School Woes

Jim is a vegetarian, has been since birth. When he’s here everything he has is vegan and that’s how I cook and what’s in the house, when he’s at his Dad’s or at school he’s vegetarian as his Dad hates the whole vegan thing (even though he feeds Piggle a vegan diet…) and for school I haven’t wanted Jim to feel totally left out of everything and different.

I got a message the other day that the school chef wanted to have a word with me about what Jim eats as there was some confusion.  He’s been having school dinners 2 days a week as he requested them.  As I normally provide a vegan lunchbox for him we compromised on 2 days a week.  I assumed the trouble was to do with milk, Jim has had restricted milk intake since before I went vegan as dairy gives him eczema and I thought they wanted to know if he could have custard etc with his meals.  After speaking to the chef I have learnt that some days Jim has been given meat to eat….

Needless to say I’m upset, shocked and downright angry.  Vegetarian is not that hard to understand in this day and age and there is always a vegetarian option available (although I’ve discovered that they are also lax with that term in the school as the ‘vegetarian pizza’ doesn’t have vegetarian cheese on it).  Apparently Jim had been saying that he wanted sausages or other things and throwing a bit of a fit over it.  I do understand the confusion in him over sausages because when I serve them at home I don’t say we’re having ‘vegetarian sausages’ for dinner we just say sausages but when I do seitan or ‘chicken’ it’s always fake meat or fake chicken so he knows it’s not the dead animal.  However, as an adult goes through the line with him they should have plain and simple just said no.

One of the excuses that the school tried to give me was that Jim asked for the meat.  To that I pointed out that he’s 5 years old and needs direction and they should have just told him that the sausages weren’t vegetarian and showed him something that was.  I also asked whether they’d give a child with a gluten free diet cake or bread because they asked for it or give peanuts to a nut allergy sufferer for the same reason.

I expected there would come a time when Jim wanted to try meat, but so far he’s been great about being vegetarian and checks that things are veggie before eating them.  Basically I think he’s assumed that if he’s been allowed to have it that it is vegetarian, had they said no and not let him have it then he would have known and gotten over it.

So, no more school lunches for Jim, back to packed lunches every day.  And I will also be taking in food for snack times for him as if they’re so fast and loose with what they give him then I really don’t trust that snack times (beyond fruit and squash) have been right for him either.  I couldn’t bring myself to ask how long it had been going on or exactly what he ate, the whole idea just makes me feel ill to be honest…

I have complained to the Head (Principal for those of you in the US) and she said she’d look into it.  We’ll see if anything comes of it or not…  I also pointed out to her that this is a big moral issue for me and that being a Catholic school they should be more understanding of people’s morals rather than less…

Funny thing is my Mum and I have been discussing whether Jim’s behaviour at times has been linked to diet.  He has Aspergers Syndrome (a form of autism) and he’s always harder to deal with when he comes back from his Dad’s (where he tends to have oven chips, frozen pizza and more junk food in a weekend than he’d have in a month with me) and recently there have been days where he’s been very difficult.  We wondered whether the change in his diet from his Dad’s to here was causing it and now we’re wondering if perhaps the meat had something to do with it too.  If he’s never had it before it’s bound to affect his system in some way and diet can have major affects on autistic children.

I guess I will just have to be used to sending in snacks etc as when Piggle starts Nursery in a few years I won’t be swapping him to a vegetarian diet from his current vegan one.  And I won’t be trusting that the school understand exactly what they’re supposed to be doing anymore either…

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4 thoughts on “School Woes

  1. I am so sorry the school did that. I would have been so angry. Geez, that is very irresponsible of a school. I know when Arthur and Adam start school I am going to send their lunch and snacks. In your situation if he had been given a vegetarian diet instead of vegan I would be annoyed but to give him meat would have down right pissed me off. Sorry for the language. The school should respect the diet of all the children. And I think you are right, his change in diet could be affecting his behavior. I hope everything gets straightened out sooner than later.

  2. Man, that really blows. I hate it when non-veg people don’t see the importance in helping kids maintain their veg lifestyles. A co-worker of mine told me a story just a couple days ago about her 3 year old telling her that her preschool teacher had been slipping her bites of his lunch meat sandwiches…which is weird and creepy (why would a teacher share his lunch with a toddler?) and goes against the family’s vegetarianism. I have another friend whose preschool flat-out refused to provide vegetarian options for her daughter.

    Good luck with this!

  3. Well done Anna for standing up for your beliefs, you are quite right to insist that the school respects your wishes here. When your son is older he will be able to make his own informed choices about what to eat, until then it is up to you to make those choices for him based on what you believe to be in his best interests, both morally and health wise. As you say, you would imagine a Catholic school would be more thoughtful about these moral decisons. I imagine if this had happened to a vegan hindu/buddhist child in a non-denominational school, there would be an outcry. Unfortunately in our society it seems that your moral decisions are only respected if they are demanded of you by your religion, which should not be the case. Some of us live by our own moral compass and we should still be respected for this, as we respect those who choose to follow a religion. Sorry, i didn’t mean to get so political.

  4. That is ridiculous – I can’t believe they gave him meat without even consulting you – he’s 5, not 15! I mean, if they had trouble with a vegan diet okay, but a vegetarian diet – surely he can’t be the only one! I’d be fuming…
    As for his behaviour when he comes back from his dad, could it also be he’s unsettled – probably you and he have different approaches to discipline, to playtime – you always sound a bit more involved, so maybe he’s confused between the two situations. It’s quite early days yet for him to get used to what’s happening. It’s so hard to figure out sometimes what’s going on in their minds!

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