Dear Shasta: Kids And Co-habitation
Posted on November 25th, 2009 in Dear Shasta, Mating And Relating, Polyamory, Three's Company
In response to Monday’s post, Sharon asked:
I’m very curious on how you are going to discuss this with your children now and on-going?
That’s an excellent question, and deserves a post unto itself. As an aside, if anyone would like to ask questions about our co-habitation arrangement, that I can’t answer in a sentence or two, I will likely create a post on the subject to answer your enquiry. I know how precarious, and often rare these arrangements can be, and I want to share as much as possible about the entire experience.
Our children are aware that Aiden is moving in with us. In fact, I spoke to them each individually and asked them permission to have Aiden live with us. This home is just as much theirs as it is ours, and I wanted to give them an opportunity to raise objections. I wanted them to feel as though they have a say in what happens in our house, and I wanted to gauge their comfort with the idea.
They both eagerly agreed that he should move in. They really adore Aiden, and he’s so great with them. I explained that Aiden had to find a job here before he could come to stay, and since then Luke, my older child, has asked me EVERY DAY about the job situation. I think the fact that he remembers, unprompted, on such a regular basis says a lot about how he feels regarding the situation. He’s been visibly disappointed every time I tell him “No job yet”.
Aiden and I behave mostly platonically in the presence of the children. I don’t assume that my kids are stupid, however, and I’m sure they pick up on the fact that he’s not just a casual acquaintance. Fortunately Jack and I are generally very affectionate people, both with each other, and with our friends. This has created for them an environment where cuddling, hugging, and other forms of physical affection are normal. While V lived here she and I often hugged, cuddled, and told each other “I love you” because that’s just how we are with each other. It’s apparent that the children have accepted this behaviour, because Sadie hugs all of her friends and thinks nothing of giving her little gal pals a kiss on the cheek when they part ways after school. I’m sure it weirds out some of the other moms, but I’d prefer my kids express their feelings openly, rather than growing up with social anxiety and fearing human contact. Nia and I are also very physically expressive with each other, and it carries over to the kids, because Sadie in particular is my little cuddle bug (not surprising, since both of her parents are). It’s just how we work, all of us, and so I don’t expect they find it unusual when Aiden and I sit close to each other on the couch, or when I hang my head over his shoulder when he’s sitting down. These are things that all of the adults in their lives do with each other, so that saves us a lot of conversation on THAT front.
The major hurdle we are facing at the moment are sleeping arrangements. Jack and I aren’t really certain how best to address the topic, because while we don’t want to keep it a secret from the kiddos forever, we’re not ready to be 100% out yet, and my kids tend to innocently blurt things out to our vanilla family and friends. It would not be unusual for them to be in the middle of a story and mention off-hand that their Mum was sleeping in Aiden’s room. I don’t think that they would question it, because I would sometimes sleep with V, or Nia would sometimes have sleep-over parties here, and V has shared a bed with Jack, so that sort of thing is also normal. It’s really not about having to explain to them who is sleeping where and why, but about explaining to family if it happens to slip out.
As far as we’ve told them, Aiden is a friend, and he’s going to live in our basement. Kids are often wiser than we give them credit for, so I have no doubts that they may be onto us, but simply see no reason to regard it as out of the ordinary. This became quite evident on Saturday when I was talking to Luke about Jack being away for the week and how Aiden would be staying with us during that time. Luke remarked quite casually that since Daddy was away, Aiden could be their step-dad for the week. To him this seemed like an obvious connection, but again, not the least bit unusual. He mentioned it again that evening while Aiden and I were putting him to bed, and although I think Aiden was perhaps caught off-guard, he took it in stride and didn’t bother making an issue of it.
I never want to put them in a position where they feel that our lifestyle choices are shameful or something to be kept a secret, so until such a time that they can understand that not everyone lives the way that we do, we feel it’s best to treat things in a very casual way. They know that they are always free to ask questions, and that they will get an (age-appropriate) answer. So far neither of them have asked anything regarding my relationship with Aiden, and I don’t intend to make it into a big deal when I think that really, they could care less. Their perception of the situation is that a very cool adult who cares for them and plays with them is going to be here ALL THE TIME! This seems like a grand plan in their eyes.
Having V live here I believe also set a good precedent in terms of having extra adults in the house being unremarkable. They were so happy to have her here, and they’ve missed her terribly since she moved. Perhaps in a way they see Aiden as filling the obvious gap in our home.
Eventually, yes, we are going to have to explain to the children the nature of our relationship. We have to be prepared to answer their questions, probably far sooner than we might like. I hope we can hold off with a lot of complicated explanations until they are really old enough to understand not only what polyamory really is, but why people will likely have strong and often opposing reactions to our lifestyle. I want them to be prepared for the sorts of judgmental and sometimes cruel opinions they are likely to encounter. I want them to know that just because a lot of people, including much of our family, don’t want to understand our choices, that doesn’t make what we are doing wrong or dirty or something to feel ashamed of.
When will they be “old enough”? I wish I knew. Perhaps it will wait until we’re not only ready to be open with them, but with everyone else in our lives. I doubt we will be so fortunate, and that the chickens will come home to roost before we’re totally prepared, but as will all things, we’ll roll with it, do the best we know how, and come out on the other side better for the experience.
I hope that provided some type of answer for you. Jack and I often feel like we’re wandering around in the dark when it comes to poly and our children. We are facing all of these issues for the first time, and there really aren’t a lot of resources from which to draw good advice, nor a lot of life experiences that might provide useful insights. To say that we are under-prepared and out of our element is an understatement, but we are going to find our way, just as we have in the past.
I promise to post on this again, as the relationship evolves and as we handle situations regarding the kids, and our living arrangement in general, but I encourage comments and thoughtful questions on the situation. Your questions inspire us to think, and to discuss, and sometimes look at things in ways we hadn’t considered before, so all feedback is gratefully appreciated.