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Monday, May 23, 2011

Genderless Child Being Raised By Brainless Parents

A story of a father and a mother and their innocent child that will ultimately suffer as a result of their stupidity.

From ParentCentral.ca: Parents Keep Child's Gender Secret
“So it’s a boy, right?” a neighbour calls out as Kathy Witterick walks by, her four month old baby, Storm, strapped to her chest in a carrier.

Each week the woman asks the same question about the baby with the squishy cheeks and feathery blond hair.

She’s used to it. The neighbours know Witterick and her husband, David Stocker, are raising a genderless baby. But they don’t pretend to understand it.

While there’s nothing ambiguous about Storm’s genitalia, they aren’t telling anyone whether their third child is a boy or a girl.

The only people who know are Storm’s brothers, Jazz, 5, and Kio, 2, a close family friend and the two midwives who helped deliver the baby in a birthing pool at their Toronto home on New Year’s Day.

“When the baby comes out, even the people who love you the most and know you so intimately, the first question they ask is, ‘Is it a girl or a boy?’” says Witterick, bouncing Storm, dressed in a red-fleece jumper, on her lap at the kitchen table.

“If you really want to get to know someone, you don’t ask what’s between their legs,” says Stocker. [who in the world does that? What planet are these people from? And how can anyone "get to know" a newborn infant? They don't exactly emerge with opinions and preferences. Asking the child's gender is a natural question, not a societal construct.]

When Storm was born, the couple sent an email to friends and family: “We've decided not to share Storm's sex for now — a tribute to freedom and choice in place of limitation, a stand up to what the world could become in Storm's lifetime (a more progressive place? ...).”

Their announcement was met with stony silence. Then the deluge of criticisms began. Not just about Storm, but about how they were parenting their other two children.

The grandparents were supportive, but resented explaining the gender-free baby to friends and co-workers. They worried the children would be ridiculed. Friends said they were imposing their political and ideological values on a newborn. Most of all, people said they were setting their kids up for a life of bullying in a world that can be cruel to outsiders.

Witterick and Stocker believe they are giving their children the freedom to choose who they want to be, unconstrained by social norms about males and females. Some say their choice is alienating.

At four months old, it's far too early in Storm's life to definitively state that the kid is harmed. But wait a few years. Because it appears the older brothers are set upon a path of eventual catastrophe.

“What we noticed is that parents make so many choices for their children. It’s obnoxious,” says Stocker.

Jazz and Kio have picked out their own clothes in the boys and girls sections of stores since they were 18 months old. Just this week, Jazz unearthed a pink dress at Value Village, which he loves because it “really poofs out at the bottom. It feels so nice.” The boys decide whether to cut their hair or let it grow.

Like all mothers and fathers, Witterick and Stocker struggle with parenting decisions. The boys are encouraged to challenge how they’re expected to look and act based on their sex.

Here's a description of Jazz, the five year old:

Jazz — soft-spoken, with a slight frame and curious brown eyes — keeps his hair long, preferring to wear it in three braids, two in the front and one in the back, even though both his parents have close-cropped hair. His favourite colour is pink, although his parents don’t own a piece of pink clothing between them. He loves to paint his fingernails and wears a sparkly pink stud in one ear, despite the fact his parents wear no nail polish or jewelry.
And here's a new one - the parents are proponents of a movement called "unschooling":

Witterick practices unschooling, an offshoot of home-schooling centred on the belief that learning should be driven by a child’s curiosity. There are no report cards, no textbooks and no tests. For unschoolers, learning is about exploring and asking questions, “not something that happens by rote from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. weekdays in a building with a group of same-age people, planned, implemented and assessed by someone else,” says Witterick. The fringe movement is growing. An unschooling conference in Toronto drew dozens of families last fall.

The kids have a lot of say in how their day unfolds. They decide if they want to squish through the mud, chase garter snakes in the park or bake cupcakes.

Okay - so they're kinda goofy in a lot of ways. Is that the new normal in Canada?

Every child, in one way or another, is subject to the ideological viewpoints of their parents. We're all screwed up to one degree or another, in spite of our parents' best intentions, or even due to the lack of any intentional parenting whatsoever. How we are raised has an impact upon on how we turn out as adults. It doesn't mean that Who We Are or How We Act is set in stone, but how we're raised affects us greatly.

But when it comes to not identifying the sex of the child - to the child itself (and granted, at four months, it makes little or no difference to the child) - in my opinion, puts undue burden on the child, and forces everyone else into accepting the parents' ideology. Storm's parents are more interested in proving a point at the expense of their son/daughter, rather than identify him/her as such. Has history proven that to be a harmful thing? Isn't it possible to rise above the stereotypes they seem so fearful of, while still announcing Storm's gender? Maybe they're weaker people than they seem to be, if they're incapable of doing so.

Hopefully the kids will turn out okay. Hopefully they won't come to resent the way they were raised - if they're being raised at all. I'm all for letting kids make decisions for themselves at an age-appropriate level, but the tenor of the article suggests that the parents are permitting much too much freedom.

They've jettisoned the societal norms of 'parenthood' here - and I fear nothing good will come of it. Time will tell.