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Old 12-16-2009, 03:46 AM
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Default Poly Parents And Poly Kids Article

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Poly Parents and Poly Kids
By Robyn Trask

When I’m asked about polyamory, oftentimes the questions are “What about the kids?” or “Isn’t this confusing to children?” or “Isn’t polyamory harmful to children?” The last one, of course, is more of an accusation than a question. I am a parent, I love my three kids deeply, and I honestly have asked myself some of these same questions. I was not sure of the answers when I first identified as non-monogamous. I did not even know the term polyamory at that point.

I had only one child when I first admitted I was non-monogamous. I was a 24-year-old single mother with a 1-year-old child and a flourishing wedding business — how ironic that seems now. A year later, I was married to a wonderful man who also wanted a non-monogamous relationship. Even though we had decided from the beginning to have an open relationship, we did not have the skills or role models, and settled into a relatively monogamous relationship. We had our second child two years into our marriage.


My husband was building a career, and I was trying to juggle two young children and a growing photography business. Both of us fell into the traditional family routine without even realizing it or wanting it. I shut down my sexuality, and pulled away from men to whom I felt love and sexual attraction. So even though we started out open, and would even talk about possibilities of other people from time to time, we really did not explore polyamory until six or seven years into our marriage.


When we finally decided yes, we were polyamorous, we had a 9 year old, a 5 year old and a baby girl. When our oldest was 11, a lover of mine came to visit me. He was a man I had been in touch with and loved since high school. The plan was for him to visit and stay in a hotel with me, but we would get together for a dinner with my husband. This was the first time we really had to face the question, “What do we tell our kids?”


Our oldest was very bright and perceptive. I had never lied to him about anything, and I didn’t want to start now. So we told him about polyamory, and he was cool with it. I explained that mom and dad had always believed that you could love more then one person, and that we were committed to each other and to each other’s freedom to explore our love with other people. To my surprise, his reaction was, “Cool, Mom,” and we left it at that.


My other two were younger. My daughter was just 2 and my other son was 7. We decided we would be honest if he asked questions, but would not explain just yet. He did not become consciously aware until he was around 12 and overheard a conversation I was having with his brother. He thought I was joking when I talked about my boyfriend. By this time, we ran support groups and hosted poly family campouts. I had been involved with several men he had met. He was completely unaware that they were any more than just friends, or that the campouts were more than just hanging out with friends.


I was surprised, as I thought he knew. I don’t know why, since I had never discussed it with him. For my daughter, polyamory is just her life. I honestly do not think she is really aware consciously that monogamy is what most people do. I do plan to talk with her about this soon.


As I have been around the poly community for the past eight years of running campouts and hanging out with poly people and their children, I have learned something. Poly parents, who are open and honest with their kids, have amazing kids. I am not sure why this is, but my guess is that parents who model honesty and communication give their kids a great foundation. Kids have amazing intuition and perception, often much more than people give them credit. When parents keep a secret from their child, I believe the child feels it. Kids, whose parents have shared their choices honestly and included poly partners in their family life, are amazing. They exude confidence, are honest and curious, are not afraid to ask questions, and seem to be interested in life beyond their peer group. This is not to say that they aren’t like other kids. In fact, they are. They go through growing pains, teen angst, and will probably question even more than their parents did. From what I have seen, however, they are well adjusted and full of life.


Poly parents who share honestly with their kids tend to be great at communication. This goes for their kids as well as for their partners. They are more conscientious about how their kids feel, and what they need to feel secure and safe. They worry about how their choices affect their kids, and they listen to how their kids feel not only about poly but also about school, friends and life. Polyamorous people, for the most part, are good at managing their time, and know how to balance things to give real, quality time to their kids. They are fully present when they are with their kids, which is a skill poly people learn in their relationships. Most of these children I have met have great skills in communicating and interacting with different people, and are mostly engaged in life. From the 2-year-old twins I met with three great parents to the teens of a wonderful single poly mom, these kids are confident and insightful, and despite their struggles to grow up, they navigate the world with skills that are beyond their years.


My answer now is that polyamory is a great thing for kids. Not that it is perfect, but when parents are honest and open with each other and their kids, they develop a real family intimacy you don’t see in many monogamous families these days. Polyamory is not the only way to do this, but unfortunately, so many monogamous families lack the skills that are absolutely needed to make polyamory work. The same skills help families work better, and can translate into kids with skills that will serve them for a lifetime, whether they become polyamorous or monogamous when they grow up.


Every parent who explores polyamory is faced with the question of what to tell kids and when. There is no one right answer, as every family and situation is different.


Parents should be honest as soon as possible, if they do not have custody issues with another non-poly parent or other situations that could jeopardize the child’s well being. Communicate, answer questions, and let kids know that this is just one way to experience life and relationships. Yes, there may be times when kids get upset, question your morals, or even think you’re nuts, but they also may surprise you. My own son, now 18, has transitioned over the years. At 11, he thought our choice of poly as cool. At 15, he thought we were nuts, and lacked commitment. Now he considers himself poly, and struggles to deal with his jealousy so he can make polyamory work in his life.


I have found that diversity is good for kids. Give them stability, but not too much to the point where they would not know how to handle changes. Life is ever changing. People come and go from our lives, loved ones die, jobs change, and financial hardships come. Hiding this from our kids while we’re distressed under the surface makes them feel uneasy even when they don’t understand why.


When we lie to our children, we give them the message that they can’t handle the truth. Either we feel what we are doing is wrong, or what is going on is too dangerous and scary for them to handle. Kids sense these things and internalize them. When we are open and honest, it builds confidence that they can handle the truth and life. If our family experiences financial hardship, we explain to the kids why we are stressed. We don’t go into details, but we do let them know what we are feeling. Whether in relationships, finances or extended family issues, it is important for kids to be informed at whatever level is suitable to that child.


I personally ask my kids what they want to know and go from there. At times, they say, “I don’t want to know.” Other times, they feel heard, and appreciate the honesty and knowledge of what is happening.


Deception of any kind festers and brings distrust, and I personally do not want that with my children. Trust yourself, know your kids, and ask yourself why you want to tell or not to tell them something. It may reveal your own issues about what is going on in your life.


I am proud of my poly family and my kids raised in an open-minded way. We still experience challenges as kids and as parents, but we have developed skills to deal with them, and it has led to great kids I admire and respect. I think poly parents are great and their kids overall are amazing. I can’t wait to see what these kids do as adults, and how it may affect the world.
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Old 12-20-2009, 09:54 PM
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Dear loving radiance,

I'm very happy to read about your situation and your experience with other poly families. My husband and I have a friend that really wanted a child. He happened to like her very much, fell in love with her (I didn't like this at all, but could see why since she is wonderful). We thought it would be a great idea that my husband and she had a child she would raise with her husband and we, already blessed with two, now three could follow her from a distance. But things change, she is now raising her son alone, together with us, him being with us some day or more per week. We are in an adventure that takes our feelings to places like jealousy, grief and anger next to the positive feelings of love, warmth, caring and amazement. I always wonder how this effects my children I try to be open and tell them about my feelings but also not trying to put the blaim for the negative ones on anyone. For them it's normal that dad loves S also and that M is a brother too. But it is because I am not really happy with this poly thing, I'm a mono, that I often feel a bit wobly when they bring up the subject. I really want to find the key to living this to the full.

Thank you for your words,
Estar
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Old 12-21-2009, 05:11 AM
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Originally Posted by Estar View Post
I'm a mono, that I often feel a bit wobly when they bring up the subject. I really want to find the key to living this to the full.

Thank you for your words,
Estar
Tangent!!

This statement is one that stuck a cord with me. I just spent the day at a poly family get together...swimming, skating, and a potluck. We all had a great time. Redpepper, her husband, son and I attended with about ten other people and two other children. It was relaxed and a friendly environment for those of us living outside the norm.
I found myself thinking about all the community has to offer. The friends, the family, the potential to experience lovers....and I felt a bit like a weight on Redpepper that prevents her from experiencing this to the fullest....I don't know how she does it...it must be so frustrating. I'm not sure what experiencing poly to the fullest would be for a mono person really? If you find out, please let me know

Back to our regularly scheduled thread on poly and children.
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Old 12-21-2009, 05:36 AM
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To bring this back on track...sorry..here is what I have seen over the last year with Redpepper's son. (6 years old)

Phase one:


Wow a new playmate and friend to hang out with and show my toys

Phase two:


Quiet at times, looking introspectively at his mom and me. The look of "are you here to take my mommy or replace my dad? Hesitancy and a little defensive.

Phase three (the one we are in now)

Considers us all family, in his words a team. Looks forward to our time together as a family as well as getting some private times. A little jealous of his Mom for hogging me LOL!

In short - I think he is a very happy and thankful boy. He happily bounces around all there of us in social settings and tells me he loves me. I love him as well.

I see no negatives outside of external opinions to any child in a loving environment with loving people in it..no matter how many.

Mono
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Old 12-22-2009, 09:46 PM
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Originally Posted by Estar View Post
Dear loving radiance,

I'm very happy to read about your situation and your experience with other poly families. My husband and I have a friend that really wanted a child. He happened to like her very much, fell in love with her (I didn't like this at all, but could see why since she is wonderful). We thought it would be a great idea that my husband and she had a child she would raise with her husband and we, already blessed with two, now three could follow her from a distance. But things change, she is now raising her son alone, together with us, him being with us some day or more per week. We are in an adventure that takes our feelings to places like jealousy, grief and anger next to the positive feelings of love, warmth, caring and amazement. I always wonder how this effects my children I try to be open and tell them about my feelings but also not trying to put the blaim for the negative ones on anyone. For them it's normal that dad loves S also and that M is a brother too. But it is because I am not really happy with this poly thing, I'm a mono, that I often feel a bit wobly when they bring up the subject. I really want to find the key to living this to the full.

Thank you for your words,
Estar
Estar-just keep reminding yourself-that you don't have to "be" what someone else is in order to love them for who they really are.

My bf is NOT poly. He's so mono-well he's so mono he makes Mono look less mono! But, he loves me for who I am. He's loved me unconditionally through 17 years of watching me love other men/women.

Feel free to message him (greengecko)if you would like personal suggestions for how he does it-and how he manages to deal with emotions like jealousy and possessiveness. Maca and I are "mommy" and "daddy" for our little one-but Greengecko is her bio-father. Everyone knows, it's no secret. He loves her, but more than anything he loves watching her and Maca interact (his words I'm only repeating them). He found true compersion for that relationship and it's magnificent for me to watch him watching them!

Love is so infinite. When shared it grows. It's not easy to trust in this-but it is true. It doesn't mean you need (or should) fall in love with more than one person. But you can love that one person EVEN MORE if you allow them to be 100% with you. Even the children.

Maca (who has always identified as mono) was telling me the other night-that he shared with Lovely (another poster on here struggling) that when you limit someone to being less than 100% of themselves, you reduce your relationship with them to less as well. But when you allow them to be 100% of themself (even if that means sharing them) then you come to find that they help you create MORE than 100% in your relationship.

Keep your head up-and whatever you do-don't beat yourself up over your emotions. Emotions are there to protect us-they are a biological, animalistic response. It's how we chose to act that is within our control and responsibility!
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Old 01-03-2010, 08:45 PM
Estar Estar is offline
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Dear Loving Radiance,

[QUOTE=LovingRadiance;16641]Estar-just keep reminding yourself-that you don't have to "be" what someone else is in order to love them for who they really are.
Thank you. I'm really sometimes so angry I think I have to go out and find myself another lover as well. Which would complicate my life probably far too much next to not feeling "lovely".

Maca and I are "mommy" and "daddy" for our little one-but Greengecko is her bio-father. Everyone knows, it's no secret. He loves her, but more than anything he loves watching her and Maca interact (his words I'm only repeating them). He found true compersion for that relationship and it's magnificent for me to watch him watching them!
Wow, I also love M very much. But it is different from how I love my own three children. I'm also still judging myself in that. Am I treating them equal? I sometimes see myself even promoting M for being afraid to put him last in things. Are you all four living together?
For my daughter (7) it was most difficult to find out how to relate to her new brother as well as to S. How to call them: stephbrother, halfbrother, mother, aunt... (just names are most easy we found out) She is still really busy with our familytree, going back some generations. The occurrence of halfbrothers and -sisters is not so strange of course, but when she told about it to other people she noticed our situation was a bit unususal. In the beginning she was enjoying this very much, the reaction of others as well as the attention she got by introducing a new babybrother (1y then). I was not so happy with that. People started asking questions. Most of them here (the Netherlands) are really broadminded and just accepted it as OK if that is what you are doing and are happy with. Some of them felt the uneasiness in me and kept asking questions. It pushed me over to fear and doubt, jealousy and pain. This was 1,5y ago and I'm still working my way back to the feeling that it is a really beautifull and loving experience.

My children like it when M is around especcially my youngest for who he is a playmate. The two elder find him a lot of times just as irritating as their other small brother. For me I see I sometimes have too little time to give full attention to all four. This is the difficulty of a mother of course after your first the others will always have to share you.

This feels a bit like my relation as well. I was the first and only one to love and live with my husband for 11y and now I have to share him already 4y. This is still painfull for me. He loves a lot of people (2women and 4 children) but always feels he's doing someone short (S is not living in with us, so he feels he leaves us to be with her and M). These feelings suck! But how to share such shitty feelings and come to something positive?! That's my quest.

The children are actually just wonderful growing their ways in four so different, special and known ways. It is a great gift and I hope that they pick out the best that is to learn from our relation situation.

Estar
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Old 01-03-2010, 09:01 PM
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Quote:
Are you all four living together?
Yes, we do all live together. Sometimes it's ultra hectic-but at times like right now (after my surgery) it's nice to have everyone in one place where they can all help one another!

Learning what everyone is comfortable calling each other is a job for any mixed family. We encountered that when we married (maca and I) as we had mine, his and then ours children. The kids decided on their own that they are just "sister and brothers". They don't identify it any more specific for people outside of the family. The general rule of thumb in our house is that there are no "half people and therefore no half siblings". It seems to work well. As for the adults-they all call me mom. That was mostly because the only one in question was D-my stepson. But I've had him since he was 18 months and after his mom threw a fit from hell over him calling me mom, his obstinate streak kicked in-and I was mom from then on out.

Most of the time Maca is dad to all of them. But occassionally my oldest will call him by his given name. The youngest flips between mom, dad, and given names all of the time because she's just learning them.
Personally I just don't much concern myself with WHAT they call me as long as it's respectful.

Quote:
My children like it when M is around especcially my youngest for who he is a playmate. The two elder find him a lot of times just as irritating as their other small brother. For me I see I sometimes have too little time to give full attention to all four. This is the difficulty of a mother of course after your first the others will always have to share you.
Very true. I find though that now that the oldest two are getting up there (13 and 18) I have more time to spend one on one with the younger two, as one can be attended by an older sibling and then switch.

Quote:
This feels a bit like my relation as well. I was the first and only one to love and live with my husband for 11y and now I have to share him already 4y. This is still painfull for me. He loves a lot of people (2women and 4 children) but always feels he's doing someone short (S is not living in with us, so he feels he leaves us to be with her and M). These feelings suck! But how to share such shitty feelings and come to something positive?! That's my quest.
To be honest-I think that your situation is more difficult in that you don't all live together. It would be my preference that if/when Maca finds another lover that she would be so special as to live with our family. In my mind it makes things so much easier as there is much less time taken away in order to spend time together. This is something I've been talking with Maca about quite a bit lately.
If one can spend time with both/all of their lovers simultaneously then there is a lot less "time lost" between lovers.
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Old 01-04-2010, 02:07 AM
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Default Talking to my kid, and a thanks

Hi there-

Thank you so much LovingRadiance, this was just the article I needed to read and at just the perfect time.
A quick recap of who I am since I'm new-ish and don't post often...36, married 16 years to a great guy (aranaeapc), 2 kids: 12 and 8. I have a primary otherlove of 2 years who does not live with my family and I will occasionally attend SFPoly Mission Control or other gatherings gatherings to really let my hair down. I'm also a healthcare provider and competitive cyclist. I drive a mini-van and blend very nicely in the 'burbs, thank you.
Aranaea and I have always been honest with our kids about where we disagree with the social messages about relationship structures and have shared with them a bit about our agreements.
These past few months our son has been beginning to ask more questions and so we decided to lay it all for him and be more clear; explain how we identify, what it means and who this other person spending time with us is to me. Hands a bit shaky we sat him down only to have him say, yeah I know...you're just like (xyz teacher at school) and his wife. A few hours later I asked if he'd like to talk or had any questions or concerns but nope, he was fine.
I feel more liberated than I could have imagined not only because of this new openness with my son but because it also means we can be open with the rest of our friends and family without worrying about the kids finding out. I had no idea how much a burden the secrecy was, and what a veneer of shame it coated my relationships with.

So thank you for all the discussion, resources and encouragement that you have all shown to each other and indirectly to me and my family.
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Old 01-05-2010, 12:42 AM
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Indigo-I'm so glad that the "coming out" with your son was so easy.
That's awesome. Ours was too. My stepson doesn't yet know-he is currently in care for psychological issues and not in the home which changes the dynamic for talking to him significantly. His caretakers ARE aware which is helpful.

It's so hard when we have to feel the need to keep things to ourselves and it IS so liberating when we can JUST BE OURSELVES!

It's also nice to hear from others who experience that.
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