Last night was Andy’s first Pinewood Derby competition. My little cub scout and his dad spent weeks surfing the web and talking on the phone with seasoned uncles in their attempts to create the perfect car. It was to be a masterpiece. Paul did the big cutting and Andy sanded, primed and painted. Royal Blue. She was a beaut. Weights were delicately added. Precision was paramount. Every inch of her was filed and lubricated with care. Only three wheels touched the ground so as to not add friction, and yet she rolled straight and true.
So what went so wrong?
Andy’s car came in last in every heat. Every heat! (Well, the last heat he stood a good chance to come in third, but then a wheel flew off and the car crashed!)
Wha, who, whe? Where was the disconnect? How could all those copious long hours spent in the garage amid the saw dust and paint fumes go unrewarded like that? Oh, I know, the bonding time spent with dad on a manly project like that is reward enough. But try telling that to an 8 year old who spent his entire school day bragging to his friends about how he and his big strong dad had just constructed the beat-all pinewood derby car. (He gets this trash talking gene from his father.)
The only thing that seemed to bring our cub any comfort was the fact that we were all rookies. This was his first pinewood derby and his dad’s first time being “the dad” at a pinewood derby. There would be others. According to Paul, when he was a cub scout, they raced blocks of wood on wheels. How was he supposed to know these kids would show up with cars so tricked out they were supped up with everything but NOS?
“Next year, Andy…next year….” was about all he could say.
Life lessons about losing are learned much more easily in hindsight. Last night he was in no mood for platitudes like, “the most important thing is, you had fun.” Perhaps today will be better. Losing is like eating the brussel sprouts on the plate of life. Nobody likes it, but deep down you know it’s good for you. Victory is like the sweet, rich, intoxicating dessert. Everybody needs a little something sweet every now and then.
Especially after a big, heaping pile of brussel sprouts.