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My Son: The Ballerina

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is an updated version of Ayren’s post, as the original post misidentified the author as Katie.  Whoops!  All credit goes to Ayren!

Jumping off of furniture over a toy truck real, live baby wasn’t anything special (you’ve gotta pick and choose your battles, ya know). But this time, after making his leap of faith, my four-year-old landed and did a lop-sided pirouette into an almost-split.
Okay. That was different.

After shimmying out of the split, he rushed over to me.

“Hey, Mama!”
“Hey, You.”
“So. Can you sign me up for ballet?”

Obviously, he isn’t the kind to beat around the bush.

I wasn’t surprised, really, by the traditionally girl-centric extracurricular request. Last year, in his small preschool class, he was the lone little dude in a cohort full of the sweetest tights-and-tutus wearing dudettes. This, on top of recently welcoming a baby sister–who wore a tutu out of the hospital (at grandma’s request). Plus, it was around the time that Misty Copeland had just been named the first African American principle dancer for the American Ballet. (Confession: After that historical announcement, even I—the most uncoordinated/unflexible/ungraceful person you’ll ever meet—daydreamed of twirling on tippy toes. Just sayin’.)

“Boys do ballet, too,” he declared.

Oops. Okay, so in my mind I wasn’t surprised, but skepticism must have been written all over my face.

Here’s the thing: my Boy Ballerina (that’s what we’ll call him from here on) is a rough and tumble, gross motor skills-using kind of kid. He climbs as high as he can on a tree—or anything—and then jumps. He picks up things double his weight and then, if he’s allowed, throws them. He bangs basketballs off of staircases…home base slides from room to room…karate chops at baseballs during a game of catch…

Plié or piqué? Not so much.

So, before I went on a wild goose chase to find a local ballet class where there was at least one other boy enrolled, I had to find out where this ballet thing was coming from.
Not my husband, a diehard basketball fanatic. Like, DIE. HARD.

Not from me. Remember? I have coordination issues.

“Even soldiers do ballet,” my Boy Ballerina added.

That was it! Over the holidays, my Boy Ballerina became obsessed with The Nutcracker. He wanted a nutcracker doll, he talked non-stop about “the giant mouse.” He wanted me to draw nutcrackers—free hand, y’all!—so that he could color them.

One recent NPR report noted that nearly every program—from Joffrey Ballet School in New York City to the hometown dance studio– needs more boys (hello, there’s no Nutcracker without them), and they’re willing to offer financial package perks just to get them.

Now you’re talking my language ($$$).

And then, there’s THIS boy, who dances not only as a physical, emotional, and creative outlet, but also as a way to crush sports stereotypes in his community. #myhero

As parents, we’ve always vowed to follow our kids’ lead when it came to their interests. Instead of pushing them to what we like, or even to what we know they’d like, we want them to try what their passionate about. But, I’d be fooling myself if I didn’t admit to worrying about how other kids saw my Boy Ballerina—the tall-for-his-age, brown kid surrounded by a sea of pink tutus and petite top knots. Being teased for doing something you love isn’t cool.

“Oh, and Mama, guess what else boys do in ballet?” he broke in.
“What’s that?”
“The boys lift up the girls, and some of the boys can jump really high in the sky.”
“For real?”
“Yep. Can you sign me up right now, please?”

He’s definitely going to have to work on his patience—I assume timing is everything in ballet.

After dinner that evening, I hopped on my laptop to start searching for the elusive ballet class (with at least one other boy enrolled because, well, strength in numbers). Ten minutes in, my Boy Ballerina roundhouse kicks his way into the room.

“Hey mama, actually, I changed my mind. I think I’d like to try karate.”

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