Recently a musher with teenagers described to J&I how spending winters camping out at races had contributed to some of the things he really appreciated and admired about his kids. It's certainly noticeable that the kids we meet racing are universally nice kids; accustomed to speaking to adults, they are polite, quiet and friendly. They develop a great sense of sportsmanship and empathy through their work with the dogs. They're millennials who are happy to spend time away from their screens, who have great resilience and stress management techniques, because they have precious "down time" outside running dogs.
(I know one parent is going to call me after reading this and protest, but I'm talking about the common traits in a group of about ten teenagers - none of them are saints, but they all have at least some of these characteristics, and I'm impressed by all of them.)
Another musher family whose children are only a few years older than mine regularly have kids in the rig as they approach the start chute - and sometimes people frown at them for it, but their little kids are growing up with a wonderful connection to their dogs and a great understanding of the sport's etiquette.
J & I want that for our Wee Monster (and future children) too. And this year, it's hard. Our time is very limited this year, and our dogs are even more limited. Wee Monster is a very independent toddler who wants to roam and doesn't yet understand the dangers of disappearing into the bush or walking up to a strange dog's face. But we pushed ourselves to attend an SHCV race three weeks ago at the You Yangs, only a short distance from Melbourne. Last weekend was the NVSDC Classic, and with J&I both on committee, it was a busy weekend. We recruited one of my wonderful brothers to come along as a spare pair of hands for child and dog wrangling and made sure we made time for the PeeWee races on Sunday.