Saturday afternoon Hank and Gus put on their plaid shirts and cowboy boots and saddled up for their first rodeo. Not literally. They did go to their first rodeo, they just didn’t actually participate in it. You already knew that, I was just making sure.
If you live in the area and have not yet ventured to the Crystal Springs Rodeo, you better mark it on your calendar for next year. It is awesome. Seriously. Awesome. And I do not use the word “awesome” lightly.
One of my friends had invited us, and she was taking her two little ones, who are the same age as Hank and Gus. So instead of committing to a night of tall boys, I committed to a night of naughty little boys. And the naughty little boys were way more fun than the tall boys ever have been. And there is no headache the next morning with the naughty little boys.
Hank and Gus could not get enough of it. They watched carefully and with so much interest and anticipation. Gus asked “See that?” every 10 to 15 seconds, and Hank provided color commentary for every single rider. I loved every minute of it.
After about the 4th or 5th bucking bronco threw a rider to the ground, Hank tapped me on the shoulder. “Hey, Grandma said that I get to ride horses when I go to camp next year. I don’t want to do that anymore. Okay?” I assured him that Camp Foster had nice horses and he would not have to ride wild horses. He assured me I was a liar. After all, I had recently told him that if he got out of bed one more time his birthday would be canceled forever….so I guess I am a little bit of a liar.
But then I got to thinking. This was (sadly) Hank’s first exposure to horse riding. He has pointed out horses from the car window and looked at pictures of horses. He has even helped his grandpa’s buddy, Wendell, drive a horse wagon through a field, but I am sure this was his first time watching someone sit on the back of a horse and ride it. And it looked very dangerous and scary.
After the bucking broncos had retired to their pen, we moseyed over to take a peek, hoping this might in turn make him interested in horses again. It didn’t. He saw a young man stretching as he prepped himself for bull riding. “Hey,” Hank said. “What are you going to ride?” The young man showed him the black bull toward the back of the pen. Hank looked at the bull and then back at the young man and said “Be careful. I saw a guy riding a crazy horse, and he fell off!” The rider laughed and assured he would be very careful. So, it was going to take more than looking at the horses to talk this kid into a future of riding a horse.
But then the show started again….with barrel racing! The well trained horses raced around barrels and back to the gate. They stood calmly while they waited for their rider’s commands. They were beautiful to watch and exactly what a three year-old child dreams of when he thinks of riding a horse. Horses were great again! Hank let me know that he would like to ride one of those horses next year at Camp Foster. The fastest one.
We can tell our kids a lot of things. I tell Hank and Gus things until I am blue in the face. I assure them things won’t hurt, or aren’t scary, or taste good. But they don’t trust it. Not because they don’t trust me. Because they don’t trust words. They are two and three. The fastest way for them to trust something new is to see it in action. To experience it through the reaction and response of other people, not through the words of other people.
How many times do I tell my kids “It’s good, just try it,” when I should just take a bite on my own and show them I enjoy it. Or when I tell them “Go under! The water is nice!” when I should be showing them that their cousin is going under on his own and having so much fun. If we want our children to trust new experiences, we have to show them, not tell them. They trust us. But we have to teach them how to trust new experiences, too!
A special thank you to a young rider named Jeff Bertas. Thank you for taking a few moments from your busy night to talk to my child. Hank cheered loudly for you. And he has been practicing bull riding on a pig statue since we got home. Good luck with the rest of your rodeo season!