Alyssa Siegel, MS, LPC – Punk Parenting or “Alternafolks”

"She’s been a bad girl and she kissed the witches." by Jan Durina
“She’s been a bad girl and she kissed the witches.” by Jan Durina

I’m not sure that I would say that I fall into the category of punk, though those who don’t know what true punk is might see me as so. I have tattoos. I have my nose pierced. I have had close to every hair color known to hair color at some point in my life. I’m unquestionably liberal. Non traditional yes. But punk, probably not.

Punk to me represents a form of loosely organized chaos. Anarchy represented by a refusal to blindly accept norms whether they be political, social, or artistic. Wait a minute. Maybe I am punk.

Anyway. As I have stated in previous posts, a lot of the clients I work with do not represent mainstream culture. They are activists, radicals, and creatives. Some of them, quite frankly, look a little intimidating or angry. They are vegan chefs and bike messengers and folks who live in community. They are also, quite often, parents. And some of kindest and most thoughtful people I have ever known.

For the purposes of this piece I am going to lay out parents that I think fall into the punk or alternative category. They include but are not limited to; those who “look different”, i.e. are covered with tattoos, those who reject and actively speak and live against traditional societal norms, those who are queer, those who raise their children to be vegan or vegetarian, those who raise their children to question authority, those to send their children to alternative schools such as Village Free School, those who grow their own food, those who raise their children in a home with multiple parental figures including poly partners, single parents, those who reject non-egalitarian or authoritarian parenting styles and rather then rules try to impart knowledge, those who consider parenting a fundamental part of who they are but are not defined by it, etc., etc.

Some folks from punk and radical communities reject bringing children into a world as, well, damaged as this one. Parents are considered selfish, stamped with the term “breeders,” and looked down upon. Others from these same communities see children as being the only hope for a better future and consider raising children to be an act of love and generosity.

In Portland, these kinds of parents are very common. At certain schools, even ones in the public school system, one might even feel that they are the majority. But go elsewhere and the picture looks very different.

I guess the reason I am writing this is because I feel supremely annoyed when people make assumptions that punk parents are not the loving and intentional parents that they are. That because someone is covered in tattoos (yes, even neck tattoos), they don’t read to their child when in fact they are probably the ones that are not only reading to their child but writing, illustrating, and binding a book with them. Not that I do this. I’m not the crafty type.

If you have read my other posts you can probably sense a theme by now. Assumptions and judgements = bad. Variety and acceptance = good. Children need love. What the person giving it to them looks like or how they live their life makes no difference at all. Truly.

Alyssa Siegel, MS, LPC, CGAC II

First published on Alyssa’s counseling blog on January 03, 2013.

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