Before I had children, I believed that gender was a construction and that the ways in which boys and girls relate to the world, design their play, react to stimuli, and spend their growth energies had more to do with nurture than nature.

Boys, I knew, could play with dolls and nurture just as girls could play with trucks and be rough and loud and scatalogically amused. These are equally true of men and women.

My first son bore out this hypothesis, adoring ladybugs and glitter, talking incessantly, and nursing his dolls.

My second son tends toward trucks, physical over verbal games, and enjoys rough play way more than I ever thought possible.

They both like pink, dancing, and music, though. So we spend a fair number of hours leaping around the living room. For science.


Yesterday both boys had earned new ballet slippers (by growing, not by any particular behavior; I’m trying not to base our family’s existence around rewards and discipline) and put on their leotards for a dance party. After I helped the little guy into his, I went to the kitchen to get something and heard:

“Now that you have your leotard on, try to hit me.”

I reminded everyone that dancing in our house means hands to yourself. (I’m thinking very clearly with every parenting choice about the rules we’ll have in high school, so dancing with hands to yourself starts now, with your brother. Otherwise, Kevin Bacon wins.)

“Okay okay, okay,” my oldest reassured me.
“Butter. Use your ballet slippers to try to kick me.”

I’ve spent a lot of time during my life with a lot of ballerinas, from tiny rec center trainees to honest-to-goodness professional metropolitan company members. And I have heard a lot of sentences begin with “Now that you have your leotard on…” and “Use your ballet slippers to try to…” but these particular hitting and kicking constructions are new to me.

Let me note the obvious caveat about sample size and repeatability of results. None of this is enough for an actual hypothesis yet.

But the evidence is leaning me toward a “ballerinos are an entirely different group of artists” theory.

14 thoughts on “Ballerinos

  1. As long as no one kicks anyone with tap shoes on, I feel like everyone’s winning. Aura stepped on my toe by accident the other day–while shod in taps–and the world went silent, as it is apt to do when you are deafened by extreme pain.

    This boy-girl thing is fascinating to me. We tried, with some measure of diligence, to not force any girly-girlness on Aura. She played with trucks, sometimes in fairy wings, often in a hard hat. Yet given how different Jax is from his sister after only nine months of outside life, I can’t imagine what he will do, or how we will turn out. He exhausts me so that I’m thinking I’ll just cage him and observe his behaviors that way. Then I can write a pioneering study on caged children and gender constructs.

    I’ll be sure to remember you in the acknowledgements, this post being my inspiration and all.

    • I burst into tears the day a close friend, whose daughter is one day older than my son, said, “She spent hours rearranging her dolls and made me sit and watch.” I all but screamed, “YOU SAT DOWN TODAY?”

      The energy level of my two boys, with no assumptions about the role their Y chromosome plays in that, is OUTsane.

  2. Oh how I could write a response to this. Having a boy allergic to ballet, a daughter in love with ballet and a daughter willing to acknowledge ballet while at the same time assuring me it’s not her “style.” Also, well, I take ballet, too, and for a very long time identified as a dancer above all else. But then, I digress. Or rather, I didn’t have a point to digress from. The gist of my response is, I guess, YUP.

    • Did your daughters or you ever incorporate martial arts into ballet? Thought not. Grace, sure. Experimentation with movement, yes. Rigid adherence to boundaries set by a rather formulaic artform? Absolutely. But kicking and hitting? Um…

  3. I have two boys and I think this is EXACTLY how their ballet dancing would go. The constant motion and aggressive tendencies is exhausting. Constant motion. Always moving, moving, moving. And I too thought we condition gender, but my boys have taught me otherwise!!! Very funny post:)

    • What is up with the hitting? Have a stick? Hit bushes, trees, people. Have an umbrella? Hit bushes, trees, people. Have a tennis racquet? Hit bushes, trees, people. Have an empty hand? Hit bushes, trees, people.
      No wonder someone invented boxing. And wrestling. And fencing.

      • You just described my world. My ten month old is already engaged in wrestling, hitting, and biting the three year old. We walk home with a stick and the older boy hitting every surface. For science as you said. I try to teach him why the sounds are different. He won’t touch pink, but also likes to dance. In circles and then running and bouncing off me and furniture. Exhausted!

        • Where to draw the boundaries? I’m killing myself explaining that we have to be gentle with each other and with other living things.

          But what’s left to hit and kick and bite? Rocks?


  4. Your kid is rocking the clown hair. Just sayin’.
    My house is filled with wands, princess dresses, crows, ballet slippers, and nary a truck. I fought, I fought the good fight, and I lost. The Princess Complex overpowered me.

    • Better women than I have fought and lost the princess fight. A wise, wise family I know talks to their girls about princesses are fair and kind, else they would get to keep their post. Birds, they say, wouldn’t befriend Cinderella if she weren’t gentle and good. And done putting away her toys. ;-)

  5. Ballerinos love to do kung fu! Kung fu fighting, ballerinos fast as lightning…

    But the hands to yourself thing while dancing is very necessary. Yep, you got to plan ahead.

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