It’s a ?!

Somehow I missed the media frenzy over Storm–an infant whose sex is being kept confidential by his/her family. I’m glad I missed the coverage because I was able to read this response to the media from Kathy Witterick, the child’s mother, without having any time to form an opinion first.

Honestly, I know it’s not popular, but I’m impressed that they’re doing this.

One of the advantages of adopting our boys was that we didn’t have, or at least I didn’t think we had, preconceived notions of who our children would be. We didn’t expect that our son would be a musician like my husband or a book hoarder like me. We didn’t fret that G or O may have picked up some of the malfunctioning genes from our combined pools. They came to us already formed, with experiences and memories and personalities, so we had the joy of sitting back and watching them show us who they were.

Or, at least, I thought we did. If I’m honest, though we didn’t make assumptions about them based on who we were, we did make a lot of assumptions based on biological sex. Particularly with G, we expected that we were going to have to learn to navigate the world of sports, make trips to the ER to get him stitched up on occasion, learn Pokemon jargon, and get used to stepping on legos in the middle of the night. I never imagined I’d be trying to remember princess names, learn dance moves, or feel the sharp heel of a Barbie shoe on the bottom of my foot during a midnight trip to the bathroom. Had we waited, just a bit, to buy the soccer balls and paint the room blue, if we hadn’t made assumptions about his gender, we could have avoided a lot of his (and our) struggle.

In other words, we had to let go of a lot before we could really see what he was trying to tell us about himself.

I think we’re doing a better job with O. At least I hope we are. Yesterday afternoon he was Sharpay (from High School Musical) complete with a blond wig. At dinner he and his (adorable, pig-tailed, girly girl) friend A were kung fu fighters.

What we could all learn from the Witterick family is to let our kids define themselves, to discover their own likes and dislikes, to explore the whole wonderful world of color and experiences without letting cultural stereotypes get their influence too soon. It will happen eventually. The larger culture will present itself and Storm will or won’t be gender-typical in his or her interests, but the point is that Storm will or won’t be gender-typical no matter what color the nursery or what characters adorn his or her pajamas. The only difference is that Storm will have the advantage of telling the world who he or she is instead of the other way around.

3 Responses to It’s a ?!

  1. karen says:

    I think the kind of recognition that children will show us who they are and we do them a disservice with pre-conceived notions of who we expect they will be and who “society” or cultural norms expect they will be regarding gender is a breath of fresh air. I hope this rational understanding of gender and children’s identities becomes the rule rather than the exception. Thank you for this blog post

  2. I think that in an ideal world this would be true–how wonderful would it be if we made no assumptions about our kids until they told us who they were? But the reality of raising a gender-nonconforming boy is that parents are already blamed for “making” them different. If I had raised my children the way Storm’s parents did, I might worry that I caused my son’s differences myself.

    I do applaud Storm’s parents for questioning gender stereotypes in the world–but in a way I hope that the results of this experiment are that Storm is completely gender-normative, so that what the world sees is not that parents “make” their kids different, but that kids are who they are, regardless of parental influence.

    • Sophia Cairn says:

      I hear you, but I think that it’s a losing battle for us moms no matter what we do. At least from a media standpoint, isn’t it always the mom’s fault–no matter what the issue is? In addition to creating a pink boy, I’ve also been blamed for G’s Tourette Syndrome (I ‘rewarded’ him for vocal tics by giving him gum) and his recurrent ear infections (somehow I was supposed to have gotten him breast milk… despite the fact that he was 1200 miles away from me for the first year of his life). And, I did worry a lot that I caused my son’s gender issues. (Actually I blamed his uncle who bought all things pink and Dora in an effort to torment my husband.) It was only through watching his little brother grow up, with way more freedom in the toy and clothing departments than G ever had, that I finally understood that kids come with their own likes and dislikes. I don’t know that people who haven’t lived it are going to have an easy time understanding.

      That said, I’m also not-so-secretly hoping that Storm will be male and gender normative. It would be nice to have a check mark in the nature column on this issue!

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