Meet X, c. 2011.

Last week, the internet universe erupted with the story of baby Storm. Storm’s parents, Kathy Witterick and David Stocker, have decided not to share Storm’s sex with anyone outside a small circle of people, most of whom were present at Storm’s birth, until such time as Storm and the family are ready to share.

Needless to say, the internet loves a controversy. First reported in the Toronto Star, Storm’s story has been featured in newspapers, blogs and twittered about around the world.

I admit, upon reading this story, that my first reaction was to be disturbed by the family’s choice. Even I, a child of the 1970s, whose gender consciousness was formed almost exclusively through repeated exposure to Free To Be, You and Me*, was confused. This just seemed like a truly difficult and uncertain means to put into practice something that parents have been trying to do for the last 40 years —  to allow their children to come into their own understanding of who they are, as free as can be from socializing messages of what “boys do” or “girls do”.

As the mother of two boys, I tried (admittedly, not perfectly) to allow them to develop their own understanding of who they were without too much interference. As toddlers and young children, they were allowed to explore, even when that meant wearing purple t-shirts, purple snow suits and kilts, kitchen sets and dishes for birthday presents, and, for a while, renaming obviously male body parts by their understanding of the female equivalents. Both of them played with the idea that it would be better to be a girl than a boy, and eventually came to where they are now. And it occurs to me that Storm’s parents were heavily influenced in their decision not to share Storm’s sex or gender by their experiences in raising his older brother, who undoubtedly went through the same age-appropriate exploration as did my own.

As open minded as we might have tried to be, it never would have occurred to us to present them, to the world, as anything but males.  They are clearly male, and they are both clearly boys, and they are who they are, in both cases, a work in progress. And  upon reading Storm’s story, and being reminded of both X-A Fabulous Child’s Story and Free to be You and Me and all those similar messages which permeated my own childhood,  and all of which were a product of the rise of feminism in the 1960s, it occurred to me that 1970s are long over. Those books, those references — they’re from a different time. Hadn’t we all moved on?

Judging by the outcry over Storm’s parents’ choice, apparently not.

And so, after reading Kathy Witterick’s explanation of her family’s choice in Sunday’s Star, I conclude that theirs is a brave choice. It’s not the one I would have made, but I hope (since I’m still somewhat skeptical) it is the right one for Storm.

*oh yes, and then there was this, which definitely left a mark.

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

At Issue: Storm of Controversy — the “Genderless” Baby

Baby Storm and older brother, Jazz. Credit: Steve Russell, Toronto StarLast week, an article in the Toronto Star about a Toronto family who had decided to keep their third child’s gender a secret made headlines around the world.  Today, baby Storm’s mother, Kathy Witterick, responded to the outcry over the family’s decision.  Reaction to the family’s unorthodox choice has been polarized, with some suggesting that the family is just using Storm to conduct a sociological experiment — one with uncertain consequences. Others have been supportive of the family’s right to raise their children outside the “gender binary“.

Join 4mothers this week as we explore this topic.