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: 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.

 

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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.

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.