College can be a time of life when kids experiment with lifestyles that are different than their parents. Our daughter who is a freshman at a smallish private university in Southern California seems to be doing just that. However, unlike many kids who really try out some risky behavior just because they can, I am thankful that Valerie is expressing her independence from us in a way that won’t show up in some pixilated video on MTV’s Spring Break.

Valerie has chosen a more modest approach to separating from us; she announced to us over Skype with more than a little “I’m my own person now and so don’t try and talk me out of it” tone in her voice, that she had become a vegetarian. I think she would have really liked us to gasp in horror when she gave us the news; after all, shocking your parents with your “radical” behavior is half the fun. But the best we could do was, “Well that’s interesting. Tell us why.”

Apparently, she has a masterful professor for the “Introduction to Environmental Science” class she is taking during the interterm session; rather than get highly emotional about environmental causes, he has presented the information in a very logical way which Valerie really responded to. She must have soaked up every word he said because she gave us a fifteen minute lecture on why eating lower on the food chain would save our otherwise doomed planet.

When Valerie does anything, she never does it halfway and this is no different. She has always been concerned about eating healthfully – only non-fat milk, whole grains and she would rather go hungry that eat fast food – but now she has a new cause to sink her teeth into. In the 15 minutes since she became a strict vegetarian, she has already done a ton of research on how to combine foods such as rice and beans and why quinoa should be a stable of our diet.

We have absolutely no objections – nor would it make any difference to her if we did – to her becoming vegetarian. In fact, we reminded her that not only were we vegetarians for about a year-and-a-half when she was six, we went the extreme route and became vegans…until Steve lost the will to live when I served him a pizza made with soy cheese. His response, “Just shoot me now.”

Actually, we are enjoying Valerie’s righteous stance over her new found cause. She loves to argue and her class has given her plenty of ammunition. Steve feels like he’s reliving talking to fellow students at Berkeley in the 1960’s. And her younger sister is having a lot of fun teasing her about her new natural approach. Jennifer wanted to know if she was going to let her hair grow into dreadlocks and only wear hemp. And what about soap? Are you sure that wasn’t tested on animals?

I, too, am willing to help her stay pure. “You know all those really cute, pointy-toed LEATHER ballet flats that we bought at Nordstrom Rack? I would be more than happy to relieve you of your guilt that a cow gave his life for those and take them off your hands…or feet.”

This may just be Valerie’s first step in exploring an alternative philosophy from us. I think we are going to have some fun when she takes a political science class.