Daughter three has been missing meat of late. She converted to vegetarianism a few months ago and was toying with going the full vegan, like her sisters, up until Christmas. When she was younger, the things daughter three most liked to eat were meat and sweets. As a vegetarian, she could not even eat Haribo.
Over the last few weeks she has been looking decidedly unimpressed at the thought of yet more lentils or pulses. Daughter one is wavering too. She has been found sniffing her father’s fish dishes. The main reason neither daughter one nor daughter two have caved until now is daughter two, the moral conscience of the family who adopts a kind of fundamentalist approach to food. She piles her plate high with all manner of bean-inspired dishes and can be heard sighing audibly when only son has a ice lolly. She has exposed us all to vegan campaign videos that tell us milk is pus and cheese is the equivalent of heroin.
Daughters one and three are a bit worried about daughter two’s possible reaction to them deviating from the path of righteousness.
But daughter three has, after much deliberation, decided that she can no longer sustain a vegetable-based diet, given that she doesn’t really like vegetables all that much and that without sufficient food she could endanger her health. The problem was letting people know – and one person in particular. On Saturday she decided to break her veggie streak in style with a Nando’s chicken burger. But she was still in a bit of a moral quandary. She sat staring at it in the car for about half an hour while I drove to pick up only son. Picking only son up took longer than anticipated so daughter three had 20 minutes alone in the car with the chicken burger. By the time I got back she had eaten half of it. “Can you tell daughter one, mum? I’ll build up to telling daughter two.” Daughter one was at a party and I had to pick her up later.
I broke the news to her on the journey back and she looked slightly envious. A small voice piped up from the back of the car. Only son was ensconced in a duvet with several teddy bears. “Was it a secret?” he said. It turned out he had told daughter two. Daughter two was alone in the house with daughter three. Oh dear. We arrived back to a very strained atmosphere. Daughter three was on the sofa looking very serious. Daughter two was in her room. “She asked to smell my chicken breath,” said daughter three. “And then she kept coming down and asking me if I was okay because she thought I might do something to myself because of the guilt.”
So, she took it well then. There followed a long chat with daughter two about imposing your views on others and respecting their opinions. Daughter two has long considered that daughter three is essentially under her total control – ever since the days when they used to do synchronised swimming events in the paddling pool. When my partner arrived home from Spain he had a bag of sweets for only son. Except, oh joy, now daughter three can eat them too. The family dynamics are shifting.
*Mum on the run is editor of Workingmums.co.uk.