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.