When I first made the decision to become a Racing Dad and try to balance the competing commitments of being an awesome parent with making my racing debut, one of my key drivers was not wanting to sacrifice time with my family to pursue my hobby.
My daughter is almost three years old now and she’s at a very impressionable age. She always wants to do what mummy and daddy are doing – when we cook dinner, she goes to her toy kitchen and pretend cooks. When I do the vacuuming, she wants to help hold the nozzle. It’s so cute! But it’s also really important for her development. When children join in with our activities it helps form a stronger bond between parent and child, as well as teaching them about the world. We are their role models – young children look up to us – and including them in our day-to-day activities validates in their minds that they are important to us and it fosters respect.
Equally, excluding them from activities or preventing them from joining in may generate resentment or lower self-worth. That’s why, even if it’s not always practical or convenient, it’s important to try and include children in what we do as much as possible.
Of course, there are barriers to what is possible in motorsport. Race events provide precious few opportunities to “join in”. I’ve seen many drivers and their partners wandering round the paddock with prams and push-chairs, which is great, but the thought of my overly active and inquisitive toddler running around the cars and tools under the awning fills me with dread. So, at this age at least, I have to look for other opportunities to include my daughter in my racing.
At the most basic level, we can enjoy looking at pictures and talking about my racing. She knows my car and the fact that it’s number 42 (though she also seems to think that’s my age…). I’ve even dug up some story books that focus on motorsport to read together – a top tip for other motorsport parents!
My daughter also loves joining me on my simulator. I push the pedals and we move the wheel together. Occasionally I let her steer independently, but this usually results in a rapid visit to a barrier or gravel trap! But letting her join in for 5 minutes of my 40-minute session lets her know that I value her, and means she views my racing positively as something we can do together, as opposed to negatively as something that she’s not allowed to participate in.
There are plenty of other ways to involve my kids in my hobby, but that’s possibly another blog all by itself.
In summary, children crave validation that they are important in our world, and when we involve them in other things that are important to us, it makes them feel extra special. Help them to view your hobby positively – whether it is motor racing or anything else – and it will only add to your enjoyment. Who knows, one day may daughter might even remember the fun she had joining in with daddy’s racing when she was younger, and want to give it a go herself! I’d best start saving up…