As I reflect on my life and how I got to where I am right now, I appreciate my parents more and more. My parents always "allowed" me to be. They guided me, but allowed me to be who I was.
For example, I am currently a vegetarian. I have been for many years. The first time I "tried on" being a vegetarian I was probably around seven or eight years old. Mom and I were in the kitchen. As mom was cooking, I started asking questions. Where did chicken come from? (Remember, I was only 7 or 8.) Where did hamburger come from? Where did pork chops come from? And on and on. You get the idea. Mom patiently answered. I was appalled. I felt so sorry for all those animals that were being killed for our consumption. I declared right then and there that I wasn't going to eat any more meat.
My parents never tried to force me to eat. Mom's philosophy was always, "This is what I made. Either eat it and shut up, or don't eat it and shut up." She never made anything special for me as a vegetarian. But there were always potatoes and vegetables with each meal that I could eat. There was also always canned soup, cheese for sandwiches and good old peanut butter and jelly. Nothing was ever said. No fuss was ever made. I was given the freedom at that young age to find out who I was and how I wanted to live my life.
At that time in my life I was a vegetarian for about three years. I slowly started adding meat back into my diet. I was a kid after all and felt it was my duty to at least eat hamburgers with my fries. I didn't become a vegetarian again until about ten years ago. But my parents' gentleness, patience and understanding in my formative years made it easier for me as an adult to confidently make choices for my life and trust those choices. Thanks mom and dad!