Ridiculous or ultra-enlightened? A Toronto couple's decision to keep the gender of their 4-month-old baby a secret has touched off a fierce debate over how far parents should go in protecting young ones from society's boy-girl biases.
Kathy Witterick and David Stocker recently landed on the front page of the Toronto Star, explaining that they hope their third child, Storm, can remain untouched by the connotations of pink vs. blue, male vs. female, long enough to make up his or her own mind.
The decision has online haters and supporters of the family on hyperdrive. Child development experts, meanwhile, question the impact on the cherubic infant later in life and whether the couple has gone too far in their quest for gender neutrality.
"This is not a secret without consequences," said Mike Brody, a child psychiatrist in Washington, D.C., and instructor at the University of Maryland. "This seems more controlling than the helicopter parents."
Soon after the baby was born, in a pool of water at home, Witterick, 38, and Stocker, 39, sent an e-mail announcing to loved ones: "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? …)."
Storm's two older siblings — both on-the-record boys — know the baby's gender, along with a close family friend and the midwives who delivered him.
Witterick "unschools" her children. It's home schooling based on a no report card, textbook or test philosophy of letting kids explore the world for themselves.