Three years ago I started my first relationship with a polyamorous man and I have been off-and-on poly ever since. being an intellectual, I felt my best chance at success in my new venture would be to read and educate myself on these types of relationships as much as possible. In fact, I was the one who convinced him he was polyamorous and not just in an open relationship. Right now I am ON. I consider myself poly and can’t imagine ever being in a monogamous relationship again. Who knows what I will be next month.
As you can imagine, this introduces some challenges in ethical parenting. How do I explain these things to my 7 year old son in an an ethical way. For that matter how do you explain dating, love, and relationships at all to such a quickly developing little brain? I try to go with the honest but not too honest policy. So, Last night my son asked me what cheating was. Perhaps he had caught the word as he peeked over my shoulder while I read yet another article on poly. Perhaps he had overheard a conversation between adults at daycare or seen it on tv. Who knows which it could be, of the myriad places children learn labels for adult concepts. “It depends on how it’s used,”I say, “Where did you hear it?” Oh no, he isn’t falling for that one. “Just tell me what it is,” he demands. “Ok,” I replied. “Do you mean cheating in a game or cheating in a relationship?” Dang, he picked cheating in a relationship. This is the point where my job gets tough. Because, sure I am a smart woman. I have a psychology degree. I took a child development class in college. But I was raised in the 80’s and 90’s where the general consensus was to protect children from all adult content as long as possible. My mother’s input on relationships was biblical and my father’s policy was exposure through r-rated movies. Adults didn’t explain or answer questions on these topics. Did I have questions on these topics? Well, regardless, my son does and he expects me to have the answers. So here I am 36 years old, making my way in life and I am expected, by this small being, to have all the answers. And I would hope for my self that I can explain them in a way that matches, again, the development of his little brain. Not to mention I would like to prevent as much trauma as possible. “Well,” I answer, “You know how people in relationships love each other, and kiss each other, and hold each other?” “Yes,” he replies. “Well, cheating is when they kiss, hug, or love someone else without their boyfriend knowing about it or being ok with it,” I explain. Mentally, I am patting myself on the back for avoiding the whole sex topic which has been something he has been intensely curious about while at the same time having zero desire to discuss it with me. He says he understands but continues to gaze at me. I feel something must be added. “So,” I begin again, “You know how I love Charlie and when I was with Charlie before, I started spending time with Aaron too?” He acknowledges. I continue, “well, that wasn’t cheating because Charlie knew about Aaron and he was Ok with me spending time with him. If Charlie hadn’t known about it and been ok with it, it would have been cheating.” He seems to have come to enough understanding to quell his curiosity. So I get up to get some water. But then, I know in my heart, there is one more thing I have to add. Out of honesty. Because he deserves to know the truth. Because he trusts me. “But most people only want to have one boyfriend. Most adults just have one person they love like that. So, that’s why cheating is such a big thing with adults.” After all, I can’t have the poor thing expecting that it’s normal to have two boyfriends. I can’t have him living in the world thinking all women are like his mother and what I believe is the only way, the right way. That would be like my mother teaching me the Word of God and telling me it was real and anyone who thought otherwise was wrong. I believe that facts should be taught, but matters such as religion, ethics, and philosophy are best explained with options. Every person has the right to decide for themselves what they want to believe. Even my 7 year old son.