I felt a little guilty going off on holiday and not keeping you up to date on the important topic of polyamory and kids, but today I make it up to you.
Growing up, I know who my parents friends were. I even knew they had different kinds of friends. There were the friends who were my friend’s parents. My parents got together and hung out with them once a month, but the connection didn’t last when I moved to a different school. There were my father’s friends from work, the people he enjoyed spending time with but also had to stay professional with, so we kids were largely “out of sight, out of mind” when they came over. There were mom’s special friends from way back. We kids actually knew them by their first names. They would come over and drink tea and we had to play with their kids whether we liked them or not.
Were any of these friends shagging either or both of your parents? I ask mainly to understand how you’ve turned out.
So let’s pretend you make a new friend at work, you invite your friend over to hang out and watch a movie sometime. What do you say to your kids? Probably something like, “Hey kids my new friend So-and-so is coming over tonight. Be polite, make sure the place isn’t an utter disaster and try not to interrupt too often, okay?”
Your kids are aware of this friend, but probably don’t pay much attention.
Mark my words, they’d pay attention if he was spending the night in your bedroom while daddy mysteriously cleared off for the night.
There is no reason for your kids to know the details of your relationship—anymore than I knew just what my mother talked about with her friends when they came to visit.
Kids are incredibly perceptive, and will immediately pick up on something that is out of the ordinary, and if mummy has two lovers they will probably be extremely confused. The idea that kids won’t notice, or will not be affected by this, is rather fanciful.
As a ittle kid, I didn’t want to know anyway. It was grown up stuff, and probably boring. *yuck face* As a teenager, I had my own stuff that I cared about a lot more than making nice with my parents friends.
That may be because your parents had friends, not fuck-buddies.
Like any other friend, it slowly becomes normal for your poly partner to be around a bit more, participating in your family’s public life. Maybe you meet up to watch a parade and your partner offers to buy flags or something for the kids. Small things, small steps.
Because that’s not creepy.
First rule of kids: if you don’t treat it like a big deal, they’ll assume it isn’t a big deal.
Divorces, abandonment, neglect, domestic violence: if you downplay these, so will the kids. Why didn’t anyone else think of this?
Second rule of kids: if it’s not going to have a direct impact on their life, they probably won’t care.
There’s an awful lot riding on that “if”.
So introduce your partner early, as just another friend.
Only it is going to become painfully obvious to the kids that this man is not just another friend. Probably around the time they see him emerging from your bedroom, tackle out, looking for the bathroom.
Parents having relationships with other adults is a normal part of life for most kids. Do your kids really care that your relationship with your cousin is different from your relationship with your friend is different from your relationship with your poly partner?
Very much so. Kids can spot the various levels of intimacy and affection between their parents and their friends a mile off.
Not unless and until those relationships start to impact them.
Which they inevitably will.
For children it’s “grown up stuff, yuck!” and for teenagers it’s “Old folks are so out off touch.” In either case, it’s no big deal.
It’s no big deal because they understand, even subconsciously, that sexual relations in a monogamous relationship are normal. Once you start adding additional partners they’ll know immediately something unusual is going on and they’ll be confused as hell. You only need to look at the impact a parent having an affair has on the family and children.
Children who are born into a polyamorous relationship do not need anyone to explain their parents’ relationships, any more than children born into a monogamous relationship. Because they grow up with it, they understand it. It’s normal to them.
Right up until they encounter the real world outside the front door, and then they’ll be utterly confused.
Children whose parent(s) become polyamorous after the children are born may have difficulty understanding change in their parents’ relationships.
But we’ll do it anyway. Fuck the kids.
If you choose to be open about your lifestyle choices, it’s important to present them in a way that leaves your children secure in knowing that their family will not be hurt by the changes you are making.
Give them false assurances, in other words.
For some children, and some relationships, you won’t need to discuss anything. Just say at dinner ‘Mommy’s going out on a date, so I’m putting you to bed tonight.’
Because this won’t induce confusion and abandonment issues.
This goes equally for single parents with several polyam relationships and families with a parent and step parent. ‘Boyfriend will be baby-sitting while Mommy goes on a date with Girlfriend’ works just as well as ‘Daddy/Mommy/Step-Parent is putting you kids to bed tonight’.
Leaving a kid in the hands of a boyfriend while mommy goes on a date with a girlfriend. What could possibly go wrong?
If the kids ask questions, answer them without long explanations. Best advice I ever got about explaining things to little kids – answer the exact question they ask in the simplest terms possible, and then shut up.
Mom’s a slut? Mom cares only about herself?
If they want more information, they’ll keep asking.
Why, it’s almost as if the kids have serious trouble getting their heads around your sleeping arrangements, isn’t it?
Older children and teenagers will definitely be fully aware of the social norms against polyamory.
Depending on the child the reaction can range from ‘You’re talking about polyamory? That’s cool,’ to ‘ok, whatever,’ to ‘OMG HOW CAN YOU DO THIS TO ME!!!!’ (Yes, at this age it is all about them.)
Seriously? From what I’ve read so far, it seems to be all about you.
Expect it and accept it. I honestly don’t see much difference between this and the way many adults act, but people seem to think it’s a big deal that teenagers do this. Meh.)
My teenage daughter’s life has just been turned upside down by the news I’m shagging other men in an open relationship. Meh.
Answer any questions, be clear that it is your lives and your choice, but that you respect them enough to tell them yourselves about this decision.
Did I really just read that?
The most important thing about discussing it this way is it lets them know the floor is open. Whatever their reaction, they know that you are okay with them knowing about your relationships, and are willing to discuss it with them.
In general, as long as they see that their lives and their relationships with you aren’t changing in a massive way, older children and teenagers will move on to something else to be worked up and angry about eventually, no matter how badly they react.
But what if it is affecting them and your relationship with them is changing (e.g. by some weirdo who buys them flags putting them to bed instead of you)? What if they beg you to stop, and tell you your sexual preferences have utterly destroyed the structure of their lives? What then?
At no point in this entire damned article does this woman consider quitting the practice and putting her kids first, even if they are suffering terribly.
As self-centered as they are, kids are very attuned to anything that threatens their lives and families.
You having other relationships will be seen as a threat, simply because they have been taught that this is a betrayal of their other parent, and may lead to divorce.
Toddlers have been taught this, have they? They’re aware of what divorce is, and its consequences? Or perhaps several thousand years of human development has left kids with an innate ability to know a fucked-up situation when they see one?
Next time you read an article trying to convince you that polyamorists are perfectly normal people unfairly judged by the rest of society, remember this post, won’t you?