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I saw her struggling with the costumes. Each child had a few minutes to choose something to wear. The other little girls put on fireman jackets, a tutu, a few had curly wigs. My daughter kept looking around. She can’t yet put on these things by herself. I watched her. I wanted to rescue her, to jump over there and quickly help her put on a costume.

I held back, waiting to see what she would do.  She looked confused, overwhelmed, and then she found an inflatable Flamingo. She was happy. Good for her. She took the Flamingo to the center of the room where all the girls were gathered, ready to finish the ballet class with a silly dance.

As I was smiling at her, another little girl came over to her, snatched the Flamingo out of her hands and replaced it with a tiny blow-up fish. My daughter started to look sad, she looked down, her lip trembled, her cheeks flushed and she looked like she was about to cry. She ran over to me and hid her face in my legs.

I wanted to grab that Flamingo and give it back my daughter! What nerve did that little girl have, snatching it away from her when she clearly had it first! Why didn’t the teacher see? Why didn’t her mother see? I leaned in, to make sure, and asked her if that’s why she was upset. And my sweet girl nodded, unable to talk. I think she thought she would cry, and she didn’t want to cry at ballet.

She didn’t fight back. She just let it happen. Oh, crap, should I have taught her to take what is hers, already, at the innocent age of three? She’s not even in school yet. Am I supposed to teach her to be ruthless? And if I do, will she be labeled as “an aggressive preschooler” and then later, as a “bitchy teen?” But she has to be assertive in life. She cannot let everyone just take things from her. Women have to be strong, they have to work for what they want…shouldn’t I teach her not to cower in the corner when someone takes something that is hers, but instead, to ask for it back, to take it back if necessary?

Or is it just too soon for all of this?

I thought about confronting the other little girl.

But I didn’t do anything. I let my girl rest her head on my shoulder and a few minutes later the class was over and she went out to get her shoes on, happy, the conflict forgotten. Hopefully.

I’m still wondering if I did the right thing. I didn’t fight back. I let it happen, too.

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photo credit: petite ballerina via photopin (license)

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4 thoughts on “Feminism in a Toddler Ballet Class? Maybe.

  1. Deep thoughts. This is too hard of a question to really answer, but my gut says you did the right thing by following your daughter’s lead. She’ll learn more by seeing how you handle YOUR life than by stepping into hers. You’re a great mom and example for her!

  2. Tell her she can go ask for it back if she wants to. And if she doesn’t, then just hold her and follow her lead like Erica said. But let her know there’s another option when she feels ready to stand up for herself.

    1. It’s such a gray know? Like I want her to be assertive, but not inappropriately so. I think it’s hard for girls to figure out where to draw the line. It’s hard for boys too, actually…but that’s a whole other story.

      1. Yeah. I’d like to hear your story plus get feedback on how Andrew deals with (or doesn’t) people always coming up and touching his skin or hair here. I’m trying to do what I suggested to you and get HIM to set his own boundaries by speaking up for himself and then I will back him up all the way. I think it could be personality based…. my 3 year old has no problem telling people to stop! But we’re still working on Andrew.

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