On March 18, 2017, tragedy struck the rodeo world when 10-year-old Piper Faust lost her life after her horse fell on her as she awaited her turn in the barrel racing competition. Her parents, Brian and Rhonda, have had to face every parent's worst nightmare. Brian is quoted as saying, “I think her heart stopped in that arena. She left her soul where she loved it.”
While some questioned the Fausts for allowing their daughter to compete in a dangerous sport, I appreciate their willingness to let Piper follow her heart, develop her talent and live her life to the fullest.
Four of my sons are bull riders. The first time James, then 12-years-old, rode the bull, he flipped James from his back onto the arena floor, the strap on his safety helmet snapped, his helmet flew off, and the bull's hoof grazed the side of my son's face. James did not ride any more that day but sat out the rest of the training session watching his 9, 15 and 17-year-old brothers ride.
Within a couple of weeks he was back on a bull and has been many times since.
Why would any mother in their right mind let her sons ride a raging bull? Yes, I know it is dangerous. The International Federation of Sports Medicine published a 2007 study naming bull riding as the most dangerous spectator sport in the world.
But I also know that the parenting of boys demands that we let them take controlled risks. Males are hardwired for risk-taking behavior from birth and no amount of manipulating circumstances or berating rhetoric from feminists is going to change that fact.
My husband and I have chosen to work with that innate tendency rather than try to extinguish it. In our family, 12-year-olds drive big trucks on our farm, hunt with big guns to put food on the table, and use big axes to chop down trees to heat our home, in addition to riding big bulls.
Lest I offend some feminist sensibilities, let me clarify: if any of our daughters ever expressed an interest in bull riding I would have been an enthusiastic supporter, but none has ever done so. I feel no need to push any of our girls to just to prove some feminist argument that whatever boys can do girls can do too.
I have watched an increasing emphasis being placed on childhood safety in the past few years. Parenting magazines and social media is awash with stories of horrific accidents and abductions that befall children and the measures conscientious parents should take to avoid them. These are tragic and we as parents need to be aware and follow basic safety precautions that are situationally appropriate.
My concern is the steady drumbeat of doom stifles parents' willingness to allow their boys to develop their hearts, minds and bodies to their fullest potential.