Teaching our children about the circle of life

No, I’m not talking about the song from The Lion King…I’m talking about where our food comes from! So many times I think we forget about the value of teaching our children that hamburger is not actually made in a factory or chicken doesn’t actually come in nugget shapes.  I think it’s so important to teach our children to respect the animal just as they should respect the farmer that grew, raised and processed that meat. This is a big part of why we moved to Blueberry Acres-to teach our Blueberry where our food comes from. By doing so, we hope that we will instill in her a life-long respect for food. Both Sheldon and I grew up in the 70’s where companies were going crazy trying to figure out ways to better engineer our food. Remember Lily Tomlin in The Incredible Shrinking Woman?

courtesy IMDB

Well, that is not what I want food to be like for my child.  A food product that is engineered so past how God intended it.  Our taste buds delight in the fat, salt, sugar and who knows what else, but what are we really putting into our bodies?  Sometimes I wonder if my constant battles with food are a result of spending a couple of decades eating total crap in the name of supposedly healthy meals.  I also know that I’m not alone- weight related problems have reached epidemic proportions.  Self control (or lack thereof) has to always be the first stop in deciding what’s making your butt jiggle like gelatin, but beyond that, you have to ask….are cheesy poufs, diet soda and over processed “health food” making us fat asses?

courtesy of Great Plains Earth Institute…I would add in a section of People eat animals in between them eating the plants and them poo’ing all over everything..

Enter teaching our children about the circle of life as a better way to look at food.   This means some hard lessons for both children and parents.  See that cow-yes, we’re going to eat it.  You know that chicken?  Yep, he was dinner last night.  Not always easy conversations to have with an animal loving kid.  We’ve been building the crescendo for our circle of life lessons since we left the city over a year ago.  We knew we would buy a farm eventually, so we wanted to get Blueberry used to the idea that bacon isn’t just yummy, it’s also pig.  As a result, we’ve had some frank conversations with her about where her meat comes from.  And while we think we’re getting through, there are still times where she has that “oh f dash dash dash” moment where it all comes together and she really gets that we are not just saying it’s chicken for dinner tonight.  We’re saying it’s Lana the chicken for dinner tonight.  So, here are some things that we have done to introduce the circle of life to her-not just in food, but in all areas:

  • We’ve openly talked about death.  Unfortunately, we have had 2 grandparents and 1 parent die in the last 18 months.  While Blueberry only knew one of these people, the deaths hit people she loved very hard.  We took these opportunities to talk to her about how death is inevitable and a natural part of the life cycle.  We also took that opportunity to talk to her about our personal beliefs around Heaven and the afterlife.
  • We’ve talked openly about birth.  While we haven’t opened the baby making can of worms, we have talked to her about how she was born, delivered, etc as part of the circle of life.
  • But, we’ve also used animals and plants to talk about it.  We’ve discussed how dead plants and/or animals provide food for others be it roadkill providing food for scavenger animals or dead plants providing nutrition for live plants in the future.  As a result, she’s beginning to realize that everything has a place in the hierarchy of life.  Let’s face it-we don’t like our kids to see that dead dog on the side of the road.  But, when you can talk about how his body will provide nutrition for others who will live as a result, it takes a little bit of the sting out of it.  Driving home from the store yesterday, we saw a dead raccoon.  She asked if we could say a prayer for it and in her prayer, she included some thoughtful words about its body providing for others.  That realistic but still empathetic reaction sure as heck beats a kid crying over the loss of an animal that she cannot help.

This journey has not been an easy one, nor do I anticipate it to get any easier…especially after she falls in love with her first cow.  I would imagine that there will be many tears shed on that fateful day when the big eyed cow goes for processing.  And while I honestly believe I will be right there with her shedding a tear or two, I firmly believe that by letting her experience at least part of the birth/death circle, she will better love and respect all living creatures for the broad range of gifts that they give us.

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