The theme for June was children and ethical non-monogamy. We were so excited to explore this rarely discussed topic, and so were the Curious Foxes who attended. We had our biggest audience yet! The panel discussion reinforced that raising children is not easy no matter the relationship structure (married or single, monogamous or polyamorous), but they gracefully helped us be curious about the nuances of parenting while being open.
We first explored the practice of discussing what philosophies would inform a parent’s approach and how to set an intention in building a household. What kind of atmosphere do you hope to cultivate? What level of activity? What extent of involvement in the child’s life? Two parents spoke of their open-door philosophy, allowing adults to fluidly enter their home whether those relationships were based in romance or friendship, and allow important people to cultivate bonds with their son. The 5th grader joined the panel as well, offering his perspective as the child who, upon learning about his parents’ outside relationships, wanted to return to his video game. He commended his parents for having the conversation with him at age 8, noting that it was old enough to understand but young enough to inform his understanding of relationships before that became a classroom topic.
We then discussed the importance of considering the specific personalities of the children in addition to the parent’s own ideals and being open to reevaluations over time. Some children may be able to handle the information about openness and the dynamics of a fluid household better than others. The challenge of parenting is deciding which option best benefits the children and reduces their anxiety – now and later. Although the idea of complete openness is romantic, it is not always achievable given the realistic circumstances. To be curious about your own and the children’s needs and to keep this conversation evolving over time is part of conscious parenting.
Another insight during our learning was that the specific language we use with children is representative of the narrative as well. One panelist recounted some specific instances of keeping his children informed through his words, such as asking them over dinner after watching Katniss choose between Gale and Peeta, “Why not both?” He also challenged the usual rhetoric that follows children’s question “Where do babies come from?” by explaining that sex is not reserved for when a “man loves a woman and they want to have children.” It can be an expression of (not necessarily heteronormative) love, but also many other things: fun, self-discovery, friendship, exploration, and more.
Overall the panel reinforced that in the same way that every poly style is unique between individuals, every parenting situation is also different and it is best to meet yours with curiosity.