Yesterday, while waiting for the school bus, my daughter took out a pad and started drawing a "spookie" car. "A zombie lives in it," she said. "And if you go in there, too you'll never come out." Of course, this was just one of the many signs I'm raising a goth child. I mean, this entire exchange was very much her brand. The other day I caught her lovingly rocking a baby doll as she sang, "Go to sleep, little vampire."
I run a bit goth myself, but it's not like I ever taught my daughter anything about vampires or zombies or the like. She just picked it up somewhere and latched on hard. Sometimes people ask if I'm worried about her fascination with the macabre but, honestly, I'm not at all. I think it's great! Personally I think kids can benefit from a little bit of darkness — certainly we babies of the '80s and '90s are no worse for the wear after a childhood of Roald Dahl stories (The Witches was all about women who wanted to magically murder children and Anjelica Huston's prosthetics in that movie were horrifying, but we survived.)
An early attraction to the mildly disturbing lets kids explore things that really are scary in a safe way and, as a result, prepares them to cope in a world that skips over goth into plain old terrifying and unfair. So, is your child a tiny goth? Here are some signs:
They Love Spooky Stuff
Does your child pick Nightmare Before Christmas or Coraline over The Lion King? Do they want a skeksis doll for Christmas? Do they linger wistfully in the Halloween decoration aisle at Target and ask if they can have the unicorn skull night light? If so, you might just have a little goth baby on your hands.
Whether they're playing a rousing dress up game of Witch Princess (a witch who is also a princess and uses her dark powers to conquer her enemies!) or throw themselves onto a fainting couch during a tantrum like a heroine in a Victorian melodrama, they don't do anything half-way. They pursue everything with commitment and panache.
They May Be Low-Key Obsessed With Death
This can, reasonably, be a source of worry for parents. Death is an extremely difficult topic for adults to discuss, so when those adults see little kids staring at dead bugs on the window sill or bringing up dead family members a lot or, in my daughter's case, talking about how our dearly departed cat "lives in his hole as a skeleton now," it's concerning, even though it's also very normal.
A child's understanding of death begins around age 4, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, and then develops over time. In an article for The New York Times, Dr. Sally Hunter, a clinical assistant professor at University of Tennessee, suggests that child's non-anxious curiosity about death can even be encouraged by doing things like going on a tour of a cemetery and making rubbings of the tombstones.
Their Costume Game Is On Point
A huge component of #gothlife is the aesthetics and wardrobe. So, as such, little goth kids are really into playing dress up and, when they can swing it, their imaginary alter-egos are off the hook.
(Besides, it's hard to find dark Victorian dresses in children's sizes for everyday wear and, moreover, fancy clothing is a bad mix.)
Thinking outside of the box and exploring inner and created worlds others have never even dreamed of is par for the course with goth kids. For example, I have a friend whose daughter's imaginary friends are misbehaving magic snakes. That's goth AF and also so powerfully creative in a way that a non-goth adult could never be. May that child never change.
They Don't Scare Easily
My kid used to run up and hug the grotesque, bloody ghoul decorating a neighbor's yard for Halloween. She loved it. She cries every year when our own Halloween decorations — realistic looking skeletons and skulls, mostly — come down for the season. She doesn't shy away from blood (real or pretend) or anything designed to scare people. Goth kids are a bold bunch.
Their Emotions Are Big
What kind of neo-Romantic tragic hero would they be if they weren't emotional AF, right?! You need to feel everything super big because, as we all know, there's an extremely fine line between Emo and Goth.
Their Toys Aren't Necessarily Typical
It's not that they don't like typical kid toys, but maybe they also have some weird stuff they've attached to. My daughter's favorite toy on the planet is a very scary doll named "Rebecca" which, I have no doubt, will murder me and make it look like an accident if I'm ever mean to her.
They Are Excellent Potion Makers
To be fair, this is all children, because f you don't spend the majority of your time between the ages of 4 and 10 making "potions" with water, leaves, dirt and sticks then by God, what were you doing with your life?
They'll Always Defend The Unloved
It's one of the more beautiful aspects of any goth — they're extremely empathic. They see the beauty and value in things other people find creepy. But spiders are our friends and snakes are fascinating and bats? Why bats are just adorable flying mouse-puppies, aren't they?
And it's not just animals, either. A goth kid knows that there's nothing wrong with being a little different and will always offer a sympathetic shoulder and hand to hold for people who maybe feel like they don't belong or fit in.
They Embrace Black
I mean, obviously.