First Click: What I learned about fatherhood by staring at supercars

June 30th, 2016


At my age, 31, I’m right in the middle of the transition that most people make from being a child to becoming a parent. I’m learning less and educating more, protecting rather than being protected. But I’m not a father yet, and I got one of the better insights into what that means while attending the Goodwood Festival of Speed this past week. The show reminded me of something I already knew: parents are the tour guides of youth, showing us what matters.

We have so much technological sophistication nowadays that parents can start to seem superfluous. The more questions that Siri, Alexa, Cortana, or Google Now answers, the more diminished the parent’s role as a fount of knowledge becomes. Goodwood is a special gathering because it works in the opposite direction: the geeky dad, now mostly derided as being out of touch, becomes an omniscient guide of wondrous discovery.

I can’t count the number of father-and-son pairs I saw around the muddy fields of southern England last weekend. Though mothers and daughters were outnumbered at Goodwood, the atmosphere of the show was inclusive and welcoming to all, and it felt more like a funfair than some macho car show. Some of the boys were smartly dressed, looking like they were on an actual shopping trip at the supercar paddock, while others were riding on their parents’ shoulders as the cars running up the Goodwood Hill sped by.

A video posted by Vlad Savov (@vladsavov) on

We saw outlandish car designs from yesteryear, we heard the barbarous roar of super powerful engines, and there was even a crazy dude performing a handstand atop a car driving along on two wheels. The unifying thing among us Goodwood newbies was a sense of enchantment, and those who were fortunate enough to experience it with their parents were establishing bonds that would last a lifetime. That’s because, whether they like to admit it or not, the moms and dads were also reverting to their adolescent selves while admiring the automotive pageantry.

It’s easy to speak a child’s language when you rediscover your own sense of awe and excitement at new things. Modern life is almost too convenient, filtering out those basic moments where parents can impart knowledge and guidance upon their progeny, and I loved Goodwood for the simple, human connections that I was witnessing around each exotic car and historic racer. Fathers at this show were at once more accessible and more heroic to their kids than they might have been for years.

Machines don’t have to inevitably undermine familial kinship and bonding. What Goodwood showed me is that when a machine is suitably extravagant and alien, it can bring people together in a unique way, uniting us around a shared sensation of wonder that transcends age and circumstance. I’m grateful to have experienced it for myself, and only wish I’d brought along my own father — who once worked as a car mechanic — and mother in order to share it with them. Maybe next year.

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