I had a moment at the track several months ago. I took my kids to Sonoma Raceway to see the world touring cars. I was just starting to get into the goings-on in the paddock when my son notified me that he had to go to the bathroom. So the three of us piled into the men's room for what ended up being a 10 minute epic deuce that my son is famous for (he can go for 20 minutes or more). Once my daughter was done, we were hanging out in the bathroom so I could keep my attention on the proceedings. We stood aside. What happened next really jolted me. Another father brought his infant in to change a diaper, but alas the bathroom had no changing table. At that moment, I understood what many moms, including my own, had told me about....The misery of changing a diaper from a remote location.
What I got from that experience was not the sensation that certain venues should provide changing stations (WHICH THEY SHOULD!), but instead that more dads need to get their kids to the track! I'm a firm believer that there is almost no minimum age at which to begin to immerse the youths of today into the wonderful world of motorsport (assuming you provide proper ear protection, of course).
Now I'm not going to tell you that I started bringing my kids to the track willingly. I did it because my wife has a life and a business that she needs to tend to and we don't always have childcare. The first time was a necessity.
The most recent outing though, was more of a free choice, and not really a pain at all...fun even!
For the skeptical, I've decided to lay out a few things that make my case.
1. KIDS ARE FREE! Most tracks don't charge for kids 12 and under. Who else does that? NOBODY DOES THAT!
2. Kids get special treatment by everyone! My kids get to sit in cars (OK, admittedly more my fantasy than theirs), go behind the scenes and get all sorts of special access and free swag that I'd never get on my own (even if I looked really pitiful).
3. Kids can get you ahead in line. If your kid starts blubbering and snotting all over, people give you the charity look and usher you ahead of them. This never fails. I wish I could get my kids to blubber on command (Hmmmm???).
4. (Dads especially) It's your job! I've heard it a million times, "my husband doesn't take the kids with him when he goes..." That's crap! Whether you want to or not, you have to get your kids into your kind of fun and your life so they can't come at you in their teenage years and start in about how you were never there (which they'll probably do anyway). I want my kids to remind me about the day Vic Edelbrock came over with some free hats and a conversation about going to the races with their dad! (nevermind that I was waaaay down the paddock taking a picture of an amazing survivor Corvette). Then there was the other weekend at the track when we ran into Mario Andretti, who was more than happy to make my...I mean our day!
5. There are life lessons in racing. You've got a million things to choose from...technology, history, tragedy, victory and defeat, cunning, hubris, and personalities galore. After following racing for about the last 20 years, I can tie just about anything to racing when I'm talking to anyone, let alone my kids. Just recently my three-year-old daughter wanted to know if "girls drive racecars," and it just so happened that I was able to introduce her to former driver and now Indycar team boss at Sarah Fisher Racing, Sarah Fisher. Question answered and case closed. (After all the buildup, Emilia asked Sarah what she wanted to be for Halloween...she's 3)
6. You get to be the hero and know all the answers to all the questions, and you know where to be at just the right time to see the best stuff. You can dazzle the little ones with factoids and minutiae that your spouse and non racing friends long since stopped listening to. The best part is that even if you're wrong, they don't know the difference and you're still a hero. That's a rare win/win. The best part of this is when you just witness something like a grid of cars rolling out of a paddock at 100+ decibels and after the last car has gone, your kids look at you with the biggest roundest eyes and smiles that they can make. At that moment, you and that spectacle have provided all the answers to life's persistent questions and imprinted your addiction, and all the truth it provides onto your kids.
You realize at that moment that you have done something good...something very good, for both you and your kid(s).
So there it is dads.
Boom! The gauntlet has been thrown down! You have almost no good excuses for leaving for the track without the kiddos. Next time you go to the track, pack some extra sandwiches, fruit snacks, apple sauce squeezers, proper ear protection and sunscreen and head to the track with your little homie(s). You'll go a little broke buying them toys and hats and crap (that you'd normally buy for yourself), you'll have a great time sharing your love of racing with the next generation(s), and get great pictures and free swag. Life doesn't get much better than that (says me).