Dear Shasta: Kids And Co-habitation

Posted on November 25th, 2009 in Dear Shasta, Mating And Relating, Polyamory, Three's Company

LettersIn 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.

Published by Shasta

10 Responses to “Dear Shasta: Kids And Co-habitation”

  1. FinnNo Gravatar Says:

    I had the same question yesterday, but didn’t have time to ask it.

    I think you’re handling the best way possible. The kids will let you know when they’re ready to know more. At least that’s been my experience.

    Reply To The Above Comment

    ShastaNo Gravatar reply on November 25th, 2009 2:51 pm:


    You know, it’s the most common question I am asked regarding the poly dynamics here. I think that it would be simple to be poly if we didn’t have children, but they throw a wrench into things in some ways, and I believe that many people are interested in how we handle it all.

    Thank you for the supportive words. I think like most parents, I am always concerned with doing right by my children. I want to protect them, but at the same time, raise them to be strong and independent and open-minded.

    I agree that children generally don’t bother asking questions when they don’t care about the answer. When they are curious enough to be interested then they ask. Plain and simple :)

    Thanks for stopping in to comment!


    Reply To The Above Comment

  2. LiteralmanNo Gravatar Says:

    I don’t think that the polyamory will be nearly as hard to explain to the kids as the power dynamics.

    Do you ask Aiden’s permission for things that adults don’t usually ask permission for while the kids are about in the house?

    Reply To The Above Comment

    ShastaNo Gravatar reply on November 25th, 2009 3:00 pm:


    You’re likely quite right about that, if the issue ever really needs explaining.

    Aiden feels that it would be terribly inappropriate to expose the kids to our power dynamic in any obvious way, so we are pretty careful. If I need to ask him permission for something, I will text him, even if we are in the same room. He is quite effective at saying a lot with just a look, which eliminates a lot of the need for verbal communication. This is useful in a lot of situations, not the least of which include the children.

    I don’t think that we are overt enough to raise any questions. As with most things, I am sure my children will just accept most subservient behavior on my part as normal, and won’t bother questioning it until they are much older, at which time it will be easier to explain.

    Thank you for commenting, and for the question :) I will likely expand some more on this in future posts regarding poly and the children!


    Reply To The Above Comment

    LiteralmanNo Gravatar reply on November 25th, 2009 5:17 pm:

    Yes, texting has changed the world. And I’ve done the email-in-front-of-the-kids-so-they-don’t-hear myself with my better half myself :-)

    But kids accepting subservient behavior by anyone sorta squicks me … is that what you really meant to write?

    Reply To The Above Comment

    ShastaNo Gravatar reply on November 25th, 2009 5:28 pm:

    I did, but perhaps we use it in different contexts.

    Some people simply have more submissive personalities than others. I’ve seen women (and men) in perfectly vanilla marriages, where one partner almost always defaults to the other. In my relationship with Jack, I often do things that could be considered “submissive” such as always fetching his food/drinks, going out of my way to make his life easier, letting him make the majority of the decisions, etc. I do these things because as much as I am not really a naturally submissive person, I do take great joy in showing my affection for someone through acts of service.

    I use subservient and submissive interchangeably, where perhaps you think of them differently.

    Hopefully that clarifies a little more?


    Reply To The Above Comment

  3. niaNo Gravatar Says:

    the other day i was watching a t.v. show & the son announced it was time for his dad to hurry up and get a girlfriend. he worried about how to answer his sons requests, why the son felt it was a priority, did his young son know about sex, etc. when he finally asked his son why daddy dating was so important, the kid replied, “because Stephen’s dad got a girlfriend & she has a swimming pool. it’s awesome. you should get a girlfriend so we can have a swimming pool too.” a good reminder that children have totally different priorities than us big people.

    my view of the power dynamics is this: yes, Shasta asks for things in front of the kids, but as she’s mentioned, she’s a rather bratty sub. on top of it, i tease Aiden mercilessly, which is as per the status quo in the Gibson household. good-natured teasing is pretty much continual, and most of Shasta/Aiden’s exchanges could easily be mistaken as such playfulness if one didn’t know the difference.

    xo nia <3

    Reply To The Above Comment

    ShastaNo Gravatar reply on November 25th, 2009 5:37 pm:


    Yep, that’s totally true about kids. I’m sure Luke’s main motivation for wanting Aiden to live with us is so that he has someone to play video games with all the time.

    It’s good to hear a more objective opinion on the power dynamics aspect of our relationship. As you are able to observe us together somewhat frequently, I value your insights. I think that in so many ways we’ve set up our lives in such a way that our kids are willing to accommodate and accept most anything without a lot of questions. As mentioned, the constant playfulness around here leaves a lot of room for subtle exchanges that the children will chalk up to normal adult interaction. I doubt that they will catch on until they are older, and by then perhaps we will be ready for the questions that are bound to come up.


    Reply To The Above Comment

  4. ChickpeaNo Gravatar Says:

    I’d been wondering how this would play out and I’m glad you’re not being too open with the kids. Between the entry and the comments, I think all my questions are answered. I’m all for open and free expression of love and I love that you and Jack and Aiden are so open. You’ve developed a history of being affectionate and that’s a great cover for the subtle stuff. God bless text messaging too. Does the fact that you HAVE to be secretive around the kids enhance some of the pleasure in it? Like adding some of the forbidden fruit temptation to the mix? Some times just getting that “come fuck me” look from Bull when I know I can’t touch him is enough to get me riled up for hours and then tear him up when we get home. Same situation or do I just not understand the power thing at all?

    My only comment really is this: don’t tell the kids too much. I mean you know where to draw the line, you’re the mom, but I’m all for innocence being kept a bit longer. Maybe that’s just because of my own upbringing though. There was no polyamory, but my parents never treated me like a kid – they treated me like a friend and I ended up being the parent for most of my youth. Honestly, some times it’s just better for kids to be sheltered behind a little innocence. What I wouldn’t have given for my parents to just let me be fucking kid some times! Kids grow up way too fast (I sure as fuck did) and then there’s not enough innocent kid moments to look back on. Okay, thats enough of my soapbox.

    Reply To The Above Comment

    ShastaNo Gravatar reply on December 4th, 2009 8:12 am:


    Thank you for the wonderful comment, and for your encouragement :) Having to be secretive in front of the children DOES enhance the pleasure a little, Hee Hee. It’s pretty much exactly the same as the situation you described, LOL.

    I agree with you about telling the kids too much. I grew up sort of quickly as well, due to a combination of circumstances. My mother was the eldest girl of 8 children, and her mother treated her like a tiny adult and put her in charge of the younger siblings from early on. That was just the way it was back then, and my mother, at 50 years old, is still rather bitter that she never had the chance to be a child. Unfortunately, as that is all she knew, and I being the eldest in my family (3 younger sibs) I was raised in similar fashion. I can clearly remember changing my younger brothers diapers, by myself, and he’s only 5 years younger than I am.

    I don’t want them dealing with issues that are far beyond their years, until it’s absolutely unavoidable. They are the primary reason we are not ‘out’ to our families, for exactly this reason. I want to protect them from it for as long as I can.

    Thank you again for taking the time to comment :)


    Reply To The Above Comment

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