I’m a 42-year-old mother of two. I listen to loud, heavy music, full of screeching guitars, pounding drums, explicit lyrics, and screaming cookie monster-voice vocals. One of my favorite bands is the creepy, (to some) masked band, Slipknot. I listen to a variety of music, not limiting myself to one genre. You know that obnoxious person next to you at the stoplight blaring the loud music? It’s okay, give me a double-take, roll up your windows, and crank up your country, hip hop, or pop. I don’t mind at all. Not all metal, punk rock, alternative, thrash, death metal, hard rock fans are criminals or serial killers. Most of us are just moms and dads, brothers and sisters, sons and daughters who happen to identify with this genre of music.
We identify with it, because like those who create the thrashing melodies, we have not always fit into the box society designed for us. We didn’t have the childhood other kids experienced. I moved around so much, I attended three different kindergartens. I tried being friends with kids in every group; without judging them for where they grew up, what brand of clothes they wore, and how much money their families had. Each time I felt a connection with someone, it would be time to change schools and start over again.
I was fourteen when my parents divorced. My mom worked full-time, and went to college in the evening, leaving me alone to fend for myself on most nights. My father, feeling rejected by my choice to live with my mom, had temporarily stopped speaking to me. The only adult I felt I had to talk to at the time was my maternal grandmother. By my fifteenth birthday she passed away from lung cancer, and my therapist was in a fatal car accident. The black hole inside threatened to swallow me, and there were many times I wanted to just let it. I always felt I belonged in one world. I felt understood by the long-haired, tattooed, gruff men. They were outcasts and misfits, like me. My love affair started with the band Metallica and evolved into a life-long musical relationship. The songs were about politics, relationships, abuse, addiction, abandonment, sexual abuse, anger, pain, mental illness, coming together and fitting in. After I became a mom, I felt I had to keep my love for the music on the down-low, depending on who I was talking to. Look beyond the masks and the tattoos. Read the lyrics, hear the soulful vocals and the gut-wrenching guitar. Feel what they are saying to you.
I was often told I would grow out of the rock stage, but the interest only became stronger. Slipknot, Breaking Benjamin, and Seether sang me through my divorce. The National comforted me through my father’s passing, and Modest Mouse pulled me through another. Blue October supplied the soundtrack while I fell in love with my second husband, and Hollywood Undead cheers me up when I’m feeling down.
As they grew, I slowly began introducing the genres to my children, as many of the lyrics were not meant for tiny children. The other parents in my blended family are open-minded about music, art, and expression through creativity. Music is so much more to me than background noise. It weaves itself into every fiber of my life. A moving chorus, a striking guitar riff, and a sympathetic voice reaches out when it feels like there is no one else. Music embeds itself into my writing, adds the sharper angles into my photographs, and gives me the extra shove I need to get through each day.
My youngest attended her first concert with us this summer. I encourage open discussions in our home about all topics; sex, drug and alcohol use, bullies, LGBT topics, and art. Creativity is a gateway topic, and in this constantly evolving parenting journey I’m learning to take every open opportunity to speak to my children when they are listening. I try not to dispute other parenting methods because we all want is best for our children and try to do what we believe is the right thing for them. It is important to me to continue to seek out new music, and to maintain my open mind. I want to pass these qualities along to my children, and for them to appreciate all music, even if they don’t always like it. All art contributes something valuable to society, and inspires more creativity. It soothes the soul, and eases anxiety. When my girls find something new they are always excited to share it with me. If we don’t understand the lyrics, we look them up. We have discussions about the symbolism, nuances, and hidden meanings of the words. Music sparks conversation and inspiration. I would rather my girls come to me with questions rather than to friends and acquaintances who may or may not know the correct answers.
To all of the other parents out there who love to thrash and rock, to the parents who express themselves through body art and piercings, to the parents who nurture their children’s creativity in different ways: be proud of who you are and your form of self-expression. Your children will learn so much from you. They will grow up as the next James Hetfield, Kevin Heart, Meryl Streep, Robin Williams, Corey Taylor, Rita Williams-Garcia, Neil Gaiman, Shaun Morgan, or Georgia O’Keeffe. The world needs artists, writers, photographers, carpenters, dancers, actors, and musicians. With so much seriousness in life, we need color, laughter, and song to make the grey days bearable. Can you imagine a world with only one type of music or with none at all? Can you imagine a world with no art? Ali and Trish at Hollywood Undead, October, 2015
My oldest daughter is sixteen, and she has been to five concerts with me right by her side. I know several parents who drop their kids off, and I know others who will not allow their kids to attend concerts at all. There is no other feeling in the world like being part of the crowd at a large live show; your heart hammering in your chest, the fists pounding the air in front of you, the bass thundering so hard it rattles your entire body, and the band is singing-talking to YOU. Every soul in the audience is of one united being, if only for the moment. I wanted each of my kids to experience this for the first time with me, because it has always been so important to me. One of my most memorable concerts was in 2014, taking my daughter to see Rob Zombie. I have seen him once before, but this was her first and I got to see her experience it for the first time.
Every few decades we have a genre of music or something else not everyone understands. In 1966, the Beatles had a controversial album cover, The Beatles Yesterday and Today, featuring a photograph of the band with bloody doll parts. In March, 1966, John Lennon was involved in a Christianity controversy. when many venues in the bible belt communities stopped buying their concert tickets. The Rolling Stones also ruffled plenty of feathers. Both bands challenged the musical boundaries, and changed the course of history for music. Their lyrics were considered inappropriate to some, and against God to others. Country music is not without scandal or racy lyrics. Here are a few more interesting scandalous factoids about popular music over the years. As we all know, art is subjective and beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
Shaun Morgan, Seether, 2015
You don’t have to sing along with me, but I would appreciate it if before you make a generalized decision you will listen to at least a couple of the songs I have quoted here. As Maria Brink, from In this Moment says, “You are beautiful, even at your ugliest, I always say, you’re beautiful and sick like me.”