This is my daughter. She loves Halloween and being scared in small doses. Her favorite song (since she was barely able to talk) is by Siouxsie and the Banshees. Recently, when given a choice about what to listen to in the car, she’s specifically asked for “sad music.” Her favorite superhero is Batman.
In Short, I Think My Daughter May Be A Goth
Don’t get me wrong, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with being a goth. That’s not what I’m saying at all. The concern is more about how much of a role I may have had in this development.
Let me first state that I was never a facepaint and black lipstick sort of person. I wore a lot of black t-shirts (because that’s the default color of shirts advertising a band), but never went in for the whole gothic uniform. However, I will admit that I’ve loved traditionally “gothic” music since the early 1990s.
I was an ethnomusicology major in college, which I’ve taken to describing as a sociology and music double-major at job interviews. My senior project was a research paper about genre formation in post-punk music; essentially asking “where did this ‘goth’ thing come from, anyway?” While doing that research, I became good friends with a number of people in the local goth community. Eventually, I ended up in a band with some of those people, and did some remixes that were played at the weekly “goth night” at one of the local clubs.
I should probably also disclose that my former prog rock band in Denver won a Westword Music Showcase Award 6 years back in the Best Goth Band category, which was a bit of a surprise for everyone in the band and even prompted us to have to explain what “goth” was to more than one member.
My point is that while I never dressed like a goth, I’ve definitely been in goth circles for a large portion of my life.
It’s Not Just Goth Genetics
But here’s the thing: I have legitimate goth friends with non-goth kids. I imagine that for some of them, the black clothing and spooky aesthetic is an embarrassing thing that uncool parents do. There’s absolutely no reason my daughter should have latched onto this particular thing.
My wife is definitively not a goth. She may like The Cure, but that’s about where the commonalities end. She listened to ska and pop-punk and musicals when she was a teenager, and never went down the gloomy rabbit hole of playing RPGs where she pretended to be undead. She’s a cheerful, chipper person who wears bright colors and proudly proclaims her allegiance to the Hufflepuff house from Hogwarts.
And my daughter has plenty of those traits too. She’s a generally happy kid, who likes snuggling and telling people she loves them (and misses them when she’s at preschool). She likes Moana and Daniel Tiger and will definitely tell you her favorite color is pink. But she also has this kind of playful dark side. She drew me a cave the other day, and then there was a discussion about whether there was a bear in the cave and whether that bear ate babies (the response from me, in case you were concerned, was “no, that’s a vegetarian bear: he likes mushrooms).
I Know This Is My Fault Somehow
While it’s cute as hell to watch my daughter dress up like a bat and zoom around the house while listening to dark music from the 1980s, I can’t help but feel a little guilty. I want my kids to find their own style. Figuring out what you like and don’t like is a major step towards discovering who you are as a person, and my little scallywag is in the midst of that journey. I’d hate to think that I was unduly influencing her.
When she was a baby, I used to get up early in the morning with her and do some writing while she sat nearby and listened to whatever music I played. I viewed this as the beginning of her musical education. One day it was Zeppelin, the next was The Beatles. She got everything from Bach to Beastie Boys from me. Somewhere along the line, she discovered bebop jazz, and that became her preferred music. For a good 8 months, that was the only thing she wanted to hear (with the exception of her favorite Siouxsie song).
And that was great, because I like bebop, but I don’t LOVE it. It felt like she’d discovered it on her own. It felt like she claimed a niche that wasn’t mine. Even though she had chosen that music from the choices I had presented, it felt more like she had developed a preference at least semi-independently from me. This spooky fixation, on the other hand, feels at least partially like emulation; she sees what I like and likes it too.
It makes sense for young children to like the same things that their parents do. That’s how cultural identity is established, after all. Child Psychology research is pretty clear that it’s later in development (adolescence in particular) when children begin “splitting off” and rejecting the values of their parents in order to establish independence.
With that in mind, there’s a good chance that my little baby bat will eventually think that Halloween is lame, that goth music is boring, and that not every cave has a baby-eating bear or a vampire in it. While I’m sure that I will feel glad that my daughter is establishing her own identity with the rejection of all things goth, part of me will also miss it, I’m sure. I mean, not-quite-two year old girl running around a Michael’s in October yelling “Haalllloowweeeeeeen!” while picking up every product with a skull, bat and gravestone on it is adorable.
But that’s one of the fundamental paradoxes of parenting, isn’t it? We are proud when our kids are like us, and proud when they are not like us. We can’t wait for them to grow up, but feel nostalgic for when they were younger. We want them to be independent, but feel bad when they don’t need us anymore. We rejoice when they flutter around the house like a bat, but also fret when they sleep hanging upside down from a cave.