Saturday, December 20, 2014

Metal Progenies: Raising Kids in a Family of Musicians/Creatives

The Metal Maiden family (yours truly, the bearded man and young sir)It's no secret that having kids, and subsequently raising them, is no easy feat. It's not a walk in the park. No one ever said it would be, and some are so fearful of it they swear off children altogether.

Who can blame them? Kids are cranky, poopy, sometimes smelly little assholes when they want to be. They demand your time and attention, and they are your total responsibility for eighteen years.

Despite that, I'm sure you've heard equally as many rewarding stories of poignant realizations and fulfillment when it comes to parents talking about their kids. "It's all worth it," you'll hear them say, "and I wouldn't trade him/her/them for all the world." That, of course, is the reason that the human race keeps going. People wouldn't be going out and having all these kids if it did not fill a void they never even knew was there, or if it did not runneth over their souls with love and a sense of purpose.

So yes, it sucks sometimes to be a parent... but, it's also awesome. This we know.

When you're a musical/artist parent, however, either one or both of you, the awesome-osity factor of parenting increases exponentially and I'll tell you exactly why.

1. Creative people are less bound by conventional rules.
Screaming in the house? Let me teach you this growl technique and we'll scream together! Wanna smack the table repeatedly and very loudly? Here kiddo, take these drumsticks and go sit over there! Knock yourself out! Wanna run around the house with no pants on? Me too!
It's the little things that kids appreciate most. Being bound by convention or tradition brings about disappointment or feelings of failure among parents. All parents experience a feeling of failing or guilt at times. However, when we stop worrying about what others may think of us, go out and instill in them good manners while not expecting too much (they are still just tiny people, after all), let them run free in their Batman outfit or pink glitter tutu and explore the world with that fascination that only a child could conjure, we're going to end up being happier as parents because we know that as long as they are loved, we are not doing them wrong.

2. Creative parents are the best at being silly and weird.
You know who else is silly and weird? Any kid under the age of 10! They play like people not of this world. They invent their own language around their first birthday and insist upon you understanding it and speaking it back. They like to play fetch, catch, be chased around the house. They like making funny faces and strange sounds.
Most people find all this a little hard to handle, even creative ones. There is, however, no one more engaging and entertaining to a toddler than a lunatic, free-spirited metalhead, musician, or artist when you get down to the nitty-gritty of daytime playtime. Nonsensical insanity comes easily to us, so it might be safe to say that we come better equipped to handle the mental infirmary that is a home with kids.

3. Every day is the continuation of a never-ending jam session.
This might be one of the best things about having a little one. When a child is newborn, they demand that you sing to them for their amusement at all times. This continues through infancy, except the older a child gets, the more desire they have to play with stuff. Drums, a guitar, a PA system - these are all things that count as viable toys for a toddler. They'll have fun making noises with strings, smacking a snare with a big heavy stick, or baby-babbling into a microphone.
Though they'll likely not have the attention span to jam with you every waking moment, they enjoy when you serenade them while they move on to the next toy. The jam session doesn't have to end until you can muster no more music, or until kiddo goes to bed, whichever comes first.
All that practice is bound to pay off - for both of you.

4. As an artist, it's easy to lose perspective or get sucked into the trap of over-thinking things. When there are kids in your life, you'll find that all you need to gain a little focus is to take a few cues from them.
Kids are more in tune with the world and themselves on a physical, mental and spiritual level. Their minds are free of most inhibitions, untainted by complexity and filled with enchantment and wonder. Sometimes we forget that having those qualities made us better artists, musicians, or writers in our younger days, and we can find ourselves stuck in a rut or a block wondering when things that used to come so naturally got so much more difficult. Children are there to remind us of how we once saw the world, and ourselves; in turn, this helps us to recognize that none of us really know what we're doing. We're all just in pursuit of what feels right to us, and that's the only thing that should be fueling our creative expression. There is no bar of perfection set for us to strive for... as long as what we create represents what we enjoy and are proud of, then we've done something right. Kids teach us to not take life so seriously, and that is a lesson that we all too easily forget, and one we need to re-learn often.

5. Kids are a great motivator.
You'll want to work even harder than ever just to prove to your kid(s) that you should never give up on your dreams.

6. Kids keep you humble.
The list of people who have thrown humility out the door in the face of success is staggering, and all of them end up paying a price for it sooner or later. Nothing can ruin a good career, a good album, or a beautiful masterpiece like the loss of humility. In puffing up your pride, you sacrifice many of the people who helped get you where you are and trade them for users, abusers and leeches who only see what they can get out of you. You will lose a great deal of respect, even if it isn't immediately apparent, and you'll be left wondering why so many former fans, friends and supporters have abandoned you.
Children are the best antidote against an arrogant nature. You can't think you're better than everyone else when you're wrist-deep in dirty diapers or cutting up pieces of chicken for your toddler; and regardless of whether you're parenting or killing it on stage, you never have a good excuse for thinking that way. It will cost you, dearly.

7. Children are tiny muses, and some great inspiration can come from them.
Whether it's from them directly in the form of a silly observation or a short story they wrote, or more indirectly as a result of being around them, kids are excellent at sparking up the creativity in your life and keeping the flame lit. Even during the difficult times, you can as easily draw from pain and struggle as you can from obliqueness and craziness. Embrace all of these emotions, feel them thoroughly as you were meant to, and take from them the lessons they give or the rewards they bring. Beauty exists in joy and in sorrow, in laughter and in pain. Having children just makes it all the more easy to see the brighter side of darkness, or the fun side of chaos.

8. Kids remind you that nobody can achieve total perfection - so why not just try and do what makes you happy, instead?
As a vocalist, this has to be one of the biggest challenges I struggle with - the unwinnable pursuit of perfection. When I start thinking and worrying excessively over my technique, I lose it, and my ability to sustain a proper note will audibly suffer under the weight of doubt. That's why I firmly believe that learning to sing is inherent in all of us - but the courage to do it is what causes some of us to stumble or even shy away from singing altogether. The only true prerequisite for singing well is doing so with your whole heart behind it, and using pure passion to drive the notes your project.
Kids know better than anyone that thinking too much can destroy you from within, no matter what you're trying to accomplish. Here is just another way that having them around keeps you grounded, which is the greatest gift anyone could give you.

9. They remind you why life is worth living... no matter how many times you forget.
Let's face it - life, whether you're a parent or not, is really effed up and hard at times. Sometimes it feels as though the world is going crazier and crazier, everything is collapsing around you, and you wonder why you keep fighting to keep your dreams alive when it seems like no one really gives a damn.
Then, you look at your son, or your daughter... you watch them play and marvel at simple things, like a butterfly bobbing on the breeze, or a bright, lit-up ferris wheel at a traveling carnival. They chase puppies or their siblings around without a care in the world, knowing that in this moment there is nothing to fear. You witness your child share their cupcake with their little friend out of the pure kindness of their heart, and watch as their friend responds in kind by giving your child a toy or treat of their own, and you realize that there is still good in the world. There are countless people living in all kinds of different circumstances with their families, content in each other's company, and just because a handful of power-hungry, greedy elites insist upon causing strife and some bad apples threaten to spoil the rest of the bunch doesn't mean that the world is full of evil. Good exists on all levels, in all walks of life, and all we can do is enjoy the peaceful moments we have and retreat to the safety of one another when the situation calls. Life is equal parts good and bad, pleasure and pain, happiness and agony. Kids help you to remember that those good moments are worth soldiering on for.

10. There will be someone, after you are gone, who will remember and cherish you and all that you've done - no matter how successful you may have been by society's standards.
Instead of just fading away, your spirit will continue to live on in your children as they carry forth your legacy into their own. Whether they shared your passions or have embraced different ones, the lessons they have learned from you will endure and give them limitless advantage in whatever they choose to do - because us creative types understand the world (and those within it) better than anyone, and the resourcefulness, creativity, imagination, resilience and zeal you possessed in your life will have taught them to live their own lives to the fullest extent possible.

After all, isn't that why we gave them life? So they could live it the best way possible!

Not to worry, creative one. You just being you makes you an incredible parent - and don't let any pious, judgmental, seemingly "perfect" or "normal" family try to convince you otherwise.

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