Patting the bull: trick to take kids outside comfort zone
Folks, this weekend the von Brays will be moseying around a genuine country show. It's a family tradition, along with The Patting of the Bull and the Let's wipe the manure off our shoes onto Dad's car mats rituals.
The bull patting thing started by accident, but it's become an annual test of courage for any little ones in our care. It teaches them to step outside their comfort zone and face their fears, plus it's funny as hell seeing how scared they are.
You see, to a little tacker of four, even a sitting brahman bull is roughly the same size and height as a cud-chewing shopping centre. So, it must be fairly terrifying when some smirking adult nudges them towards a bovine behemoth.
Obviously, I pick a fairly docile beast, inside a strong pen, then stand nearby just in case the bull does something alarming like flick its tail, wiggle an ear or moo.
Over the years all of our kids, and some of their little friends, patted the bull; eventually.
This small act of bravery transformed them. They'd walked into the cow pavilion timid little girls but strutted out as overconfident brats.
Our middle girl, who'd developed a healthy cynicism for anything I asked her to do quite early on, really struggled to pat the bull. But one year, after we'd left the sheds, she dashed back inside and when I'd caught up to her she was squealing, "Dad! I did it! I did it!”
This initially alarmed me because the kid was a born troublemaker (frankly, I blame her mother), until it dawned on me, she'd patted the bull all by herself.
That was pretty gutsy.
A tribal chief would have marked the occasion by giving her some sort of ceremonial trinket. I bought her a dagwood dog.
At this year's show, I'm keen to see if her four-year-old daughter is ready to overcome her fear of colossal cows. It's just one of many more tests life will be throwing at her, because there's always another bull to face.
Are you ready to pat yours?