Have you heard about the book My Princess Boy? A mom wrote it about her little boy who wanted to wear dresses and jewelry instead of pants and baseball caps. She decided to not make it a big deal and allow him to express himself with whatever he wanted to wear. When I saw this, I thought “wow, how awesome is that?” A brave mom who isn’t allowing the world’s impressions of gender roles affect her son. She is letting him decide for himself.
The reason I am telling you about this book is because yesterday in class something similar happened to me and it’s the first thing that came to my mind. I think it is important to write about it. Not to mention, a very important lesson and I am actually feeling really proud.
I started my 3-4 year old ballet class late because the fuse broke in the studio and the music wasn’t working, besides the point really, but I want to try to give you a visual picture. There are approximately 9 girls and 1 boy in class. Let’s call the little boy Chris. I adore Chris, he’s up for anything and always comes eager to learn. His smiles say, Miss Maria, there is no other place I would rather be right now than at ballet class! His mom and dad rave that he practices at home and talks about it all of the time.
Yesterday, Chris came in with his sister, who is also in the class. He was wearing what he always wears. Black pants and a plain white tee, but yesterday in addition he had on a bright blue tutu. Yep you heard me right, a tutu. I think that one thousand thoughts went through my head at that moment. Not because I was freaked out, but because in all of my years of teaching this has never happened.
Thoughts going through my head were as follows: What will I say if the 9 girls in the class ask me why he is wearing a skirt?Will I acknowledge Chris in his tutu? I wonder what Chris is thinking? As I was teaching I followed my gut and armed myself with answers I could believe in and stand behind. Talk about thinking on your feet! Here’s how it played out…
One of the girls said– “Boys don’t wear skirts” My answer: “Sometimes they do”
Another girls said- “Why is he wearing a tutu?” My response: “He wants to”
While I was setting up, I heard one girl say– “Why are you wearing that skirt?” Chris stood up for himself and said “because I like it!” after this, I did a mini cheer inside. Go him!
Those were all questions from the kids. Not surprised there weren’t more, but there could have been a whole discussion about it if I would have let it happen. I didn’t say anything to Chris about his tutu and I think that probably spoke louder than any words I could of said. I do want to say something to him now though.
Thank you for teaching us that it is OK to be different. I love that you showed us who are and at only 4 years old you are not afraid to express yourself. You challenged my teaching and my thoughts today and I am so happy about that! Can’t wait to see what you wear next week.
Ok, now friends a few other things entered my mind during class, like is my class gender specific? Does it sway to girls more than boys? Even though the majority of my students are girls, I make triple sure that my class is for both boys and girls. At any time a boy could walk right in and take it and it would be fun for them. It’s important, right? I don’t teach princess dances. In fact, I don’t even like the word. I like to connect dance class to real life, and being a princess is not real life, so I leave it out.
After class I went out to speak to the grown-ups. The mom said nothing to me about Chris and his tutu and I didn’t bring it up either; I loved that. Remember, I live in New York City. What will be interesting is next week is Grown-Up day at ballet, which means the parents are invited to watch the class. I am interested to see what Chris wears and what the reactions of the other parents are. Good, Bad, or Otherwise. After all, dance is about self expression and Chris might understand it more than all of us.
Have you ever experienced anything like this while teaching? If you have a son and he asked to wear a tutu to class, what would you say? Agree or Disagree, I would love to hear your thoughts on this!