Finding the funny in parenthood before somebody loses an eye...

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Weird Parenting: Raising a Gender-Free Child

I am considering instituting a weekly segment called "Weird Parenting." (You know, just a little place where I can weekly judge people...)

The second installation in the news of "Weird Parenting" (I won't talk about the first one last week because I refuse to give her any more attention) are the parents of 4 month old "Storm" - Kathy Witterick and David Stocker of Toronto, Canada.

They refuse to disclose Storm's gender.

I can understand wanting to shirk traditional pink and blue baby blankets - not draping a child in gender from the beginning. And personally, I never bought into a tiny worm as a quarterback or needing a headband.

But by choosing to deny Storm gender until Storm can choose for Storm's self, are they setting Storm up for a wholly different kind of labeling?  Can you avoid labels simply by ignoring them or do you simply leave room for something else to fill the "label" void.

The father was quoted as saying "Parents make so many choices for their child it's obnoxious..."   Like gender?   Is "facilitating" your child's gender "obnoxious"?   Is it "presumptuous" of us to project manhood or womanhood onto a baby simply because of genitalia?  To prepare them to find a place in society?   Isn't that what we do as parents? 

I'm not saying the child has to "conform." I am ALL for not conforming to societies "expectations."
But is gender and the role that comes with gender ALL about conforming?  Sure some of it is - I suppose a lot of it is - hence feminism.  But certainly not all of gender is about conforming.  I see gender as a way we define ourselves TO ourselves.   How we identify with others around us, and how we choose role models for ourselves.  I don't think allowing a child their gender means trapping them in it - certainly not anymore.

And aren't they making a choice right now for Storm?   Sure, it's nice for Storm to choose (oy) Storm's friends based on whom Storm prefers. Sure Storm is free to dress as Storm likes without society casting aspersions.

But taking away Storm's gender altogether?  What are they really giving Storm?

The older son, Jazz, is free to choose hair length, clothing style and books and clothing and absent of any input from his parents he has chosen to wear lots of pink.  Okay.   Good for him.  The "consequences"?   People assume he's a girl - and the parents don't correct them.  And I believe that would all be well and good for the boy EXCEPT for the fact that when Jazz was asked if was bothered by the fact that people assume he's a girl he "nodded."

So it begs the question, "How can a child have any idea what it means to be a "boy" or a "girl" if they never "understand" how society perceives a boy or "girl?  Jazz doesn't go to a conventional school (he is "unschooled") so he doesn't have peers to emulate.  If his parents don't show him how to be seen as a "boy" how will he learn?  Don't get me wrong - I'm NOT saying to push blue trucks and sharks on the kid when he doesn't like them - I am SIMPLY asking the question.

Personally, it seems like the parents are denying that child something the child needs.   It's valid and real for a parent to want to help a child learn to define himself but are these parents sending the message that being a boy means nothing?  But the reality is that the boy is saying it means something to him.  Isn 't THAT  valid too?

But he remains without guidance; He is a ship without an oar; a boat without a rudder; a man without a penis (metaphorically speaking of course...)

I think an altogether different and unintentional lesson is being taught here.  Rather than raising individuals who are free to choose what they want - in the absence of any role modeling for either gender - these children will most likely not have the skills to become what they want.  Sure they can become "individuals."  But are the parents robbing them of the right to take their place in society?

I personally think traditional roles can be hot - for both men and women.  Mind you, I'm not saying conformity is hot - I'm saying I think GENDER is hot.  And I do believe it has a place in how we attract partners, interact with our peers and ultimately find happiness - whether with a member of the same sex or not.   It's what drives us in our search for love.  Say what you want, but in the game of love VERY few people fall in love JUST with the internal parts of a person.  Most people will agree, it's the external parts (and how they use them) that seal the deal.

I'm not judging here...Oh right, I am...

Anyway, I wonder what it will be like to date Storm in 20 years.  Will Storm be manly ? Will Storm be a really hot chick?  Could Storm be either?  And more urgently, will Storm develop an irritating penchant for referring to Storm's self in the first person?

I'm goin' with the ladder.

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