Tell the family or censor the child.

Inaniel

Active member
Me: Rico; 36, M, hinge in poly V, FMF closed
Wife: Bird; 33, F, in relationship with Rico since 2009
Girlfriend: Cat, 35, F, in relationship with Rico since 2017, moved in with Rico and Bird in 2019
Daughter; Butterfly, 7, F, offspring of Rico and Bird

A little background: Kitchen-table, poly V, living in a single home. We are out of the closet to Rico’s immediate family, Cat’s immediate and extended family, and Bird’s mother.

Butterfly has had Cat in her life for a few years now and treats her like family. While not many questions have popped up about the family configuration, Butterfly has started questioning a few things and I am sure this is just the tip of the iceberg. Specifically, Butterfly has asked why Cat and I sleep in the same room, in the same bed, ect.. I rarely sleep with Bird because her snoring issues prevent me from sleeping through the night, so I mostly sleep in the guest room and Cat often joins me.

Living in a covid world we have opened up our home to Butterfly’s teachers via zoom. We have always introduced ourselves to Butterfly’s teachers as husband, wife, and roommate and all three of us attend her school activates, and parent teacher conferences. Recently, Butterfly was excited to give her teacher a virtual tour of the house; she showed her teacher the guest room proclaiming “And this is where daddy and Cat sleep”. It was a little awkward but we let her finish up the house tour and that was that.

Ever since the home tour, I have been thinking about whether it is appropriate to censor my child. I have been toying with the idea of telling her that it’s impolite to talk about where people sleep in the house. However, that simultaneously feels like a terrible solution, in fact it doesn’t feel like a solution, more like a Band-Aid that I will be re-applying throughout her childhood. Bird, for the record didn’t really like the idea when I floated it.

This topic is becoming increasingly troubling to me because it’s basically a ticking time bomb for family members to find out through Butterfly. For example if someone is staying in the guest room, it is very plausible that Butterfly will say something like “That’s where daddy and Cat sleep”.

It may sound like the easy thing to do is make sure family knows before they stay over, however that is not always up to me. Bird has only told her mother about our lifestyle, Bird’s father and step mother do not know about our lifestyle and Bird is afraid to tell them. They are conservative Christian types that instilled fear in her as a Child, and she has a strained relationship with that side of her family. We rarely see them, however every once in a blue moon they pass through town and want to visit the grand kid and stay in the guest room…

We have been able to postpone visits in light of covid, however my spidy sense is telling me that we are going to have to deal with this issue at some point in the next 12 months. Bird is very good at inaction, which is the exact opposite of what I am good at. Sometimes I feel like Bird would rather have her parents accidentally find out through butterfly and deal with it then. That is not how I would like to deal with this.

I wish I had more pointed questions to bring to the community but I am really at a loss. I feel powerless in this situation. These decisions involve how to raise my child, how to deal with Bird’s family, and how to open my house up to guests. None of which are decisions I can make on my own… Any thoughts?
 

GalaGirl

Well-known member
I think you might be making this bigger than it is, because you are worried about your "being out." All I see is a kid that needs to be taught appropriateness and consent, and then some in-laws who need to be told to plan to stay at a hotel if/when they visit. No more guest room here.

You do need to talk to Bird about emergency preparedness, but don't confuse "important" with "urgent" from anxiety feelings maybe.

I have been toying with the idea of telling her that it’s impolite to talk about where people sleep in the house. However, that simultaneously feels like a terrible solution, in fact it doesn’t feel like a solution, more like a Band-Aid that I will be re-applying throughout her childhood. Bird, for the record didn’t really like the idea when I floated it.

I think that is fine. Because I DO think it is impolite. I don't want kids telling people my proclivities -- how I sleep, how I bathe or toilet, how I take my coffee, what products I use for my period without my knowledge or consent that they were going to do that. Why does the world need to know these things? This is not censorship. This is teaching a child that some information doesn't belong to them just because they know it.

My kids have been raised to knock on people's bedrooms even if the door is open. To obtain consent before going in. So if one of them was in elem. and doing a house tour? They would have to obtain consent first and clear it with the house. People are not always dressed for company around here.

I don't think teaching a 7 yr old what "consent" means is a terrible solution. I also don't think it's wrong to tell her there's some things you talk about freely with anyone. And there's some things that are more private and may need consent. A elementary school child is not too young to be taught the difference between appropriate and not appropriate.

Just like wearing a bathing suit at the pool is the right outfit for that place? It is not the right outfit for attending a wedding. Bathing suits are not BAD. But there is such thing as appropriate time, appropriate place, appropriate person, appropriate amount of info.

Can you just take your sister's bathing suit? It does not belong to you even if you know she keeps it in the top drawer. You have to ask for consent to borrow it. Appropriate person, appropriate asking. Do you have to ask anyone to use the paper towel in the pool bathroom? No. It's for everyone to use. But you take only 1 or 2, not the whole stack. Appropriate usage.

Pee is not a bad thing. Everyone has to do it. But it's not appropriate to pee in the pool, right? We get out and go to the bathroom. Again, appropriate time and place.

Do you run out and tell the whole world the toilet at the pool in broken? Well, it doesn't hurt to say so, but to REALLY to get it fixed best to find a staff person. Pool guests cannot do anything about it. This is telling the right people the right information.

Do you run out and tell all the people at the pool that peeing hurt or burns? Or do you tell your parents in the car or a whisper so you can get an appointment to the doctor? Cuz who drives you there? The strangers or the parents? You tell the right people, with the right method.

Some stranger at the pool trying to touch you under your bathing suit areas or in a way that makes you uncomfortable in the bathroom and they want you not to tell? You run for the hills hollering every step of the way. Tell the world -- lifeguard, your family, anyone in ear shot. You do not keep secrets that are hurting you or someone else.

You want a pretzel from the pool vending machine? Do not interrupt me in conversation with someone else. Come over here and squeeze my wrist. That lets me know you want something. I will squeeze back so you know you will get attention soon, and I get to finish my sentence to the person without interruption.

May also have to educate those around the child. NO, grandma. You can't just swoop up the toddler/kid and start hugging and kissing. You have to actually ASK them for consent. No, you just cannot barge in there -- this is someone's private bedroom. You actually have to knock at the door and ask the kid for consent.

Teaching small children about good communication, appropriateness, and consent around their bodies and their spaces is just part of parenting to me.

Could start teaching kid(s) what "being out" means and when it is safe and when it isn't. Sex ed isn't one conversation in middle school. It's many conversations layered over time.

I wish I had more pointed questions to bring to the community but I am really at a loss. I feel powerless in this situation. These decisions involve how to raise my child, how to deal with Bird’s family, and how to open my house up to guests. None of which are decisions I can make on my own… Any thoughts?

You are not powerless. You can choose to have the conversations rather than avoiding them.

If a child asked me for consent to do a house tour?

I'd be questioning this activity and asking the teacher to find out if there's an alternative "show and tell" activity. Because why would I let people see the floor plan and stuff in the house? Who is watching off screen? Or recording offscreen? Am I helping someone case the joint? I also don't want to open the house to "school guests" like that. I wouldn't let a class of 20 kids just traipse through here in person. Why would I let them on a tablet and video conference?

It doesn't seem like teacher thought this out well. Not everyone comes from great home environments. Some students are homeless, some live with relatives who aren't so great, etc.

Sometimes I feel like Bird would rather have her parents accidentally find out through butterfly and deal with it then. That is not how I would like to deal with this.

Could ask Bird what her actual preference is so you can know. For her parents to accidentally find out through the child? Or to tell them straight up at a time/place/moment you can plan for? You can search for stories about custody battles in poly families. You can look at what the laws are like where you live. Because some relatives try to gain child custody and cause headaches for poly families. You are responsible for your own emergency preparedness. Maybe Bird has not considered this.

They are conservative Christian types that instilled fear in her as a Child, and she has a strained relationship with that side of her family. We rarely see them, however every once in a blue moon they pass through town and want to visit the grand kid and stay in the guest room

So here is opportunity for change. You set a new boundary that you don't have strained relationship people stay here at your house because it is a PITA.

Just cuz they are passing through town doesn't mean you drop all your plans for them and have to host them in the guest room.

Maybe you set a new expectation that ALL people visiting stay in a hotel from this point forward. You now have a roomie, and children get bigger. If people want to visit? Call ahead so you can coordinate.

Just cuz people want things doesn't mean you are obligated to comply.

Galagirl
 

kdt26417

Official Greeter
Staff member
Hello Rico,

Maybe the thing to do is to sit down with Bird, and have a talk about what she wants. Would she rather have her parents accidentally find out through Butterfly and deal with it then? If so, then you do not have to tell Butterfly to keep quiet about the poly situation when talking to Bird's parents. But get confirmation from Bird, on what she would prefer.

In most cases, I find that it is hard to explain to a child that they must help you keep a secret, and why whatever it is must be a secret. Are you ashamed of the poly? If not, then you need to find a way to explain to Butterfly why you want to keep the poly a secret even though you are not ashamed of it. It can be a hard thing to expose a child to.

Even if Butterfly agrees with you (to keep the poly a secret), she is just a kid, and she could accidentally let something slip without meaning to. This is why I tend to think that parents with young children, probably can't afford to "live in the closet" when it comes to poly. I suggest you out yourselves to your families, though you don't absolutely have to.

Sincerely,
Kevin T.
 

icesong

Moderator
Staff member
Wow! The degree to which this has echoed my family is... a lot. I had been pushing Knight to tell his mother (and father at the time) and he didn’t ever find the right time; MiniMe found it for us. I’m not saying everything GalaGirl said about privacy and appropriate behavior is wrong - I am saying that 7 year olds are not that predictable. So you can try, but I think Bird needs to be prepared for it coming out regardless.

There is an awesome postscript to that story though. At this point Joan comes to most “family” events, and is getting an equally nice gift as Knight and I for Christmas (my mother in law’s love language is gifts so that’s a thing.) And mom even made a point of asking whether Artist, who she’s met a few times now, also wants to come to Christmas Eve and whether she should get him a Christmas gift. Soooo ... it took a few years, but she kind of gets poly now...
 
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