Being poly is no picnic as there are no written scripts or handbooks in how to actually live it (sure there are some good books out there, but they all state the same thing, we make it up as we go along).
But one of our trickiest dilemmas have been: what do we teach the children?
Early on we decided not to sit down and have “The talk” with them. We also decided, as this journey for us has been about authenticity, transparency, integrity and honesty, not to lie to them …. about anything; Rather we would answer as best we could when the questions would come.
I must say the children have been stellar, they have been far more supportive, excited yet chilled about the whole thing, than anyone else around us. But they have asked questions…
The first test came for me in this conversation on the way home from school one day:
– Dad where is mommy?
(long pause to gather courage)
– She is out on a date.
– With another man?
– Doesn’t it make you angry?
– Oh ok.
– I love Mommy and mommy loves me so we have no problem with any of us being on a date with someone else.
– Oh ok.
– Do you have any more questions?
– yes, can I have some candy when we get home ….
Most of the time as long as we have answered with integrity and truth, the only reply we have gotten have been: Oh ok. As in no big deal.
So we are teaching the children that there is another story and that it is ok to feel love for more than one person.
We are teaching our children that individual happiness and well-being of each family member is important.
We are teaching our children that divorce is not the only option to restart/reinvent your life and your relation
We are teaching our children that the mono-myth, the Disney narrative of true love’s kiss is false. That after you share a true love’s kiss you may actually also love other people as well and that is not a bad thing.
We are teaching them that they do not need to make the same choices that we have but if they chose monogamy it will be an active choice they make rather than just accepting an unwritten rule.
We are teaching them that in relationships: Honesty, integrity and transparency are core values. (It is not cheating if everyone knows what is happening and everyone is ok with what is going on)
We are teaching them that love does not break up families but rather knit families tighter together.
We are teaching our children that the more love we have in our lives the more love we have for each other (both as a couple but also as a family) and that the they are being loved by many more grownups.
The kids get excited when there is a new person in their lives, they love the attention they get and the new energy entering the house (we have been fairly selective on who gets to come and meet the kids as our partners though, unless we know it is a serious longterm relation it would just be a friend visiting, something I suspect all single parents adopt as their practice). They are trying on new names for the extra people in the family (bonus/plastic/extra mom and dad, special friend, fairy godmother etc) the one most extensively used so far have been fairy godmother.
One of my daughters told me she her friends where asking if we where getting a divorce, she told them no. But your dad has a girlfriend, they insisted. She said yes. But that’s cheating they continued. Then my daughter putting on her teaching voice said: It is not cheating if everyone knows what is happening and everyone is ok with it. She came home and told me, and I gave her a high-five.
Some parents of our children friends are concerned that this other story is reaching their children at an early age as our children share about our family bliss. But I wonder if it is not good to hear that there are other stories out there, other ways to live and love than just the societal Disney narrative. A friend of mine said to me today: I see no difference between having an issue with your lifestyle and having an issue with a gay couple. That made me stop and wonder would these parents want children of gay couples not to talk about their families as well?
Either way, it will be interesting to see what impact this will have on the children’s lives and in what way it will influence their choices but for now as I look at it, the biggest benefit, apart from all the love, is knowing that they will actually be choosing what kind of life and relationships they will have in their future.