Saturday, June 27, 2009

Plurals and "kids"

I've noticed something lately. Not sure exactly when it happened, or how, but I now speak in plurals more often than not. We, us, our, and so on is how I think. Even when PG and I were a conventional married mono couple, those were terms that drifted into my mindset, and now it's even more pervasive.

The main place I've noticed this trend is with the kids. You'll notice I speak plural there. Even though I have only one daughter, somehow, I have "kids". While I am not her parent, and she is not my child, S's daughter has become my "kid", and that's a little scary at times. PG and I opted to have one child largely because we didn't want to be responsible for another additional person. Now, it seems that, at least on an emotional level, I feel that I am, in some significant way.

Of all the factors that go into a combined household, the kids are among the most intensive and concerning. The rest of us are adults, and have the capacity to make our own choices and deal with our own emotions. The kids aren't quite as capable emotionally yet, and have to abide by our choices in many things. As there isn't much in the way of support or road maps for parenting in poly, we're sort of making this all up as we go, even more so than parenting in a "normal" household.

S's daughter seems to be the most outside the flow of the household. At 11 years old, she's working on her own sense of independence, which looks a lot like aping her peers, and wanting to fit in. Add a large splash of attention-seeking behavior (she comes by it honestly!), only a passing acquaintance with truthfulness at times, adolescence, academic challenges, some pretty extreme emotions, dealing with differences in her parent's homes, and it all can feel a bit overwhelming at times, even for the adults! Now, it seems that she is mine...

People who come in to see me for work ask how my kids are doing. I share the goings-on and things that we are working with, and don't think in "kid" singular any longer. How that will be in the long-term will be something to discover. I wish I had more time to prepare for adolescence, more time to grow into be a parent before supporting someone through that morass of change and self-discovery. As it is, I just hope "we" all survive intact. ;)

1 comment:

livingtotears said...

this post really hits home for me.

in transitioning from monogamy to non-monogamy, my "us" of me, my husband, and our two kids grew to be "us" that also includes my other love, his two spouses, and their five kids. although one of their kids was grown and on his own, he still became part of my larger "us". my family and sense of "us" grew from 4 people, 4 hearts to care about, to 12 people, 12 hearts.

although the growth of my sense of this larger "us" was a slow evolution, there was a point at which it crystallized for me. that point was heart-overflowing with love, and simultaneously terrify-ing. some voice inside my head was asking me ~ "are you *nuts*?! 4 hearts to *12* hearts?! how can you possibly do this?! do you realize the math here? you're *tripling* the hearts you'll care for through your life and future! do you realize the time and the workload involved in that?!"

after an initial panic, i was able to focus on the heart-overflowing part. but i still get panic flashbacks now and then though, and in hitting bumps, it can be hard to identify if i'm doing adequate due diligence in caring for others' hearts. what's adequate? what's co-dependent? where's the line? yet that's a whole other topic.

although i am not directly responsible for other adults' hearts, i do feel that this level of connection and commitment involves a responsibility to be aware of and caring of all 12 people and their hearts, with extra, extra care about younger kids' hearts. in a very real sense, aspects of kids' logistics and hearts are at the mercy of what us (crazy?) adults do. i want to do no harm in general, and especially in the direction of kids.

our shift to polyamory was with acknowledgment that kids' hearts are a huge priority. i'm probably extra sensitive to this issue because of my own experience. when my parents divorced, my mom dated various people. i loved easily and would love and become attached to each person she loved. when they broke up, it felt like a heart-wrenching breakup to me too.

in moving to polyamory, my agreement with myself was that i would not proceed unless i felt sure that i had the capacity to maintain my kids' connections even if my other-love connection turned out not to be viable. i can deal with my own broken heart, and i can consider other adults capable of doing the same.

yet when my kids now love 8 new people, and the 8 people love my kids, i will do whatever it takes to maintain those connections. i won't have my possible break-ups become kids' break-ups too unless they wish to end the connections.

i have a history of amicable break-ups with friendships intact even though the romantic aspects of a given relationship may not have worked. no matter how bumpy things get, i hold myself accountable to behaving in ways that enable good breakups, so i can still maintain my kids' connections regardless of what us adults do. wherever life and our bumps lead, i think we'll survive intact with kid connections feasible.

for you, me, others, here's wishing for surviving intact, with heart-filled us-ness in spite of inevitable bumps now and then!