Heavy Metal Parenting

I was friends with a kid who left me for heavy metal: he moved house and found that in his new neighbourhood the thing to do was to commit to a teen code. He appeared to have had his identity suddenly replaced and we no longer had anything in common. I slightly envied him the certainty of his new highly-decorated self, but I suspected that such easily-found conviction would have its drawbacks. And it was indeed traumatic for him to abandon the metal when he grew out of it a few years later. (He had a transitional affair with some pop-rock band while on the rebound.) Making up your own mind – slowly – costs you a lot of thought but pays off in the end for all the dead-ends you don’t have to back out of, and the time invested in finding out who you are rather than trying to be somebody.

When our kids were born I had no intention of signing them up to any religion, for the same reason. And in general I have encouraged them to make up their own minds on things. It’s a slightly controversial parenting tactic, because certainty is comfortable, and children need to be made comfortable; telling a kid a lot of black-and-white stuff makes it easier for them to make sense of the world. But I think my irritating anti-dogmatic attitude provides some continuity in itself, and the boys are good independent thinkers. Then again, maybe a ready-made identity with a prescribed attitude to everything is exactly what they crave, and in time heavy metal will steal my kids too…

One thought on “Heavy Metal Parenting

  1. Doubt it, but who knows. There are circumstances where you have to choose between a poor range of factions. Different surroundings do force people into making decisions they wouldn’t otherwise have to.

    As a child when they asked what I wanted to be, I said ‘to be everything a young boy can be’–but then later they told me that I’d have to make a call. But when you choose, you’re something; something’s not everything, so I chose nothing at all.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mQYI8mpe2CI (start around 1:20)

    Tolstoy was on the ball in War & Peace, noticing “those men who choose their opinions like their clothes according to the fashion, but who for that very reason appear to be the warmest partisans”.

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