For five years, Tomas Moniz has been producing the Rad Dad Zine, which seeks to bridge the gap between punk, politics and parenting. With a wide range of contributors, it offers varied insights on parenting situations both traditional and outside the norm.
This year saw the release of the book Rad Dad - Dispatches from the Frontiers of Fatherhood. A "best of" compilation of contributions to the zine over the years, the book is a collection of insights and inspiration for the punk rock papa.
We connected with Moniz to find out a little more on his perspective toward punk and parenting.
RC: First off, tell us a little bit about your "parenting background." How old are your kids and how old were you when they were born?
TM: My kids are older now - 21, 16 and 14 - I was a young parent when they were born. I was 21. And because I was a really young parent I think it’s really important to support and nurture and encourage young parents in our communities, particularly teen parents.
RC: Parenting and punk rock. Where do they meet?
TM: Although I came to punk after I was a parent, my experience has been one where there weren’t a lot of parents involved in the punk community. That’s changing and it can be a very powerful and empowering connection.
RC: And you've said you view parenting as a political/social action. What does that mean?
TM: It means the reality that our choices have implications… so how we choose to raise our children is intimately connected with our political values. From the toys we may purchase to the traditions we celebrate to the food we might eat - one of the nice things about parenting is it also forces us to expand and learn to work with other people who may not see things the way we do, to have conversations make collaborations with other adults we don’t know and interestingly enough with other children because they are autonomous individuals and have personalities of their own as well.
RC: Have you ever found a time where your political ideals and your parenting ideology have clashed?
TM: Every f**king day.
RC: How long ago did you start doing Rad Dad? What made you want to start producing the zine?
TM: About six years ago. I was going through a difficult time with my then teenage son, and reaching out for information that didn’t repeat the same conversation around punishment and discipline all the books were talking about. Then I discovered The Future Generation by China Martens, a zine about parenting and anarchism. It changed everything. I wrote a letter, she answered, and then I just started a zine for fathers to talk about fathering in meaningful, feminist, anarchist ways. I started the zine I longed to read.
RC: A lot of us got our starts in print zines, but a lot of us went digital - you're still doing print issues. Where does the appeal for that lie for you?
TM: I actually don’t believe the zine/blog dichotomy is antithetical. Blogs are cool. They serve their purpose. But zines; there’s something sexy about zines, something private and personal which a blog will never have. In fact, one of the main contributors to Rad Dad found a copy of it on BART! He read it and then became a key contributor. How beautiful is that! You will never find a blog in a park or shake hands and exchange blogs at a punk show.
RC: And now your kids are teenagers, you still move forward producing a zine on parenting advice. What about continuing is most important to you?
TM: I think there is an unfortunate gap between parents with young kids and parents with other ones. I hope to offer a bridge; I know it was so important to me to find people like China Martens who had gone through what I was about to. She survived and lived to tell the tale and to pass on her stories. I hope that I and the thousands of other parents out there with experiences to share can be there as new parents come on in - in fact someday, I’d like to pass it on to someone else to continue the project…. you interested?
RC: When you're putting together an issue of Rad Dad, what sort of insight are you looking for? What sort of message are you trying to send?
TM: I look for honesty; I look for people being vulnerable; I try to avoid too many pieces that sound preachy…it’s a zine about the struggle it’s not a zine about the answers… Unfortunately, it's still work to fill a whole issue. Sometimes I get lots of wonderful submissions, and sometimes I'm begging and pleading and finding people on Facebook and asking them to write for it. I think about the gaps, the things that haven't been addressed, and kind of go for them. I haven't had a lot of young parents in the last few issues and I would really love young, 20-year-old or teen parents to write, although as someone who was once in that realm I know how incredibly overwhelmed you can be.
RC: What lesson do you think that parents who were never into punk could learn from it?
TM: As someone who was on the margins of the punk scene, what I got from it like so many others was the belief that I could do it myself, and I could do it with others. I didn’t need to wait I could just do and even if I failed, I could learn by making those failures public. So as I put out early issues I got lots of feedback from other radical parents that made me rethink the zine, that made it better and me better. I think punk has always thrived at creating community!
RC: What overlying message about parenting would you like to give parents - punk or otherwise?
TM: Trust yourself! One of the best interviews in the book comes from Ian MacKaye and he said it so simply, parenting is f**king natural. It is. Make your kids a priority. Make your community kid friendly. Reach out to other parents - especially fathers. Fathers should reach out to each other, even if it’s just a smile in the grocery story. Trust yourself. Trust each other!