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 widespread acceptance of the notion of ethical non-monogamy.
In the case of my own relationship, we may have opened up our marriage late in the game, but we’d always been open-minded about sexuality and gender roles, and we’ve been trying to keep the standard, narrative-driven drivel to a minimum since the birth of our first child.
It was easier in the early years, and then the real challenge began in preschool.
The other little girls had been fed a nonstop diet of “Someday my prince will come,” which our daughter decided to embrace wholeheartedly. Then a couple of years later, a similar thing happened 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.”
I didn’t feel it would be 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 nontraditional families and relationships. It was difficult, but I did find a few solid alternatives.
Trying to find books, TV shows or even movies with nontraditional families was not as easy as I had hoped.
Most are geared toward LGBT families — not polyamorous families and certainly not families with parents who swing. They are still a good way to start as a way to introduce the concept of nontraditional families and to celebrate our unique differences.
And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell, Mini Mia and her Darling Uncle by Pija Lindenbaum, Daddy’s Roommate and Daddy’s Wedding by Michael Willhoite, along with Heather Has Two Mommies and Mommy, Mama and Me by Leslea Newman are all great books specifically about life with gay and lesbian parents.
One book that lightly touches on polyamory is Else-Marie and Her Seven Little Daddies by Gabrielle Charbonnet and Pija Lindenbaum. It is the story of a little girl who is worried that 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 out she had nothing to worry about.
Another poly-friendly book is Six-Dinner Sid by Inga Moore in which Sid the cat belongs to six different families who don’t mind sharing him. And a book that was recommended to me but that I haven’t read yet is The Little House That Ran Away from Home by Claude Ponti. 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 shapes looking for their missing pieces. 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. In the end, the searching shapes find happiness in just being themselves rather than in pairing off. You can take from that what you will.
I also like the book I Love You the Purplest by Barbara M. Joosse. The mother in the story 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.
It would be nice to find a children’s book that actually has a real open family in it, but apparently, that has yet to be written.
Teen readers get a few real characters, but not many.
Most YA fiction deals with a romanticized view of love and relationships in which the characters are perpetually undecided 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. His books Stranger in a Strange Land, The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress and Time Enough For Love all touch on issues dealing with religion, individualism and sexuality. These books are geared toward 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, so movies and TV typically offer shows with stereotypical parents or, at best, single-parent or blended families.
The only recommendations I found that weren’t movies for grown-ups were The King and I and Paint Your Wagon. The former isn’t exactly the best example of open relationships, as it’s a polygamist family not shown in a particularly positive light. The latter features a woman with two husbands, but by the end of the movie, she pairs off with only one of them. Neither paints a great or realistic portrait of modern non-monogamy.
I always thought the cartoon series The Fairly OddParents leans toward 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’ve got.
Interestingly, it seems that science-fiction movies and shows are the only ones routinely offering unique families and different attitudes toward relationships.
Everything from Star Trek to Doctor Who has at some point presented a take on society or a character that breaks from standard definitions. They are usually aliens or people visiting from the distant future, but at least they offer 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 our kids grow up 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.
Listen now: Love and science finally hook up. The results? Sexy. On this episode of Multiamory, we’re covering all the things that will make your relationships better backed by scientific studies. We cover communication, fighting, sex, in-jokes and more!
Originally published on YourTango.