Some people will tell you that having a new born child is a great time, 100% wonderful and that you are lucky.
That’s… that’s not the whole truth.
When you have a child you lose time, sleep and routine. Even the most fearless person is now terrified for the future and there is a surprising amount of competitive judgement. The things you used to do are not beyond you but there are restrictions. Depression, anxiety, suicide and even homicide are a higher risk within the first few years of parenting. With a child you hit the ground running. Nothing fully prepares you because every child is different. When that baby takes its first breath you are no longer who you were, you are someone else.
Okay quick disclaimer that the point of this little rant isn’t to put people off having children. It’s to highlight that having children changes and challenges you in ways you are rarely told about. It’s not all bad, quite the contrary. Parents get to see a factory fresh human being experience everything for the first time. You become a teacher, a nurse a butler an expert crisis manager and an entertainer. It’s awesome because you learn things and do things you have never considered before. Its stressful because to be all these things you need to shift your own identity and you run the risk of losing it completely.
The normal reaction to a sudden loss of identity and feeling vulnerable is to attempt to return to a previous self. This clumsy attempt never ends well and can be disruptive to growth. Brene Brown calls this the birthplace of creativity but acknowledges that it’s a time that we feel our most vulnerable. What is accepted as best practice is to sit with the experience of loss and change. Grieve but plan ahead. Adapt and survive. This is difficult to do and takes time. We often “relapse” and attempt to revisit who we were, and that’s okay so long as we eventually advance to a new self. In this metalhead’s opinion you need multiple identities to be a parent and you need to keep shifting between these identities for your own wellbeing.
“I watched a change in you. Its like you never had wings. And you feel so alive”
-Deftones. Change in the House of Flies.
I have had a chaotic life with few actual constants and have had to be so many different people to survive. Metal has woven thread-like through each and every one of my identities for as long as I can remember. Ben the child had AC/DC blasting on his drive to school. Angry Ben the teenager had Slipknot getting him through his A-Levels. Ben the student howled along to Korn at the Kambar in Cambridge and Ben the psych nurse was still writing care plans in his head while watching Rage Against the Machine at Download. As long as I have it I can endure change. Almost like a faith.
Ben the father needed metal. It was something familiar. Something that in the past had been a constant. When my daughter was born I made a conscious effort to hold on to it and incorporate it into my parenting style.
It started prenatal. I played metal to my daughter when she was in the womb. Worked too, Devin Townsend’s March of the Poozers could put her to sleep when she was new born. As she was mobile we had dance time and for that we would spin around the room to System, Machinehead and Foo Fighters. I play metal in the car instead of lame ass nursery rhymes about the plague or kings eating pie. I also sing to her my own acapella versions of Nirvana and System of a Down. It’s rare that I get to gig’s but when I do they are more exiting. I’m even planning to take her to the surprisingly child friendly Bloodstock next year.
Total side-track but; AC/DC is really easy for kids to get into. Lyrically the composition of AC/DC songs are similar to nursery rhymes and the song title repeated is often the chorus.
I also infuse in my daughter the values that I find in metal. She is told she is pretty, but more importantly she is told that being strong, kind, brave and picking herself and others up is important. I let her cry, scream and feel angry but then reflect on why and vocalise what upsets her because that’s what metal lets me do.
Metal has been a familiar thing to help me transition to new identities. Metal has been inspiration and a medium for my child’s development.
Metal is awesome.
Ben Ryan BSc Mental Health Studies, ex nurse RMN and changer of nappies.