Yahoo Parenting on poly at Twin Oaks
Twin Oaks in Virginia is often held up as one of the most successful large communes to come out of the 1960s and 70s. The intentional communities that have survived long-term have learned ways to do it right, and their examples are now spreading again... a bit.
Yahoo Parenting just published a glowing article on child rearing at Twin Oaks and on the group's social and economic structure. Far down into it, the article discusses the polyamory practiced by many Twin Oakers. It all sounds pretty excellent. Many intentional communities seem to develop a large poly contingent as a natural part of life. I'll have more to say about that, with many items that I've been waiting to tie together. But for now:
Welcome to the Commune Where 100 Adults Raise 17 Kids
By Beth Greenfield
Photos: Khue Bui for Yahoo Parenting
It’s 8:30 a.m. on a Wednesday and one of the calmest school mornings I’ve ever witnessed....
...“It’s not like we’ve come up with this scientifically evolved program to create the utopian child. We don’t have that — just really common sense: We put a lot of resources into the kids. The adults are not stressed out or struggling. We don’t have people who are pregnant and stuck with a couple of kids and are miserable, or even really well-off parents who have gobs of money but no time to focus on their kids, with a nanny who does not feel very empowered. So that’s not rocket science. But it is something we do well.”
It’s not perfect, of course. Kids can feel lonely or isolated due to not having enough peers, and some parents are troubled by the lack of racial diversity here, just for starters.
Rowan, 19, with his dad, Keenan.
But there are still plenty more ways Twin Oaks does right by its youngest residents: with intense communal support among parents; opportunities for the childless to form close relationships with kids; fairly seamless co-parenting arrangements following breakups; a refreshing openness regarding the fluidity of gender and sexuality; and a striking absence of the so-called “mommy wars.” Perhaps most impressively, though, is the enviable reality of an organic work-life balance.
It all adds up to something most parents yearn for but few find: a true village, in that it-takes-a-village sort of way....
...But Adder’s attentions are divided in a way that may seem startling to the outside world: He also has another girlfriend — who in turn has her own girlfriend, as well as a toddler whom the two women co-parent together.
As it turns out, polyamory — being in a committed relationship with more than one person — is the norm at Twin Oaks (though plenty of couples are monogamous). And everyone here, it seems, takes it in stride — including the kids, say their parents, because it’s all they know. Many even count it as a child-rearing bonus.
“I think it makes a parent stronger at communication,” Claire, the mom of a 1-year-old named Grace, tells me one day. Claire, more than many at Twin Oaks, delivers beautifully when it comes to the expected, free-flowing hippie image: barefooted, long-haired, joyously mellow, and prone to allowing her milky nipples to slip out of her blouse in between Grace’s nursing sessions. “You really have to hype your communication skills to be in a poly relationship,” she explains. “And I think that’s a great thing to offer your family and your children.”
Twin Oaks has a long, strong history of thoughtful non-monogamy.... Today, that tradition continues — minus, many here agree, any confusion for the kids. Part of that is because every adult resident has his or her own bedroom, married or partnered or not, as a way to maintain a semblance of privacy within the context of everything else being shared.
As Angelica, a Brooklyn, N.Y., native who has no children of her own but is an active primary to several kids, tells me, “It’s not like parents are always sleeping in the same room every night.”
Every parent I speak with is quite open about his or her various permutations of non-monogamy. Summer and Purl are among the minority of couples who have legally married, for example, but they’re also polyamorous, and Summer — who landed at Twin Oaks after a rather privileged, conventional life in Connecticut, boarding school, and a brief stint at Oberlin College — has had a boyfriend for several years.
“Anya knows he is my boyfriend, someone special to me,” Summer says about her daughter’s understanding. “I don’t think I ever need to sit down and have a talk with her, like, ‘This is what this is,’ because this is just what it is.”...
Read the whole article (June 10, 2015).
Update the next day: One of the Twin Oakers in the article (Paxus) blogs about the huge public response to it pro and con, and the community's reaction, and some history and background.
One thing he says the article failed to mention: Twin Oaks has had a waiting list for the last 7 years. And longer for families. If you're looking for a good intentional community to join, you might look elsewhere. Or get your people together and study up on how to start your own. Hint: Network for a New Culture's Summer Camp East starts in less than a month....