And What about the Children?

Guest Blog Entry by B.M.

The recent spate of attention to polyamory in the press has had me thinking a great deal. Particularly difficult to wrangle with is the assertion by some that we who have chosen or landed in polyamorous relationships may be harming our children by doing so. Even some that have admitted that egalitarian polyamory is probably okay, still express concern about the harms done to kids in these relationships.

Personally, I don’t understand it. I spend a great deal of time, thought, and emotional energy on being the best parent I can possibly be. Because of this, the assertion that I’m somehow harming my kids is a grave insult. This leads me to think that those who have been putting forward this notion don’t really understand how we live at all.

The reality is that we poly parents are the same as any other parent in Canadian society. Sure, we’ve chosen a different course in terms of how we structure our intimate adult relationships. However, the fact that we might simultaneously have more than one intimate partner affects our day-to-day life far less than people might think.

Like most Canadians, we do the best we can do for our kids and our communities. We get up at ridiculous hours to get our kids to early morning swimming and spend hours in chilly arenas cheering on our budding Gretzkys. We volunteer for local community groups, sing in the choir, bake cookies for the bake sale and read to our kids’ classes. We puzzle over complicated report cards and try to pack that elusive appealing yet nourishing lunch. We worry when we send our kids out alone in the world and stand vigil by the door when they’re late coming home at night. We brush their hair and clean their faces on picture day and our hearts burst when we remember holding them in our hands on the day they were born. We worry that we aren’t getting things perfect, we worry when they are sick, or sad, or angry, or in trouble. And we dance with them and laugh with them and revel in their joys and triumphs.

Like all Canadian parents, we learned from our own parents, who provided us with a map based on their own experiences, successes and failures. Using that map we, like all Canadians, pencil in changes that help us guide a new generation. We’ll make mistakes. It is, perhaps, the only guarantee in parenting. And we try to forgive ourselves and pick ourselves up and move on and continue doing the best we can for ourselves and our kids.

Like most Canadians we try to teach our children wrong from right. We teach them that we believe in them, that we want them to be happy and to succeed. We teach them to avoid the innumerable dangers in life and then, when the time is right, we open the door and send them out on their own. And we hope and we pray that we’ve done an adequate job in the short time we’ve been given with them.

It would be wrong to paint an overly rosy picture, of course. After all, we are only human and like all other Canadians we can get caught up in the rush of our lives and may neglect the things that matter most to us. We face the same risks as all Canadian parents: we lose our jobs, we lose our faith, we lose our families. We are no more or less vulnerable to the horrors of alcoholism or gambling or drug abuse than any of our fellow citizens. Similarly, we may face issues of physical and emotional abuse in our families and personal relationships. In spite of the best efforts and intentions of any Canadian parent, our kids may reject us and run away from home or get caught in their own addictions and disasters. It happens. It is the brutal reality of life that it can happen to any of us regardless of our family structure.

So, if we who are polyamorous are so much the same, why are we singling ourselves out as being different in the Section 293 case?

The law is what makes us different. Unlike monogamous couples, blended families, single parents, serial monogamists, and for that matter, adulterers, there is a law in our country that would make us criminals. The very existence of the law causes otherwise rational people to look at a family with more than two parents living under the same roof and assume that if there is a law against us, then there must be something wrong with us, and worse, that our children must be in danger because of our family structure. The incredible irony is that this law, regardless of its actual interpretation in court, brands us as criminals without any evidence of any actual harm being done and in the process can actually bring harm to us and our children. Section 293 potentially victimizes a group of people in this country who do no harm, who are doing the best they can, and, by any measure, are not substantially different from anyone else in this country.

The automatic assumption of harm by certain members of the media is a warning flag to me that some Canadians are willing to perceive us as being somehow different and dangerously so. The real danger is that these perceptions and their proponents have the potential to do more harm to our families than anything we could possibly do ourselves.

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