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…

1 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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