Explaining Polyamory to Our Children

How We Can Model Respect and Love.

In my relationships with friends and partners, I work hard to be truthful and respectful (sometimes I fail but hopefully each time I can learn and be better). In my relationship with my child from the start, I wanted to be the kind of parent that told the TRUTH. That said there’s been times where I’ve said, “I’ll explain it a bit more when you’re older”, or “now’s not a good time to talk about how babies come out of vaginas IN DETAIL” (on a crowded airplane – true story).

It’s really hard to stick to truth with children. The temptation is there to pad and soften and disarm. But I tell Allie, “I will always tell you the truth”. As an agnostic, it was really hard not to talk about heaven when my great grandmother died. Allie was devastated and a world of big fluffy clouds, harps and benevolent angels just seemed like the obvious go-to. So I went. However, I also said, “we don’t really know”. Other people believe there is nothing but good memories left behind. We talked a bit about earth religions and then I said, “you will just have to decide for yourself.” And then, “Great Granny will always love you and be in your heart.” Sob. canoe

And then there’s SEX. But beyond the mechanics, explaining to our children who we love and why and letting them feel comfortable asking questions. What it means for parents to have “grown-up time”. We love our children but we also need to sustain and value nourishing, equitable relationships with the adults in our life we love. And it is good for them to see us as the grown-ups they will be one day, with loads of adult friend supports and exciting dates where we get dressed up (and nervous).

More boundaries and less boundaries.

In a way, we are modelling boundaries even as we enact them (or struggle to define them). As a single person, I have trepidations of embarking on a second committed nuclear family formation and the fears of impending emotional devastation and financial challenges of divorce. And mostly because I NEVER want to put my own child through that again. We’re in a good place now. So going slow, keeping lovers to dates and new friends with little Allie contact is protecting both her heart and my heart, if things don’t go the way we hope. And then friends and lovers who’ve been there and proven their loyalty, get the Allie pass. And sometimes I love my ex-wife to spend a weekend with us as the family we used to be but a little more wiser. There needs to be room in our home for our chosen family. Ultimately Allie benefits from knowing that it takes a village and we can build the village together.

Queer Pride.

Queer Pride is a part of Allie’s life. We head out with our friends and dress up and party down like it’s 1985. We talk about how Pride is about all people being able to love each other however they want, and all families being okay – just like ours. There is no right or wrong way to be a family. Thanks, Todd Parr for your amazing books! At this last Toronto Pride, Allie saw a man dancing naked in the streets. She thinks this is the funniest thing ever. She brings it up all the time in random conversation. But I’m glad it happened. It’s about body pride. And freedom. And consent. And maybe not agreeing with everyone but it’s their body (it was cold and rainy that day).

Unpacking Guilt or “The Parent Box”.

We need to get over the idea that if we aren’t with our children 24-7, then we are failing them. It’s unhealthy to put such huge expectations on ourselves. Deprivation never leads to anything good (I’ll save the Catholic Church rant for another time, and yes I am a recovering Catholic).

We can give ourselves permission to love and to love the way that is true to ourselves. And harness all the energy in that love to be the best parent we can be. We will never be perfect parents or avoid all mistakes. We will only fall down trying too hard and too exhausted and not loved in all the ways we need to be loved and to love. Because if we are truthful to ourselves, we can be truthful to our children. In this way, we can create a world that honours diversity and compassion. It starts with compassion for ourselves. And the giving just keeps on giving. It’s all about love, baby.


How to Avoid the Awkward Sex Talk: From one Exhausted Parent to the Next


I’m on a rant. I’ll admit it. Here in Ontario, Canada, our provincial government has just brought in new sex education curriculum. Ontario sex curriculum hasn’t been changed since 1999. Before cell phones, ‘sexting’ and google. It’s a whole new game.


So how do we as parents provide great sexual health education (and we need to – knowledge is power!)? Can parents support teachers to guarantee all kids in our neighbourhoods get the same “talk”? Having a good standard education curriculum means that teachers can provide context, researched answers and support to students struggling with gender identity, body image, substance misuse, or at-risk sexual behaviour. All good things, say I.


So How Do We Do It? Without making it AWKWARD?


  1. We can avoid the BIG talk by having lots of little talks. While the kid is relaxing in a bath. When we are on a long car drive. In the grocery store. In the forest listening to chickadees call out for “friends”.


  1. We can start with the basics. There is great benefit in having simple scientific names for our body parts. It means we count all our body parts as significant and lovely (not ignored): knees, noses and testicles. If something hurts or someone hurts us, we have the words to describe the experience.


  1. Curiosity is wonderful. Questioning and a love of learning can take us a long way in this life. We can learn together. By answering questions we let our children know we want to have these conversations. We want to be the person they go to for answers. (Also it’s good for them to know grownups don’t have all answers all the time.)


  1. We can create spaces for gender fluid and understandings of gender diversity. As soon as my child started kindergarten, gender norms became a constant conversation: “Boys can wear dresses”,“ Some boys have vaginas.” We need to acknowledge difference and teach allyship. Allie’s best friend corrects other kids who use the wrong pronoun. I love this little activist.


  1. It’s okay to feel uncomfortable talking about SEX. As children, we probably didn’t get adequate sex education. We can acknowledge this with our kids. And we can do better.

Survival Tip: Choose to Not Be a Super Mom (Join Me!)

Let’s actively set the bar low. Let’s take the pressure off crafting and scheduling and having clean houses. Let’s just play and be spontaneous and not feel bad when we do less because we’re tired or having a bad day. I won’t make you feel bad about it. And you won’t make me feel bad about it. Deal?

Then there are the little voices in our heads. Let’s shut them up with a good massage or a trashy novel. I give you permission.

As I’m sitting down to write this, I’m pondering a nap. My child is home sick with the flu but after an active morning (bouncing and jumping and happy to be home all day), they’ve passed out on the couch in a spontaneous flu body crash.

The ultimate busy parent question: Do I now nap? Or do I fall prey to the “dirty laundry, night school homework, filing and starting my taxes” list in my head? So I’m writing my blog. I should nap.

So here’s what I’m proposing. There are not enough hours in the day. We’re all feeling badly about not being “super mom”. I’m not going to feel bad about it anymore. If my kid is alive and fed and relatively happy by the end of the day, check mark for me. Next time someone tells me “You are amazing”, or “I don’t know how you do it, being a single mom”, I’m going to take the compliment (grudgingly) but don’t you dare compare yourself to me. My bar is set low. And I’m going to let my “anti-super-mom” flag fly.

Top Six Tips for the Anti-Super-Mom (aka Realistic Expectation Parent)

  1. Thinking about the dirty laundry? Check the back of the drawer for that last pair of clean pants. Or put the laundry in the machine (the tidy effect), but don’t turn it on.
  1. Can’t decide if you should grocery shop or wash the floor? Go for a pedicure. It’s a good deal for approximately $25 and you get to sit in a massage chair for an hour.
  1. Burnt out on cooking dinner? I always double proportions and throw some in the freezer. Options!
  1. Having a bad day? Feeling exhausted? Turn off the phone and go to bed with your kid in the early evening. Nothing like a 10 hour sleep to give some perspective. It’s not too bad!
  1. You and the kids are out of sync? Too much difficult behaviour and too many petty quarrels? Crank up some music and have a dance party. Everyone gets to burn off steam and be silly together. Music makes everything better.
  1. Don’t know what activities a super-mom would have prepared? Don’t prepare! Go outside! A walk down the street leads to all kind of adventures. You can meet some neighbours together, find an old wasp nest, pet a dog, build a snow fort/twig fort. No prep work required!

Update: Now Allie is watching TV and blowing their nose. I just took frozen leftovers out of the freezer and made more coffee. Everyone is good. Below is my messy corner. Boxes of things to be filed, sorted, sent to the second hand store. Honestly I never get to it. But it’s in the corner. I rarely look at it. I will not be shamed. Neither should you if you have one too.



Lessons I Tried Not to Learn from Gilmore Girls

Polyamory has always appealed to me because I agree love shouldn’t be a commodity. It shouldn’t be a scarce resource that is protected and hoarded. However, life is complicated with kids.

We all have U-Haul tendencies when we meet someone who gets those butterflies fluttering. That someone who makes you laugh. And brings you take-out when you are too burnt out to make dinner, again.

Add in the idea of shortage of childcare. A live-in lover sounds swell in principle. But them I’m not desperate…or am I?

I’m being careful. Lorelai Gilmore sacrificed her love life until Rory grew up. She tried to keep things separate. You know you are possibly lonely (and desperate) when you are drinking a glass of wine on a Friday night and sobbing along to Gilmore Girls. “It’s so hard to be a single parent– this show gets it – wahhhh!”

The tough job is creating a balance. As I tell my child, “Mummy is better at being a mummy when I can go out once in awhile with other grownups. When you are grown up, you will need time too. “

So right now, I’m dating some lovely people. Trying to enjoy some quality grown-up time without falling in love or calling 1-800-Uhaul in the middle of the night. Ironically, I have to limit these dates based on how much I can afford to pay the babysitter or how many friends I can willingly entice for Allie time.

Love is not in short supply when I have a 4 year-old buddy curled up in my bed every night. But love is not so easily defined.

Yes, they come first. Be warned. You may not want to date me if you aren’t super busy yourself because I’m pretty busy being the best hero to my sidekick I can be.

Creating Space for a Cacophony of Gender Adventures

Today at school my son Allie wore a dress to school.

Now being a queer-identified gender-fluid person myself I didn’t expect to be upset by this. I’ve raised this boy child in a world where they know some girls have penises and some boys have vaginas. Girls can be any kind of girl and boys can be any kind of boy. Their best boyfriend wears nail polish and pink jeans.

Early on there were lots of discussions about hair length. It seems weird to me this is how young children seem to grapple with the gender rules. Girls have long hair and boys have short hair. They seem surprised when we point out the error in this with direct examples of friends and family members who identify differently and have the “wrong” corresponding hair length.

I wear big boots and rarely wear make-up. I’ve always broken the gender rules. I decided a long time ago that gender is arbitrary and I would be whatever damn person I wanted to be. I didn’t need a fixed gender identity. I’ve had short hair. I’ve had long hair. I never wear dresses.

And here I am buying a pink and purple dress for my child, as requested (possibly for “dress-up”). But then they decide it is the most beautiful dress and they will wear it to school. And dropping Allie off that day terrified me.

“Great, no problem I said”. Dropping them off at school, I whisper to the teacher. “Please don’t let them be bullied”.

Earlier in the week, the teachers had told me that Allie had said, “I’m a girl.”

Picking out skis, the clerk turns to me and says “Is Allie a she or he?” They loudly state, “I’m a she, SHE!” So there we have it. And the teachers shockingly were great. They said they just told Allie it was fine to be a girl.

But then I worried about their classmates. Allie asks me “ do I look like a girl now?, with my dress?”.

Again I say (although at this point I’m mostly just agreeing that yes you are a girl),“Some boys wear dresses and some girls wear dresses. I don’t really know what a girl or boy looks like. You look like Allie to me, with a beautiful pink and purple dress.”


At lunchtime, I arrive to help out in the classroom. There is Allie sitting in the middle of the classroom. They are super cute in their pink dress and so happy to see me. Allie is eating lunch with a friend Nora, “Nora knows I’m a girl. “ Nora smiles and nods, “Allie is a girl”.

Tonight they tell me they want to be a boy named Isabella. “I can change my name right, if I want a girl name and my mummy says it’s okay”. I said, “of course it’s okay”.
Wherever we go on this journey with my sidekick. gender will be a bumpy part of the road. As I told Allie tonight, “Boy or girl, I will love you no matter who you are. Makes no difference to me. “







Survival Tip: Taking a Breath and Slowing Down

Rushing Allie out the door this morning to get to school wasn’t going to happen. I tried a million different tactics and nothing was working. This is the moment where I hate being a single parent. Can’t pass the buck. Can’t give up in defeat and pass them off to someone else less frustrated.

Allie is crying. They won’t get dressed. They don’t want to go to school. I’ve lost it. I can’t do this. I just can’t. So I yelled at them. Allie tells me, “ yelling isn’t nice and it’s your fault I’m going slow. The yelling is making me go slow.” I feel like a bad parent. I dislike myself and I can’t do this

I’m convinced 4 year olds can’t be scheduled. They don’t understand time. Their wonderful moments of sheer exhilaration at the world can’t be pinned down by clocks, and appointments, and life’s cruddines. Thank goodness for this. It’s one of their best and worst qualities.

So I take a breath. I decide we’re not getting to school on time. It’s not happening. I’m stressed out. Allie is stressed out.

I take another breath. Allie is drawing a picture and cutting out circles. It’s very important to them. Very, very, very important.

I breathe again. I sit down with them and I draw circles and I cut out circles. It’s 8:30. We should have left 20 minutes ago.

“Hey buddy, I’m sorry I yelled at you. Grown-ups make mistakes too and you are right, yelling is not nice.”

Allie looks at me completely calmly. Tears drying on their face the only evidence that 2 minutes ago all hell was breaking loose.

“ What’s going on? What’s the plan? We need to get to school. “

Allie says, “ Okay let’s go to school.”

Just like that. They put the circles in a very neat pile. Places the scissors on top. Puts their clothes on. I drink my coffee (made an hour ago and until now not sampled). And we’re out the door.

We’re late. I hate being late. But today, I don’t care.

The Beginning

snail_1I tried for four years to get pregnant. The first two years I spent on waiting lists for surgeries I probably never needed. The final two years I went through twelve iui cycles (intrauterine) with no luck and was ready to give up. No one knew why I couldn’t get pregnant.

I was married to a partner that couldn’t decide if they wanted to be a parent. I get it. It’s a terrifying decision. And the world we bring these wee ones into, is not one of rainbows and unicorns (even though at night we read books and fill their head with such romanticism).

But I had decided that life without children wasn’t what I wanted. That I believed we could change the world for the better. I convinced my ambivalent partner that we could do this together. But you make this huge decision and then take this huge step. Get the referral, do the treatments, attend a million doctor appointments, and then nothing.

In the twelfth month, I took my twelfth pregnancy test and tested a twelfth negative. I was heartbroken. I needed my life to be more than waiting and hoping and I needed to move on. Get my brain healthy. Stop obsessing. I could think of nothing else.

And then because of some weird universe fuck-up, the test was wrong. A week later I called the doctor to explain that something felt really wrong. “What now?,” I thought. She said, “You are probably pregnant”. And I was.

And so Baby Allie twinkled into existence.

Since then all my careful planning has gone by the way side. Nothing has prepared me for being a parent. I love it. I love the chaos and the cacophony. I love the challenges even when I’m in tears because nothing I say can persuade a 4 year old to do what mummy says (when it counts the most). And I love getting better at it. Or at least not worrying if underpants are on heads instead of on bums.

My partner is long gone. She’s a mama now to my son, but not a roommate, or partner. We live separate lives and it’s better this way. We are both better parents for not being together even though I miss her.

And I’ve moved to a new city for a fresh start and new friends. And I’m happier. Happier enough to date, enjoy meeting new people and polyamory after 8 years of monogamy. Meet myself again and embrace this new me, and how I define myself in this little family of two. It’s cacophony and carrot sticks. It’s rambunctious good times, complicated politics and parenthood survival.