In any case, a promise is a promise, and I do remember what struck me about the goth moms that day. I was monitoring Max at the time as he worked in rapid fire fashion through the various elements of the playground--climbing, digging, running, yelling...the usual. At some point, my ears started picking up some of the goth mom conversation, and I was enlightened by the utterances of one mom in particular, who had clearly been putting plenty of thought into how a goth mom comes off to other non-goth moms.
In particular, this mom was talking about her concerted efforts to tone down her gothness in and around schools. I'm not sure if this was a current issue for her, or if she was planning for one day down the line. But as she articulated her realization that her appearance could be off-putting to other moms, I couldn't help but appreciate her self-awareness. And that appreciation quickly morphed into my own increased awareness of the kinds of issues alternative moms (and dads!) must contend with, especially the societal judgments that come in the form of disapproving looks, unwelcome comments, and a widespread assumption that parents are supposed to trade in their youthful philosophies and become--gasp!--adults once they have children.
Let's face it--goth types face much of this stuff even without kids, much the way hippies, punks, glam-rockers and hip-hopsters did in their heydays. But when one adds parenting to their list of duties, they find themselves forced into intimate settings with people they'd otherwise stay far away from--whether that's interacting with other parents during drop-off and pick-up from school, participating in early childhood classes, organizing play dates...you name it. Even someone like me, who's a pretty "normal" guy, often finds himself sitting beside, talking to, or even exchanging phone numbers with people I couldn't stomach in another setting, all because I happen to have sired offspring. And you know what? My life is much richer for having not only welcomed and embraced those interactions, but even formed some highly unexpected friendships.
Something tells me the goth moms that day will one day feel the same--if they don't already, and clearly the mom I overheard is well on her way. Hopefully, she and her friends will continue to remain true to who they are, raise their children in an alternative way, and proudly fly their freak flags for all to see. But the truth is, it's hard to maintain one's "freak" status for long after having children. And it's not just that the world around you wants you to conform--it's that there's no time. Raising children is such a round-the-clock proposition that once you factor it in along with running a household and making a living, it's nearly impossible to remain the person you've always been. Instead, you evolve into the parenting version of you--you know, the one that looks and sounds a lot more like your own parents than you'd have ever imagined possible.
Who's got time to spend hours in a salon getting that latest tat when there are diapers to be changed and laundry to be washed? How does one get their multi-colored mohawk just right when there are parks to visit and dinner to get on the table? And once the kids are in bed, all those dreams of leaving them with a sitter while you go out and relive your youthful nights at the clubs quickly dissolve amid the fog of exhaustion. Just ask me about my 50-dollars-a-night jazz career, which I really had little choice but to tank once I became a dad.
This is what's so awesome about my neighborhood, which is filled with parents who are partiers at their core. Our solution? Bring the party to us, with an almost endless stream of fire pits and similar get-togethers that allow us all to fly our admittedly mellowed freak flags in small doses, all without venturing more than a few feet from our homes. Sometimes, these events are kid-friendly, sometimes not.
It's not exactly what Barry Commoner had in mind during his futile 1984 presidential bid, but it's certainly similar in spirit. If that goth mom happens to read this, she's welcome to bring her bad ol' goth self to any of our gatherings. And she won't have to tone down her look one bit.
By the way, if you're interested in getting to know this goth mom better, head over to the blog she writes for, Offbeat Mama. Her handle is Hunny Du. (And the blog in general is fabulous anyway.)