Utopia in the Forest at the Vegan Families Camping Trip
Kids can have empathy superpowers if we let them.
I just got home from 3 days in Larrabee State Park near Bellingham, WA. My kid and I made the drive for the Seattle Vegan Families Group’s annual camping trip. The hazardous smoke cleared just in time, and we donned our rain gear and celebrated at a group campsite with 10 or so other vegan families.
It was a seriously awesome time: epic views, vegan s’mores, kids and dogs (and grownups) running wild in a car-less wonderland.
What surprised me though, was that my kid, being her usual awesome self, seemed to be the worst at sharing and the quickest to fuss. It’s not that she was on hard mode, but that we were surrounded by the sweetest, most generous group of kids we could imagine.
I love all our other friends (it must be said!) and they are a kind bunch, dedicated to sharing and community and consent, and this all gives me hope for the future, but…
This vegan families camping trip was some crazy dream-like utopia stuff.
I think of my kid as the easy one. She’s 4 and we (so far) don’t have issues with hitting (or biting or otherwise hurting) or drawing on walls or toy-snatching. She eats her veggies and still takes naps and (okay, right now, you’re like, “Shut the hell up with your #blessed bullshit.”)
Seriously, though, she climbs on sick old people’s laps and snuggles them. In terms of empathy and patience, she’s more talented than either of her parents.
We know, from our friends with consistent parenting styles but two vastly different kiddos, that nature and nurture both factor in; we don’t get to take all the credit for our kid’s sweetness.
Yeah, a big but.
These vegan kids shared their watermelon, their bikes, gave up their turns on the swing the moment we walked up. They shared their camping chairs and their board games. They were eager to share. The older kids patiently taught the younger ones to play Chinese Checkers, which entailed constant marbles rolling off the picnic table, and not much else, with endless patience and laughter. No one was excluded.
It was utopia. It was like everyone signed up for utopia.
It was real life, complete with smoke, rain, skinned knees and pooped pants. But the kindness never abated.
One of the main things I thought made my kid special — her empathy — was reflected all around me as routine. I thought she was basically a bodhisattva, but really she’s just your average vegan kid.
We were surrounded by kids raised vegan (not just plant-based; I’m not talking about healthy eating here, though it was funny when we all separately gave our preschoolers hummus and carrots at the same time).
These kids were all raised with a baseline belief in equality, in care, in doing what’s kind, rather than just whatever feels easiest. And it shows. It shows in the 3-year-olds. It shows in the 8-year-olds.
I wrote this piece Veganism Makes Parenting Easier for the vegan parenting site Raise Vegan, so I knew this already, in a way. But this opportunity to see it in action in a multi-family environment, to see what kind of community we can establish when the baseline is ethics, renewed my hope for the future.
My kiddo’s first act at the campsite was to fuss that she didn’t want to share her ball.
Two days later, she asked me to list everything our new friends had shared with our family: glow sticks, ketchup, tree swing, graham crackers, pickles, snap peas, roasting sticks, veggie dogs, blueberries, cherries, watermelon, board games, camp chairs, rain tents, firewood, coffee, beer, wine, chocolate, hugs…) and then she asked,
“Now, what can we share with them?”