Passing on the Gendered Storm

My husband read the “genderless” article on the weekend and insisted I take a look.  He thought it might resonate with me because I have refused to cut my younger son’s hair (he is almost 3) although everyone thinks he is a girl, and I’m utterly indifferent to this.

Take a look I did, but then I put the article down without finishing it.  Truth?  I wasn’t that interested.

Another truth?  I’m glad for my lack of interest.  Glad I don’t have to add this on my list of things to do.

Depending on your own vantage point, I am either an accomplished or aspiring or amateur natural living mom.  Meaning:  in our house, we *try* to eat organic and/or local as much as we can manage, and take pains to cook homemade food.  We often co-sleep, use cloth diapers, natural toothpaste and sunscreen,  don’t watch TV, and avoid plastic, gobs of sugar, and over-stimulation – you get the picture.  Almost invariably, I wish I were doing more to live according to my natural living values.  Almost certainly, I am an overthinker, but prefer this infinitely to underthinking.

How do I feel about gender stereotyping for children?  I think they’re limiting, of course.  My complaint about the scripts for boys (Spiderman, Batman and Star Wars) and girls (Barbies and all things pink) aren’t just that they’re narrow but that they’re so darn unimaginative.  The conformity in commerical childhood is pretty dull.

But – I feel no compulsion to adopt Kathy Witterick’s practice of keeping her child’s sex secret.  I admire her intentionality and obvious commitment to raising her children with as much freedom as she offer, and I can totally identify with these impulses.  But when I give birth to my third child this summer, I will happily announce to the world whether that child has a penis or a vagina.   Undeniably, this biological fact will usher in the societal constructs of gendering with all its boring limitations.

For whatever reasons, I am willing to accept this.  If my son wants to keep wearing his hair long, that’s fine with me.  When my other son asks me to paint his nails, I will.  If I do have a girl, she’s going to look an awful lot like a boy because those are the (gendered) clothes that I’ve been handed down.  But the conventional practice itself – the identification of the baby’s sex – I will follow.

I don’t know why I don’t feel moved by this alternative choice as I am with so many others.  Maybe because for most of us, our genitalia is an unambiguous biological reality, and because the difficulties of societal gendering are so prevalent that even if you do knock off a couple million of those messages, as Witterick hopes to do, there are zillions more that must be dealt with.

Whatever the reasons, I’m glad that I don’t feel compelled to adopt another non-mainstream item to my list.  It’s hard enough to find tasty organic grapes.

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Maybe Not Such A Wack-A-Doodle After All

I always seem to be behind the curve.  Not quite sure what to make of Doc Martens or slouchy hospital pants, chunky streaks or rollerblading– that is how I would best define my teen-aged years.  I watched as friends tried on the newest fads and sometimes I would join in, but mostly, I was a spectator.

As a parent, not much has changed.  When I first read the Toronto Star’s recent article about the “genderless” baby, Storm, I couldn’t help but sigh.  I don’t get it.  It seems to me, that the envelope for provocative parenting was just pushed that much further.

My children have generic names – centuries old and the five of us share the same last name.  They were born in a hospital and I was on lots of drugs.  We sleep in our own beds, and they call me “mom”.  I didn’t breastfeed them until they could eat a steak nor did I forgo the stroller for exclusive baby wearing.  We try to eat organic food but sometimes McDonalds is just easier.  We like supporting our local stores but a Costco shop is akin to retail therapy.  The craziest things get around here is when friends stop by, drink too much pinot, and stumble home.  Maybe one day it will be hip to be square?

Storm’s parents are free to do what ever they feel is best for their children, providing no laws are broken.  Who is to say what is best?  Don’t we all impose our ideologies on our children?  Whether we clothe them in a Che Guevara onesie or let them express their inner sartorialist, we are ultimately raising them in accordance of values and principles that we, as their parents, hold dear.

To be honest, after reading the names of the three children: Jazz, Kio and Storm, I knew that I would not agree with much that these parents are choosing for their children and my guess is that Storm’s parents would feel the same way if they met me.

That is, until I read Storm’s mother Kathy Witterick’s, thoughtful and articulate response to the media outcry.  It made me wish that she, in her own words, had been the one to share Storm’s story with the world.

In an instant, I could identify with her vulnerability.  And truly what mother can’t?  She is struggling to be supportive of her children and their decisions.  She is anxious for her children because she knows that there is only so much and for so long that she can shelter her children from the harsh realities of life.  This rings true for me.

It seems to me that the real story is less about raising a genderless baby but more about raising children who do not conform to the society’s defined gender roles.  More so, it’s about holding firm to the ideals that you as a parent want to uphold.  And that, regardless of your ideals, is a challenge in and of its self.  Any parent can attest to that.

Could I do what Kathy and Dave have chosen for their family?  No.  Do I think what they are doing is right?  No more than what I think I am doing is right.  Because in the end, we’re all just trying our best to raise confident, respectful, contributing members of society.  Or at least that’s what we should be doing.

What do you think about this Storm of controversy?  You must have an opinion – share it with us.

Photo credit: http://www.blippitt.com