Honestly, I didn’t want to again be one of those dads who sits on the couch for half of each Saturday or Sunday, watching racing and shutting my family out, especially when they seem to enjoy it as well. So this year, I went to some lengths to get the family involved each and every race weekend. Below are a few of the keys to making this season's INDYCAR experience family friendly:
Know Your Drivers
One of the most confusing things for a fledgling fan of any age is learning which driver is in what car, what number belongs to a respective driver, and basically who the heck everyone is. What I did this season was create a large poster that’s taped to our pantry door in the kitchen. It lists each driver, color-coded to their usual car color, and also brightly lists their engine, number, and team. Obviously, it’s less use to my two younger ones, but my oldest daughter seems to be doing much better with knowing and learning the identities of the various drivers. We're also using it to track wins and podiums: the winner gets a gold star, 2nd place a silver star, and 3rd place a green one.
Give A Sense Of Investment
Each Friday, we take the spotter’s guide for that weekend’s race, cut out the various car/driver illustrations, and shake them up in a hat. Everyone gets to draw 2 drivers, and stick them to a sheet we have on the fridge. Saturday morning, everyone gets to pick one additional (non-random) driver. I know I’m weird, but I sort of enjoy announcing the picks in my best Loud Track Announcer voice as they are drawn out of the hat (my kids will be hugely embarrassed of me in a few years, if they aren't already). If one of your three drivers places the highest, you’re that week’s winner, and get to put a star sticker by your name. If you have kids, you know they will just about knife-fight a man for a star sticker.
|Our family's contest board, pre-St. Pete.|
My kids love YouTube videos. I cannot tell you have many times we’ve watched whatever the most recent video meme has been, clips from Adventure Time, or (in the cause of my daughters), kittens that sleep/meow/fight/play adorably. So, it was only natural that we would watch INDYCAR videos, eventually.
We’ve watched everything from Ed Carpenter’s victory at Kentucky to AJ Foyt banging on his car with a hammer (my oldest daughter’s impression of AJ is yelling “BANG BANG BANG” while pretending to bash on a car, if that tells you anything).
For the race itself, the kids are still too little to have the attention span for the entire race, but it’s cool to see them watch in fits and starts. I’ve also enjoyed watching the races with my wife, which pretty much means she’s a keeper. It’s a lot more rewarding to share what you love with loved ones then cloistering yourself off for 4-5 hours each Sunday afternoon.
Activities, Activities, Activities
From visiting the IMS Museum to making cards for their favorite drivers, the kids enjoy INDYCAR as a hobby in their own way. My daughters love drawing, my son likes to watch the cars in person, and when they ask about a driver or a race, I try to answer their questions or talk on their level. It’s important not to force any of it on them, but they really seem to enjoy many parts that make up the INDYCAR experience.
|The boy has good taste.|
Am I crazy for being this die-hard of a fan? Probably a little, but everyone has their quirks--mine just happens to be full of awesomesauce. It's not always easy to be a parent and an INDYCAR fan at the same time, but it's definitely made the start of this season the most rewarding yet. Now if we can avoid Will Power's "angry birds" after being wrecked this season, and if we make the kids cover their eyes during GoDaddy commercials, we can work even more on that kid-friendly theme...