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  #1  
Old 07-11-2018, 07:38 PM
MsEmotional MsEmotional is offline
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Default Polyamory and Parenting

For those who raised their minor children while being openly polyamorous ...

1. What issues (if any) did your polyamorous lifestyle create for your children?

2. What proactive measures (if any) did you take to ensure that any negative issues were minimized?

I ask because my in-laws have known about us being polyamorous for 9 months now and they haven't warmed up to the idea at all. Given the fact that they came around to the fact that their daughter is gay and their son is bi with (relative) ease, I figured they would eventually accept our relationship choice as well. But there has been really no movement on that front. Their concerns (at least, as they have been stated), are all about the welfare of our children. For the life of me, I can't really figure out why.

Last week, when my mother-in-law picked up on the fact that all five of us (me, Glasses, our two kids, and Ponytail) would all be going somewhere together for lunch, she bent over backward to ensure that the kids stayed over at her house instead. Glasses pointed out to me that the kids have lunch with me and Ponytail alone at least once a week. The only reason we happened to mention this particular lunch was because all five of us would be taking the same car and therefore we needed to borrow a narrower carseat. So, ironically, they freaked precisely because it was abundantly clear that their son was going to be there too.

It got me thinking. What is it that they are afraid of? I keep trying to figure out what negative impacts this lifestyle could have on our kids and I just honestly can't come up with any. As a teacher, I have come across kids in all kinds of unusual family shapes and sizes and it just doesn't seem like a big deal. Is there something I'm missing?

They seem to think it is obvious why we shouldn't "expose" the kids to this "lifestyle." I don't really know what it is that they think is so obvious though?

Am I being really naive? Are there issues that I should be more cognizant of?

Edited to Add: Just to be clear, I am wondering what kinds of issues could arise for the kid. I am definitely aware of the struggles of parenting and polyamory (schedules, coordinating childcare coverage, etc) from the parent perspective.
__________________
Me: 34, F, Bicurious

Amours
Glasses: my husband of 9 years --> 35, M, Queer
Ponytail: my first-poly-date-turned-boyfriend --> 35, M, Pansexual
Whiskers: potential (guy I am dating) ó> 42, M, Queer

Metamours
Ginger: Glasses' partner --> 30ish, Transgender (FTM), LDR

Kids
Bug: my daughter with Glasses --> 3 years old
Pearl: my daughter with Glasses --> 5 years old

Last edited by MsEmotional; 07-11-2018 at 07:44 PM.
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  #2  
Old 07-11-2018, 08:26 PM
KC43 KC43 is offline
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My kids were on the older end of "minor" when I started doing poly, and one of them was legally an adult by the time they found out. So I can't really speak from experience to the impact poly might have on younger children.

However, through my boyfriend, I know several older teens/young adults who were raised from birth in poly households. In some cases, they lived with their parents, who had other partners who were around sometimes; in at least one case, it was a household in which a few members of a polycule cohabited. In all of their cases, they seem to have grown up to be happy, well-adjusted, independent young people, with very open minds about other people and their relationships, etc. Most of them are also poly; whether that's because they just are, or because they grew up seeing it, I don't know, though certainly growing up seeing it at least let them know it was an okay thing.

From a purely speculative standpoint, I think the biggest issue that would arise for kids growing up with poly parents would be other people's opinions and judgment. I don't believe there's anything inherently negative or damaging for kids who are living with a poly situation, any more than there's anything inherently negative for kids growing up in a mono household. But when kids are young, they are sometimes very impressionable when it comes to what other people say (e.g. "Grandma says this is bad, and Grandma's a grownup and I love her, so she must be right"), and many kids go through (a) stage(s) where the opinions of others, especially their peers, matter a LOT. If a child is exposed to constant negative judgment about their parents'/family's life, they might start to judge it negatively as well, at least for a time. Or they might feel pressured to hide the truth, or pressured to defend their family.

On the other hand, I see a lot of possible *benefits* for kids in a poly situation. Being more open-minded about various relationship structures. Having more adults around to care about them, advise them, be role models for them, or just plain be there for them. Seeing their parents live in a way that brings them happiness and (hopefully) peace, as opposed to trying to live against what they feel to be right for them. Being more accepting of a wide variety of people, preferences, etc. (That isn't to say that none of this is possible in a mono situation, just that it seems like poly situations would amplify these things.)

I wonder if your in-laws have gotten the all-too-common impression that poly is all about the sex, and don't want their grandchildren exposed to "that kind of thing." It's the same line of thinking that unfortunately still leads a lot of people to say that homosexual couples shouldn't have children. Some people simply don't grasp that it isn't all about sex, and sometimes isn't about sex at all; they simply hear alternate relationship structure and their minds jump into the gutter.
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Old 07-11-2018, 08:44 PM
MsEmotional MsEmotional is offline
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But when kids are young, they are sometimes very impressionable when it comes to what other people say (e.g. "Grandma says this is bad, and Grandma's a grownup and I love her, so she must be right"), and many kids go through (a) stage(s) where the opinions of others, especially their peers, matter a LOT. If a child is exposed to constant negative judgment about their parents'/family's life, they might start to judge it negatively as well, at least for a time. Or they might feel pressured to hide the truth, or pressured to defend their family.
I think this is true, but I guess that's why I'm confused....If the major source of damage comes from the fact that other people would judge them because of their parents' choices, then why are my in-laws being so judgy? It feels like a self-perpetuating problem: "Your kids are going to have a hard time because they will be judged. Therefore, we are going to judge you in an effort to convince you to not do this thing that we believe will cause them to be judged by people like us."

Quote:
I wonder if your in-laws have gotten the all-too-common impression that poly is all about the sex, and don't want their grandchildren exposed to "that kind of thing." It's the same line of thinking that unfortunately still leads a lot of people to say that homosexual couples shouldn't have children. Some people simply don't grasp that it isn't all about sex, and sometimes isn't about sex at all; they simply hear alternate relationship structure and their minds jump into the gutter.
Yeah. I don't know how to help them see it differently. I guess I feel like doing normal things like a fun lunch together with the kids should be one of those things that we *should* be doing to convince them that it is *not* all about sex. But that's exactly the kind of thing they freak out about.

Maybe we should bombard them with evidence of us doing normal things without the kids around? Like text them pictures of us going grocery shopping, taking walks to the ice cream parlor, playing board games.....just to show them that we are normal people and even if we could be having sex, sometimes we just hang out?

But of course then I think they would accuse us of ignoring the children so that we can frolic about eating ice cream and playing board games.
__________________
Me: 34, F, Bicurious

Amours
Glasses: my husband of 9 years --> 35, M, Queer
Ponytail: my first-poly-date-turned-boyfriend --> 35, M, Pansexual
Whiskers: potential (guy I am dating) ó> 42, M, Queer

Metamours
Ginger: Glasses' partner --> 30ish, Transgender (FTM), LDR

Kids
Bug: my daughter with Glasses --> 3 years old
Pearl: my daughter with Glasses --> 5 years old
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  #4  
Old 07-11-2018, 09:09 PM
KC43 KC43 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MsEmotional View Post
I think this is true, but I guess that's why I'm confused....If the major source of damage comes from the fact that other people would judge them because of their parents' choices, then why are my in-laws being so judgy? It feels like a self-perpetuating problem: "Your kids are going to have a hard time because they will be judged. Therefore, we are going to judge you in an effort to convince you to not do this thing that we believe will cause them to be judged by people like us."
There is little to no logic in prejudice. I would bet your in-laws don't even think they're being judgmental, because surely *they* wouldn't do that. *Other people* are the ones who will judge, so your children must be protected by you not doing anything people might judge. (Read the previous with a touch of sarcasm.) I don't think they see their behavior as judgy, only as them trying to protect their grandchildren.

Quote:
Yeah. I don't know how to help them see it differently. I guess I feel like doing normal things like a fun lunch together with the kids should be one of those things that we *should* be doing to convince them that it is *not* all about sex. But that's exactly the kind of thing they freak out about.

Maybe we should bombard them with evidence of us doing normal things without the kids around? Like text them pictures of us going grocery shopping, taking walks to the ice cream parlor, playing board games.....just to show them that we are normal people and even if we could be having sex, sometimes we just hang out?

But of course then I think they would accuse us of ignoring the children so that we can frolic about eating ice cream and playing board games.
Truthfully, even though I can see that your in-laws' behavior is difficult for you, and I'm sure for Glasses and Ponytail and probably for the kids, it isn't up to you to change their minds. They have made their decision, and from the way you describe them, they don't seem like the kind who are going to realize they're wrong, and certainly not the kind who would admit it even if they did realize it.

In my opinion, the best thing to do is use this as a teachable moment (or several) for your kids: "Grandma and Grandpa don't understand how things work with us, and because they don't understand it, they're afraid of it. Unfortunately, a lot of people are afraid of things they don't understand, and that causes prejudice. We can be kind to them and recognize that they're scared and want to protect you guys, but the way they're thinking isn't correct." In other words, instead of trying to teach your in-laws that you guys aren't doing anything wrong or damaging, teach your kids how to handle it when they encounter people who are prejudiced or closed-minded, because I guarantee this won't be the last time. And I think your kids are probably more likely to understand and accept the lesson than your in-laws would be.
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Old 07-11-2018, 09:25 PM
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Hi MsEmotional,

I am going to venture a guess that your in-laws are afraid that your children are going to "catch the poly disease" and turn into polys themselves because of the "bad example" you are setting for them by modeling poly behavior. Obviously I don't agree with this concern, sure there's a chance your kids will grow up wanting to be poly too, but then I don't think that's a horrible outcome.

Your in-laws may have additional concerns, I'm not sure what those might be. You would have to ask them, and I don't doubt that that would turn into an ugly conversation.

The only real problems for kids that I have heard of, are, first, if the kids repeatedly mourn when various partners become exes and disappear from their lives. And second, is if things are pushed onto the kids and they aren't given a choice in the matter. Such as, telling the kids that "this is your new father" and insisting that they call him Dad. Or, parading the poly situation in front of the kids' friends without the kids' consent. If you aren't doing such things, then there shouldn't be a problem.

Unless, and this can be a problem in any family with exposure to relatives, unless one of the poly partners molests or otherwise abuses the kids. We'd like to think that poly relationships are safe from such abuses, but such is not always the case. FWIW, I don't think the chances of molestation are any greater in a poly family, but, that's my opinion. Your in-laws may have another opinion about that.

I think awareness of the possible pitfalls is the best possible defense. For more on the possible pitfalls, see http://www.polyamory.com/forum/showthread.php?p=272077

Regards,
Kevin T.
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Old 07-11-2018, 09:30 PM
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vinsanity0 vinsanity0 is offline
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It's a way for them to justify being judgemental.
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Old 07-11-2018, 09:49 PM
MsEmotional MsEmotional is offline
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Originally Posted by kdt26417 View Post
Hi MsEmotional,

I think awareness of the possible pitfalls is the best possible defense. For more on the possible pitfalls, see http://www.polyamory.com/forum/showthread.php?p=272077

Regards,
Kevin T.
Thank you very much for this link to your other post on this topic. Between the discusssion there and the other links within it, I think I have a lot of reading to do!
__________________
Me: 34, F, Bicurious

Amours
Glasses: my husband of 9 years --> 35, M, Queer
Ponytail: my first-poly-date-turned-boyfriend --> 35, M, Pansexual
Whiskers: potential (guy I am dating) ó> 42, M, Queer

Metamours
Ginger: Glasses' partner --> 30ish, Transgender (FTM), LDR

Kids
Bug: my daughter with Glasses --> 3 years old
Pearl: my daughter with Glasses --> 5 years old
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  #8  
Old 07-11-2018, 09:52 PM
MsEmotional MsEmotional is offline
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Originally Posted by KC43 View Post
There is little to no logic in prejudice. I would bet your in-laws don't even think they're being judgmental, because surely *they* wouldn't do that. *Other people* are the ones who will judge, so your children must be protected by you not doing anything people might judge. (Read the previous with a touch of sarcasm.) I don't think they see their behavior as judgy, only as them trying to protect their grandchildren.



Truthfully, even though I can see that your in-laws' behavior is difficult for you, and I'm sure for Glasses and Ponytail and probably for the kids, it isn't up to you to change their minds. They have made their decision, and from the way you describe them, they don't seem like the kind who are going to realize they're wrong, and certainly not the kind who would admit it even if they did realize it.

In my opinion, the best thing to do is use this as a teachable moment (or several) for your kids: "Grandma and Grandpa don't understand how things work with us, and because they don't understand it, they're afraid of it. Unfortunately, a lot of people are afraid of things they don't understand, and that causes prejudice. We can be kind to them and recognize that they're scared and want to protect you guys, but the way they're thinking isn't correct." In other words, instead of trying to teach your in-laws that you guys aren't doing anything wrong or damaging, teach your kids how to handle it when they encounter people who are prejudiced or closed-minded, because I guarantee this won't be the last time. And I think your kids are probably more likely to understand and accept the lesson than your in-laws would be.
I know I canít expect to be able to change their minds. Itís just heartbreaking. Glasses was in tears the other day because he is so hurt by the breakdown of his relationship with his parents. They used to be so close and now everything is so strained.
__________________
Me: 34, F, Bicurious

Amours
Glasses: my husband of 9 years --> 35, M, Queer
Ponytail: my first-poly-date-turned-boyfriend --> 35, M, Pansexual
Whiskers: potential (guy I am dating) ó> 42, M, Queer

Metamours
Ginger: Glasses' partner --> 30ish, Transgender (FTM), LDR

Kids
Bug: my daughter with Glasses --> 3 years old
Pearl: my daughter with Glasses --> 5 years old
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  #9  
Old 07-11-2018, 10:04 PM
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Re:
Quote:
"It's just heartbreaking. Glasses was in tears the other day because he is so hurt by the breakdown of his relationship with his parents. They used to be so close and now everything is so strained."
I'm sorry to hear that.
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Old 07-12-2018, 01:47 PM
lunabunny lunabunny is offline
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Most people in our society - especially the older generations who grew up in conservative/religious environments - have been indoctrinated into the belief that straight, monogamous coupledom is the "right" way to live life because it's the norm and/or sanctioned by God and State.

Therefore legal marriage is still seen by many as the top of the totem pole of righteousness... closely followed by straight couples who are engaged, date and/or live together in defacto relationships. Arguably, next on the list of "acceptable" lifestyles might be stable LGBTIQ partnerships, if those "judging" have come to view such living situations as valid, or, just as likely, grudgingly concede that the world has changed and there's nothing they can do about it.

Thus far however, polyamory has not achieved the same level of "acceptability", or even awareness or understanding among general society. Many long-time monogamous people may be confused as to what poly actually entails, that is, if they've even heard the term at all.

Despite accepting their LGBTI daughter and son - or maybe because they feel they've already been asked to accept lifestyles they don't wholeheartedly agree with - your in-laws are probably struggling to understand where they "went wrong" as parents now that Glasses has also come out as living in an unconventional relationship (especially if his parents are religious or very conservative in general.)

Their fears may be along the lines of:

--- They don't know exactly what goes on in your home, or what their grandchildren are exposed to, therefore their imagination tells them it's possible your kids may see or hear sexual goings-on, or be taught to embrace a lifestyle they consider inappropriate or morally wrong. They may assume a certain level of debauchery is a given.

--- They may be worried that your kids will be the butt of jokes and bullying at school or in the community, when and if other people "find out".

--- They may be worried that the children, and even Glasses himself, may be ostracised and/or denied opportunities in his career because of it.

--- They are probably embarrassed, and concerned about their OWN standing in the community, should their friends, other relatives, neighbours, work colleagues discover the truth. They may worry they'll be asked awkward questions or be shunned by others if they're seen to accept the situation.

--- They're probably fearful that you and Glasses are leaving yourself open to potential disease/STIs because of the addition of other sexual partners who they don't know or trust.

--- They MAY fear that YOU - or Ponytail - have coerced their darling son into this arrangement, or convinced him to behave in a way they don't understand or believe is contrary to his nature.

Basically, judging those who choose to live polyamorously/non-monogamously is rooted in fear, ignorance and shame. It's a form of "slut shaming" and prejudice - but, I have to say, an understandable one to some extent - especially for people of Glasses' parents' ages and background - given the social mores of the culture in which we live.

It is sad that being honest with Glasses' parents about this issue has led to a straining of the relationship between all of you. They're unlikely to learn more about the way you live if they refuse to engage in calm, reasoned conversation about this, instead of choosing to bury their heads in the sand and ignore what they don't wish to see.

It's been nine months... some people on this board have mentioned that it can take 1-2 years before parents come to accept the truth of their grown children's lifestyle choices. As long as the parents aren't actively trying to turn your children against you, or gearing up to fight you for custody... you could agree amongst yourselves to give them more time, and extend a level of patience and tolerance to THEM that they seem unwilling to give YOU. However, at some point, the stress might leave you no other option than to cut ties with them. I hope it doesn't come to that.
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