I Signed My Son Up For Ballet & This Is Why

Ad failed to load

When you think of ballet classes for preschoolers, you probably picture the light pink leotards and half-dozen fidgety girls standing in front of a mirror. You probably think of tiny buns and sweet little tutus swaying all over the room, doing dances choreographed to songs about princesses and fairies. And in my experience, that's not too far off. Except among the little girls, my son was in the ballet class, looking so serious and so happy to be there.

He didn't wake up one day just randomly asking to do ballet. I was browsing through classes online and when I asked him about dancing, he seemed interested. He already loved to dance. He loved getting silly with me while we listened to music. He vaguely knew what ballet was from watching Angelina Ballerina, and that show has girl and boy dancers. So when I saw the listing for ballet for kids, I figured: Why not? The fact that my son sees himself as a boy had very little to do with it — except for the fact that I thought it'd be stupid not to sign him up solely because of his gender. Besides, he'd already shown equal interest in traditionally "girl" and traditionally "boy" things (and he was already experimenting with gender). Ballet, in my mind, was no different.

Before the class I wasn't sure how he'd do with separating from me and paying attention to someone (and something) else for 40 long minutes, but that was yet another reason I thought ballet could be good for him. Life up to that point had had no structure for him, and I figured ballet was one of those things that's both appropriately structured and requires discipline. (Of course, at his age the discipline was all about listening and trying your best.) I could already picture him scampering around the studio, expressive and exuberant, excited and eager.

Ad failed to load

When it was time for him to go into the dance studio for the first time, a few of the other children were hesitant to leave their parents. Not him though. He followed the teacher, walking on light feet as she had instructed him. I watched through the window as he listened to a story, played follow the leader, and took turns moving in diagonals across the floor. He was so happy. I couldn't help but grin.

Following the first class, we signed him up for the rest of the session and bought him little black leggings and some white t-shirts and these adorably tiny little black ballet shoes. We went to a dance store to get the shoes since we couldn't find any boys' shoes at the big box stores. The man who helped us was so enthusiastic. It marked the first moment I realized that my son might really be a rarity — not only the only boy in his class, but maybe the only little boy at the studio.

Ad failed to load

When we showed him his outfit, he instantly loved it. He didn't care that we had to shop for certain pieces in the girls' department. He was still oblivious to such things. As a boy, most of his pants had been baggy and thick. He loved wearing the leggings and bike shorts we got him. In fact, he still does. My partner and I joke that he's just a little hipster. And I have to admit, I thought he looked so adorable.

Ad failed to load

In class, he got a lot of attention for being a boy. The other moms would tell me how cute they thought it was and how cool that I signed my son up. I hadn't really thought of our decision as novel. It was just a really good fit for him. He's all long-limbed enthusiasm but not expertly coordinated and I hoped that dance would cater to both. While the petite girls in his class could easily jump over the small felt flower his teacher placed in the center of the studio, my son sort of ran up to it, stopped, and heaved himself over with an uncoordinated attempt at a jump. It took him until well after his third birthday to get both feet off the ground at once. It's possible that without ballet, it could have taken longer.

In class, he was able to move freely. He could take up the whole studio with his movements. He had the space to be creative and interpretive. He did as the music instructed — and he did it freely. In ballet, so much of your performance comes from within, and even at a young age, my son had captured that. No one else mattered. He also loved showing off what he'd learned. When he saw his grandparents, he'd very happily demonstrate what he'd been working on. He'd practice at every opportunity.

Ad failed to load

For the last three years, he's continued to be enthusiastic about dance, even when we've taken breaks so that he could try swim lessons and acting classes. He never questioned being the only boy or asked me why he didn't wear a leotard. He just threw himself into the dances and games and stretching. I'd never seen him more focused in my life. The classes were structured perfectly, moving rapidly from activity to activity, repeating the same songs and dances from week to week. He really had a chance to master some of the moves. He started learning some of the terminology. He could demonstrate first position and piques and chasse. My partner and I were so proud.

His joy at learning ballet reinforced that it was the right choice for him, even if it wasn't in the normal wheelhouse of toddler boy activities. I feel like there's this small window in a child's life where they feel really free to try new things without fear of what other people might think. I already see that window closing as he goes to kindergarten. He's suddenly telling me what things are "cool" and even what things are "girl" things. Even if I disagree with labeling things as such, it just proves that he's not immune to what his peers think. I hope that if he continues to enjoy ballet, he'll keep at it, even if his peers might not totally approve. I want him to follow his passions regardless of how "cool" they might be. Ballet may not be his passion. And I'm totally fine with that, but I'm so thankful for all that ballet has taught him thus far. I hope that when someone says ballet is for girls, my son can challenge that idea.

Ad failed to load

When he first started out, he was still unaffected by what his friends thought. His enjoyment of ballet wasn't at all based on what he thought he should like. His enjoyment was obvious, especially when he got to perform in his "observation class," which was the little kids' equivalent of a recital. All the parents were invited into the studio, and we sat against the mirror with our phones out, taking pictures and videos as they worked through all the movements they'd practiced. My son was particularly good at bowing. He would get this proud and serious look on his face. He'd stand a little taller, placing one arm in front of his body and the other behind. Then he'd fold, quickly until his body was parallel to the ground. He always popped back up with a grin on his face. The girls would curtsy, my son would bow. And it was the only thing boys did differently.

Images Courtesy of Olivia Hinebaugh (5)

Ad failed to load
Must Reads

Umm, Toys "R" Us Has A BOGO 50 Percent Off Deal So You Better Stock Up

After the holidays, you were probably hoping that your kid's massive toy collection would keep him entertained for a little while, at least. But that was wishful thinking, wasn't it? Because now that a couple of months have passed, all those must-hav…
By Jacqueline Burt Cote

Turns Out, Kim Kardashian's Favorite Mom Products Look A Lot Like Your Own Faves

Being a mom is really hard work, especially for the first few months, and Kim Kardashian West is no different in that regard. Now the mother of three, Kardashian says that there are a few products she just can't live without when it comes to raising …
By Abi Berwager Schreier

These 9 Instant Pot Recipes Will Make Even The Pickiest Eater Happy At The Table

Like any parent, I've had my share of parenting hits and misses, but one of my favorite "wins" is my daughter's diverse palate. I don't even know if I can take credit for it, but I would like to think I had something to do with her love for lentils, …
By Caroline Shannon-Karasik

Soda Might Hurt Your Fertility, Study Says, & Here's What You Can Do

Who doesn't love sugary drinks? I stopped drinking soda years ago, but I still love gulping down those fancy Starbucks coffee beverages. I don't have a big sweet tooth, but I am a sucker for sugar-sweetened beverages every now-and-then. Turns out, th…
By Annamarya Scaccia

10 Things No One Tells You About Having A Baby In Your 30s

If you're like me, you evaluate the pros and cons of any major life decision. When my husband and I were considering starting a family, I thought about my career, education, and financial stability. I wanted to know how a pregnancy and childbirth wou…
By Steph Montgomery

This Woman Thought She Had An Eyelash Stuck In Her Eye. Then It Moved.

I'm not a person who is easily icked out. As a kid, I collected bugs and thought I was going to be an entomologist and asked Santa Claus for ant farms and nets to catch bees. I'm still super curious about anything that flies and crawls, which might s…
By Karen Fratti

A Hot Mess Mom's Guide To Surviving Winter

As I sit here at my home office in Connecticut, it's cold. Damn cold. Winter is a rough season in New England and it's even worse when you're a parent and have to manage cooped up, restless children. It's even worse when you're a hot mess as it is, u…
By Jamie Kenney

5 Red Flags Your Toddler Isn't Eating Enough

Toddlers are notoriously picky eaters, at least in my experience. You offer mashed potatoes, they want french fries. You give them crackers, they scream for chips. It's frustrating, to be sure, but it's usually their way of vying for independence. It…
By Candace Ganger

11 Ways Your Pregnancy Will Be Different If You Have A Boy Vs A Girl

If you've been pregnant before, you might start comparing your previous pregnancies to that of your current pregnancy. A lot of things can change from pregnancy to pregnancy, based on a whole host of different factors (including how well you remember…
By Lauren Schumacker

35 Moms Share The Most Disgusting Things Their Husbands Do

I'm a human being who revels in challenges. I like when people present me with one, especially if they don't think I can meet or succeed it, and I like taking a challenge on, especially if it's unexpected. So when I aimed to uncover the most disgusti…
By Jamie Kenney

How Having Kids In Your 20s Affects You Later In Life

For parents, like myself, who had kids in their 20s, there are a number of questions that come to mind. When you're deciding what your future will look like, you'll likely consider what this means for your health, career, and more down the line. Thin…
By Tessa Shull

8 Reasons I Let My Toddler Play Outside Unsupervised

I'm not a helicopter mom, but I'm not exactly a free-range parent either. I like to think of myself as safely ensconced somewhere in the middle. I insist on certain safety measures, like car seats and helmets. I prefer to keep my 2-year-old in my sig…
By Kimmie Fink

12 Moms Share How They Stay Healthy During Flu Season

Unfortunately, we're in the middle of the roughest flu seasons in recent memory. And we’re not totally out of the woods, either. People around the country are still getting the flu, and, sadly, some of them are having to be hospitalized due to flu-re…
By Priscilla Blossom

8 "Mistakes" I'm Glad I Made During My First Pregnancy

As an adult, I've learned you never really stop hating being told what to do. When I was pregnant I was getting instructions at every turn, from doctors, relatives, and complete strangers on the subway. I would nod and smile but then go about making …
By Liza Wyles

Study: Drinking Two Glasses Of Wine A Day Is Good For Your Mind — Here's Why

There’s more scientific proof that a daily drink or two isn't necessarily a bad thing and could have a place in an overall healthy lifestyle. A new study out of the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) in New York found that — in mice, at le…
By Tiffany Thomas

Research Says Eating Carbs Can Lead To A Healthy Pregnancy, So Bring On The Pasta

In the world of me, no food is better than bread. I know it's supposed to be pretty terrible for you, high in calories, low in protein, and full of that modern-day demon, gluten... but guys, it's really yummy. Especially warm out of the oven, when th…
By Jen McGuire

These Photos Of Prince George Then & Now Will Give You Serious Baby Fever

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are expecting their third child in Spring 2018. With all of the excitement surrounding the new baby, it's easy to forget all of the good times that have already passed. The couple's eldest is already well into the sc…
By Azure Hall

This Is, Hands Down, The *Grossest* Thing Babies Do Inside The Womb

Your baby's life in the womb may be safe and warm, but it's also kind of grody. Seriously, the whole process of growing into a human being includes more than a few icky moments along the way. But this is the grossest thing babies do inside the womb b…
By Lindsay E. Mack