When Polyamory Becomes “Non-normal”

The editors of Looking Through Us are pleased to present the winner from our Valentine’s contest.  Sara lives with her husband of 20 years and two children.  She and her husband prefer long term relationships and date other people regularly, and it seems she is having conversations with her kiddos that sound a good bit like the conversations I have with mine.

When Polyamory Becomes “Non-normal”

When I was a young child, I loved Barbies. I still do – the fashions, the glamour, the freedom to be anything. Barbie could do whatever she wanted with whomever she wanted and no one would ever say anything was wrong. She could be President or an astronaut or a doctor or a bride. In fact there have been hundreds of bridal gowns made for Barbie and yet she had no groom. She could marry whomever she wanted, other Barbies, her best friend Midge, her boy toy Ken or all of them at the same time. And it was perfectly acceptable for them all to live together in her giant Barbie Dreamhouse.

When I got a little older, Star Wars came out. We acted out scenes for hours. It seemed that Princess Leia could end up with both Han and Luke (remember that this was before we found out about the character’s familial relations). Now days, I believe the little ones put Elisabeth with both Will Turner and Jack Sparrow. Or my daughter has one Disney prince doll to her seven? princesses.

For years, my children would take the idea that mom has boyfriend(s) and dad has girlfriend(s) as normal. My daughter even walked up to my husband’s girlfriend one day and said “You are like my stepmom, but my parents are still together.” They had no problem fitting other adults into their lives.

So when does this notion of free love and multiple marriages become questionable?

Third Grade. Right after my daughter turned eight. (She is young for her grade).

My husband was at his girlfriend’s house for the night and I was taking the kids out to dinner. From the back seat, my daughter asked “Why does daddy need when he has you?” Oh boy. I had sort of expected this eventually, but not yet. My ten-year-old had yet to question it.

How do you explain to a child the difference between want and need? Technically he doesn’t really “need” any of us, he is perfectly capable of living alone. Ok, I thought. Start small and build. “You have a mom. What does a mom do for you?”

“You love me and take care of us,” she answers trying to get her brother into the conversation.

“Good. So why do you need a daddy?”

I am sure I have this wrapped up, until my son pipes up, “So we don’t starve!”

(head banging against steering wheel) While I am perfectly capable of cooking, I dislike it to the extent that my husband always feeds us. The kid has a point. Alright another tactic was needed. “He loves and enjoys spending time with her.”

“But he loves you,” she counters.

This is easy territory. I have no problem with the “multiple-loving”, after all I am poly. We start to play the “who do you love? game” I let them go through the immediate family, our relations, their friends, before explaining that there is always room in one’s heart for one more love. And I think they understood or were satisfied for a little bit, because the next question she asked was, “What’s for dinner?”

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