“I Raised My Kids in a Polyamorous Home, and It’s More Normal Than You Think” originally appeared on Quora and The Fatherly Forum, and was reprinted with permission.
I’m bisexual, leaning gay, and polyamorous, and my kids have known that in a practical sense since they were too young to know the terminology. But their earliest memories are from a household in which I had two husbands and two wives, and we showed about as much PDA at home in front of the kids as most parents who love each other do … in other words, sex was kept for private space when they were asleep or elsewhere, but there was lots and lots of open affection. And we had a great preschool which was happy to work with whatever family configurations they had. Nobody talked in preschool about their families, much; they talked about the activity they were doing. So it didn’t come up.
When they approached school age, I had to tell them that not all families have so many parents; most kids only have two.
They were more than a little confused by this. “How do they get anything done?” my sensible daughter asked me. “They must have to work all the time.” They discussed it for a bit and concluded that they felt really sorry for children who only had two parents, because the parents probably had no time to play with them.
Then I had to explain that some people thought a family should have only two parents, one mother and one father, and that other arrangements weren’t right. They were indignant. “What business is it of theirs?” my son asked.
So, by the time they got to kindergarten, they knew they might face some trouble. But they mostly didn’t until several years later. My daughter’s first encounter with serious bigotry, in fact, had nothing to do with her queer and poly parents at all; it involved a little girl who was good friends with her for eight months, until she learned my daughter was Jewish, and then called her an outraged nasty name and never spoke to her again. To this day, half her lifetime later, my daughter finds a way to work the fact that she’s Jewish into initial conversations with everyone she meets except through us, to make sure that if they’re going to hate her for it, she finds that out from the beginning. (She assumes we will make sure we don’t bring home anyone antisemitic, and she’s right.)
By now, my son is 10 and my daughter is 12. They’ve both run into people who say nasty things about gay people. My son usually just ignores them contemptuously or demands, “How do you know?” My daughter has been trying to talk a few boys at her lunch table into having better sense; she said that they’re mostly still just repeating what their parents say, and so she’s trying to get them to think it through.
Children grow up thinking whatever they know is “normal” and that everyone else is crazy. I’ve been careful to get them together with some children of other nontraditional families … there’s a weekend event called Polycamp they go to every year, and many of our family friends live in varied arrangements, with or without kids. At school, they mostly don’t bring it up, but are willing to raise hell if someone tries to say something they interpret as an insult to their family. It doesn’t happen often; we’re in a fairly socially conscious neighborhood in a very socially conscious city.
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