Inspirational Vegan Parents: Tesi & Zach Klipsch – Judgment Does No One Favors. Do it with Grace.

Tell us a little about yourself. I

I’m Tesi Klipsch, married to Zach Klipsch. I’m a Healthy Lifestyles Director at a Y outside of Kalamazoo, Michigan. I also am a Content Coordinator for a magazine and have a podcast with my sister-in-law called Mama Bear Dares where we tackle every day activism. Ranging in topics from the school to prison pipeline to veganism. 

What lead you to veganism? How long ago?

We’ve been vegetarian for 10 years due to my husband’s genetics and their propensity for heart disease. After a few years being vegetarian we read more about how dairy can also affect heart health and so we decided to try being vegan. That was almost 6 years ago and we haven’t looked back.

How many children do you have? Were they born vegan?

We have 5 kids ages 17-13. They weren’t born vegan but came on board with us when we went vegetarian and then vegan. 

What are some of the challenges you find raising a vegan child? How have you dealt with these challenges?

Having our kids be vegan when they were little was actually quite easy. I enjoy cooking and my kids have always been good eaters so it was rather simple. As they’ve gotten older and spend a lot of time outside of the house at school or with friends, it’s gotten quite a bit harder. They are still vegan at home with us and their lunches for school are vegan because they pack them at home but once they leave our house, they aren’t always vegan. It got too hard for them when they were spending the night at people’s houses or going out to eat with other families to maintain veganism and stay healthy (chips and salsa for all your meals isn’t going to nourish their growing bodies!) It’s still very rewarding for them to be able to tell how their bodies are feeling and directly correlate it with not eating enough fruits and veg and eating too much processed food or dairy. I’m comfortable with the balance as it allows them to still be kids but also have that basic understanding of how good their body can feel without all of the animal products in it. 

Do you believe we should show children the process of how animals are turned into products? How are you educating your child/children on veganism and compassion?

Yes, in age appropriate ways. When they were little, we would read good children’s books on veganism and talk plainly about where meat and dairy come from and the implications of factory farms. As they’ve gotten older, we’ve watched all the typical documentaries (Food, Inc., Cowspiracy, Forks Over Knives and Gamechangers) with them and talk often about veganism. After almost 6 years they’ve heard it all but whenever we see an opening, we take it to educate. I’m definitely sensitive to dairy; I had chronic sinus infections and tonsillitis growing up, resulting in 2 nasal surgeries. I also struggled with chronic, cystic acne. Once I cut out dairy it all went away. My oldest has the nasal issues associated with dairy and my daughter has gastro issues with too much dairy. Whenever they are struggling with sinus infections or gastro issues, we bring it back to the education of the health implications of animal products. We also are now able to talk about veganism as it relates to climate change now that they’ve gotten older and are hearing about that more.  

What does being vegan mean to you? For example, does it extend to not killing bugs and bees? Does it include not patronizing vegan companies owned by non-vegan parent companies? Does it affect the way you treat other humans? How does your definition of this effect your parenting?

We live in the Midwest so it’s honestly not an option to cut out all non-vegan companies from our lives. We know how important social connections are and so we still will go to non-vegan restaurants and companies and either eat before or grab a salad, etc. We’ve found more people are receptive to having a genuine conversation about veganism when we are more willing to meet them where they are than when we kind of block ourselves off to that. Of course, veganism affects how we treat other humans and how we parent. I think it’s just made us more compassionate over all. 

Any recommended vegan books, social sites, or blogs?

The aforementioned documentaries are great. So is the book Eating Animals. We love Rich Roll’s podcast too. In the beginning stages we devoured everything we could read, see and hear about it but now that it’s just become a normal part of our existence, we don’t do that quite as much. 

What’s your favorite Vegan restaurant?

Probably the Chicago Diner in Chicago. Locally we love Crow’s Nest or One Well Brewery. Living in Kalamazoo means no dedicated, strictly vegan recipes, but we’re getting quite a few that have an array of options and we feel so grateful for that. 

Some encouraging words or advice for vegan parents.

As with everything else in parenting, have some grace. It’s hard being a kid! Though we as adults love being a little different, it’s hard to be different growing up. If we have grace in this endeavor, I do believe they’ll come into veganism on their own. I’ve found the more we push them on things, they’ll push back and go away from it. We remember that as teenagers, right? So, don’t draw a hard line in the sand, is my advice. They’ll get there because they are learning what’s right and wrong from you, too much forcing and they’ll reject it outright. We try to make it seem fun and delicious and in line with our values, that way as they get older it looks like a natural and enjoyable way to be an adult. That’s what we’re doing anyway. I reserve the right to take it all back. Parenting is humbling in that way. 😉 

Have you connected with other vegan families in your city? If so, how did you meet?

We haven’t yet as we are still relatively new to the area. We are planning on attending some local vegan fests to meet new people. 

How do you think you will react if your is out with his/her friends and they eat animal products?

With grace. 🙂 Judgement does no one any favors so we don’t go there. We educate when they ask about it and are open to it but otherwise, we just continue to be very active and healthy and that is a draw for most. 

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