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.

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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.

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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.