Raising Open Kids Who Understand Ethical Non-Monogamy
There are many of you who, like me, are trying to raise children in a society that often is not particularly accepting. Society, books and movies haven’t exactly paved the way to the notion of ethical non-monogamy. We may have opened up our marriage late in the game but we’ve always been open-minded about sexuality and gender roles. We have been trying to keep the standard narrative driven drivel to a minimum since the birth of our first. It was easier in the early years then the real challenge began in preschool. The other little girls had been fed a non-stop diet of “Someday my prince will come.” which our daughter decided to embrace wholeheartedly. A couple of years later a similar thing would happen to our son.
Once they entered school, gender roles were assigned and adhered to. So was the notion of dyadic relationships with the inevitable “first comes love, then comes marriage, the comes the baby in the baby carriage.” It wasn’t enough to tell them this wasn’t the only option in life. I needed backup. I needed to come up with resources that go against the standard narrative and offer positive views on non-traditional families and relationships. It was difficult to find but I found a few alternatives.
Trying to find books, TV shows or even movies with non-traditional families was not as easy as I had hoped. Most are geared toward LGBT families, not polyamorous families and certain not families with parents that swing. They are still a good way to start as an introduction to non-traditional families and celebrating our unique differences. Books like “The Family Book” and “Its Okay to be Different” by Todd Parr offer basic examples as does “ABC A Family Alphabet Book” and “123 A Family County Book” by Bobbie Combs. “And Tango Makes Three” by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell, “Mini Mia and her Darling Uncle” by Pija Lindenbaum, “Daddy’s Roommate” & “Daddy’s Wedding” by Michael Willhoite along with “Heather Has Two Mommies” & “Mommy, Mama and Me” by Leslea Newman are great books that are specifically about Gay and Lesbian parents.
A book that lightly touches on Polyamory is “Else-Marie and Her Seven Little Daddies” by Gabrielle Charbonnet, and Pija Lindenbaum. In it a little girl is worried the other kids in her playgroup might not be accepting of her seven little Daddies, and I mean little as in nearly doll sized. In the end she finds she had nothing to worry about. Also poly-friendly is “Six Dinner Sid” by Inga Moore about Sid the cat belongs to six different families who don’t mind sharing him. A book that was recommended yet I have not read is “The Little House That Ran Away from Home” by Claude Ponti from “Strange Stories for Strange Kids”. The little house marries two other houses and shows them living in a happy cartoon triad.
The books “The Missing Piece” and “The Missing Piece Meets the Big O” by Shel Silverstein are simple prose poems about a shapes looking for their “missing piece.” It’s about self-fulfillment, self-acceptance and, some suggest, non-monogamy. Might be a bit of a stretch to link non-monogamy to these books but I can sort of see where they get that. The ending finds the searching shapes not pairing off but finding happiness in just being themselves. You can take from that what you will. I also like the book “I Love You the Purplest” by Barbara M. Joosse. The mother describes how each of her kids is good in their own way and she loves them equally. It’s mostly about sibling rivalry but I like how it shows you don’t have to favor or love one person more than another. Would be nice to find a children’s book that actually has a real open family in it but that has yet to be written.
Teen readers get a few real characters but not many. Most YA fiction deals with romanticized view of love and relationships. The characters are perpetually decided between two loves. I only found “Love You Two” by Maria Pallotta-Chiarolli. The story is about a girl who finds out her mother is Polyamorous. You can also turn to Robert Heinlein. “Stranger in a Strange Land”, “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress” and “Time Enough For Love” all touch on issues with religion, individualism and sexuality. The books are geared for older readers so I’m not sure if everyone will find these appropriate for teens. They are often recommended for college age or older.
Movies and TV programs were even harder to find. No one wants to take the chance of having the family values police come down on them for straying from standard themes. Movies and TV only offer shows with stereotypical parents or, at best, single parent or blended families. The only recommendations found that weren’t movies for grown-ups were “The King and I” and “Paint Your Wagon”. The former is not exactly the best example of open relationships as it’s a polygamist family not shown in a very positive light. The later has a woman with two husbands but by the end of the movie she pairs off with only one of them. Neither really puts non-monogamy in the best light.
I always thought the cartoon series “The Fairly OddParents” leans towards Poly as it shows two sets of parents taking care of a child. Yes, I know, I’m grasping at straws by thinking the addition of fairy godparents qualifies as a Quad but it’s all I got. It would seem that Science Fiction movies and shows are the only ones routinely offering unique families and different attitudes towards relationships. Everything from Star Trek to Doctor Who has at some point presented a take on society or character that breaks from standard definitions. They are usually aliens or from the distant future but at least it offers a view that challenges stereotypes and asks people to think differently about how people relate to one another.
I’m hoping that some of this, with additional input from us, will help them to be more open and accepting as adults. They may choose an entirely different path than we have and we’d be happy with that. We can only hope our kids will make decisions based on a positive perception of themselves and others, consider all possibilities and not just mindlessly follow the herd.