this stuff. Of course, I do not EXPECT it from anyone; I am just super appreciative when my children are considered. While, yes, it's always very nice when someone considers me when it comes to food and I am always extremely appreciative, I'm used to bringing my own food or figuring out what I'll eat at this point and I don't even think about it anymore. But I definitely care more when it comes to my kids. Now, as you've read in previous posts, I will always do my best to buy or make a reasonable substitute for my kids when I can if I have advance notice, at daycare or wherever. But, when it's already provided for them because someone is a little extra in that area, too, I feel overcome with gratitude.
In 2021, people's knowledge of what "vegan" means and entails has expanded significantly from even two years ago (as have the available alternatives), and I think people are a lot more comfortable with the idea, especially in light of how common food allergies have become; however, I think it is still kind of a mystery to a lot of people. What I mean is, some people are already familiar with making the effort for their kids or other loved ones who have a dairy allergy or egg allergy, for example, so it's not necessarily any more burdensome to do it for someone who doesn't consume these products by choice. By the same token, I do still find that, for people who aren't familiar with the extra work it takes to find something free of animal products or allergens, more often than not they (understandably!!) can't be bothered. I get it. I really get it. For myself (before I had kids) and now for my family, I take the extra effort on voluntarily and very happily because it's more than worth it to be able to stick to my values. I'm not a baker or a cook, really, but I'll bake or cook anything if it means my kids get to be included in a meal, snack, or treat time. But this also extends to kids with allergies. I am already very familiar with the extra effort (to me it doesn't even feel like any extra effort at this point), and I am very familiar with what it feels like to not be able to participate, so I will always try to go out of my way for a friend or a kid who has a food allergy so he or she can be included without issue.
As I've already mentioned, I don't expect anyone to do that for us, but I do always HOPE someone will take my kids into consideration when providing a snack or a treat or whatever. And, when it does happen, I am so extremely grateful and touched, because my daughter is old enough smart enough to recognize when she is eating something different (my son will be at that age soon), and I know it makes her feel a little bit bad when her meal, snack, or treat looks noticeably different than her friends'. If I know about it in advance, of course I would make or buy her something to be as similar as possible, but sometimes there's no warning, and that's OK! It just means I can't plan. I keep a bunch of snacks and treats for her at school in case there is an unplanned snack or treat day. That way, at least she has something even if it isn't like what her friends are eating.
Recently, my daughter was invited to a couple of birthday parties and my heart did a happy dance each time the parents reached out to me and asked me about certain things and whether my daughter could eat them because they want to make sure she was included. I cannot even begin to express how happy that made me for her. As I mentioned in my previous post, this is such a tricky age because there are a lot of things my toddler understands but there are also a lot of things I have not yet explained to her because I'm not certain she will understand. I take every opportunity to tell my daughter that we don't eat animals and that we love animals, but I don't think she's really connected what that means yet. So I look forward to the day that I feel like I can fully explain to her why it is that her food or snack or treat might be or look different and that it's not necessarily a bad thing! Until then, I'm thankful for the extra. :)