AITA for letting my "vegan" nephew eat meat and dairy during his visit?
"My sister, Rachel (42F) and her husband, Frank (43M) decided to go on a couple's retreat for their anniversary over the summer. Rachel is my only sibling and her son, Bennett (15M) is my only nephew. Because we live on opposite sides the country, I only get to see them in person once every couple of years.
"Since I (36M) had recently moved to a beach town, Rachel and Frank suggested that Bennett could come for a visit. I was excited by the idea and told Rachel to send me an email with everything I needed to know. The email contained the name and contact number of the couple's retreat and flight information, as well as recipes for several vegan dishes.
"Rachel and Frank are very into veganism and new age spirituality. Not my cup of tea, but no judgment. Though I usually eat a high protein diet, I resigned myself to cooking vegan meals for the week that Bennett stayed with me. His flight landed late in the evening, after which we watched a movie and ate some popcorn before going to bed.
"The next day, I took Bennett to the grocery store to get some snacks and give me more ideas for things to make. He asked what I would normally cook for guests. I told him I enjoyed grilling and would usually make burgers, pork chops, steak, and seafood. Bennett said all of that sounded 'great' and told me 'not to go to any trouble on [his] account.'
"I was surprised and told him I thought he was vegan. He said his parents were vegan and that he eats whatever they put in front of him. However, Bennett claimed he didn't 'care about any of that stuff' and would be happy to 'eat what [I] eat.' Rachel's email never said Bennett had to eat vegan food, so I loaded up the shopping cart with various meats to grill. Bennett also threw in a couple tubs of ice cream.
"I had a great time with Bennett and was sad to see him go. Rachel told me later that the visit was the highlight of his summer. Everything seemed well until a few days ago, when I posted some pictures from Bennett's visit on my Facebook page - one of which showed Bennett tearing into a pile of steamed shrimp. Rachel called a few hours later and angrily accused me of trying to 'undermine [their] values.' I told her she never said that Bennett had to keep a vegan diet and said she needed to discuss this with him.
"She said I should have known better and asked if I would serve pork to a kid from a Jewish or Muslim family. I told her that veganism isn't a religion and she should have made her expectations clear. AITA?"
While almost no one disagreed that the nephew was definitely old enough to decide for himself what he wanted to eat, many placed blame on the uncle for posting a photo of him digging into seafood.
"You blew it for your nephew. He kept quiet. He's also being chewed out too, you know. Not just for the food, but for not telling them," one popular response said. "You owe him an apology."
While another commenter weighed in (earning over 8K upvotes): "NTA for giving him meat, Asshole for accidentally (I'm hoping) ratting him out on facebook. I mean you had to know that the photo wasn't going to go well."
That comment above got a response from OP, who clarified what his thought process was: "Several posters have said this and I feel the need to push back a little. Of course I didn't intend to cause Bennett any grief with his parents ... but nor did he give me any reason to think that his parents might disapprove. My sister and her husband ascribe to a sort of 'free range' parenting style and have always touted how they are raising their son to be an autonomous freethinker."
"Bennett was completely nonchalant about eating meat and dairy during his visit with me - never once did he even suggest that we should keep his eating habits a secret," OP continued to explain. "If he had, that would have tipped me off to the fact that his parents didn't approve and we would have stuck to the vegan diet. I just figured his relationship with meat was like my relationship with Chinese food growing up."
NTA for giving him meat, Asshole for accidentally (I'm hoping) ratting him out on Facebook."
"My parents hate Chinese food, so we never ordered Chinese takeout or went to any Chinese restaurants. However, my parents wouldn't have cared if I bought Chinese food for myself or went to a Chinese restaurant with friends," he concluded. "Though Rachel and her husband are vegans, I didn't think they were mandating that lifestyle for Bennett. Hence why I didn't think we needed to hide what Bennett ate while he was with me."
Others pointed out that if this really was Bennet's first time eating meat he would have gotten sick -- which doesn't seem to have been the case.
And then came another even better update from OP: "Bennett and I have been texting since last night. I asked if he was okay and told him I wasn’t trying to rat him out with the Facebook post. He said not to worry about it and confirmed what many here suspect - that he’s been sneaking meat, eggs, dairy, and seafood for years. He indicated it was only 'a matter of time' before his parents found out.
"I told him it wasn't okay to lie to adults … but admitted I would've done the same thing if I were in his position. I asked him if there was anything I could do or say to make things easier for him. He said no. Although his parents were upset, they're not going to punish him or anything like that. Looks like everyone just needs to cool down and the situation will resolve itself," OP said.
He went on to share what was perhaps a more memorable update from his nephew's incredible week with him: "Bennett also might have gotten to first base with my neighbor's daughter, who is his age. It was probably his first romantic experience - which I'm sure he enjoyed far more than the meals I prepared. As much as I disagree with some elements of their lifestyle and parenting philosophy, I can't deny that Rachel and Frank have raised a good kid. If all he's doing is eating meat and making out with girls, they don't have much to worry about."
And added: "The only picture I made a conscious decision not to post was one my neighbor took of Bennett and their daughter holding hands on the beach. I refrained from posting that not because the kids did anything wrong, but because that was a private moment I thought should be respected."
The Reddit community overall seemed to be satisfied with his explanations, and then sunk their teeth into the "free range" comments.
"Your sister and BIL sound a bit hypocritical. They are free range parents but expect him to follow them? That’s not free range," one highly popular response read.
Another issue some readers had was with the mother's comment about religion.
"Nta. Apparently the kid isn't vegan … and no offense some Jews/Muslims don't adhere to a kosher/halal diet either," said one Redditor.
While another echoed in reply: "Jew here and can confirm. It’s up to each Jew to decide whether or not to keep kosher. A lot don't, and there are varying degrees of kosher. I don't care if my kids eat bacon or not … it's their lives."