Pinewood Derby

It didn’t come in last.

It’s taken us three derbies to finally relax a bit and “just have fun with it” per our den leader’s instructions. Three years to treat it like any other pack meeting and not the heated hotbed of competition it really is.

But let’s face it: by the end of the night, there are winners and there are losers and winning is more fun, plain and simple. For many of the dads involved, the derby is a chance for vindication. Redemption. Finally, they are allowed to use power tools without supervision! What time does Home Depot close?

Fueled by something visceral and instinctive, parents pore themselves into the derby. Must…win…pinewood…derby! (Maybe I’m drawing unfair conclusions here, but if I am, then I am very, very impressed by the craftsmanship of some of these nine year olds.)

My son and husband have been known to emerge from our two-car garage caked in sawdust and dramatically backlit by a dangling 60 watt bulb, brimming with confidence. With fresh varnish fumes still stinging their eyes, they’ve declared in hushed, reverent tones that the 5oz. creation in their hands is not only the culmination of blood, sweat, tears and hours of research on the Internet, but that surely this car will go down in the books as the fastest thing on four wheels ever to grace our pack’s track. This is the one, they’ve assured us. This is our year!

Only to come in dead last at the pack meeting.

So what made us switch from graphite lubricant zealots to “just have fun with it” spectators? Was it because this year, we just didn’t have the time to be zealous? Between my husband’s traveling for work and my son’s sports, music lessons, and homework, and what with me with a new baby at home, that pinewood derby car package didn’t even get opened until the night before the big race. (Never mind the fact that I had to hide the box again and again since the younger children were convinced it was a box of cookies no matter how many times I explained to them that it contained nothing more than one block of wood and four teeny tiny little wheels that must not get lost!! Then I forgot where I hid it.) 

Or perhaps it was the fact that we didn’t have the bitter taste of defeat still in our mouths, having tasted victory at the “Raingutter Rigatta” this past summer. (One word: catamaran. It smoked all the other boats. Smoked ’em! Not that we care about things like that…) The point is, we didn’t have as much to prove this year. Let’s let others have a chance to win. Easy come, easy go.

Whatever the reason, it was a great way to spend our son’s last pinewood derby–calm, cool and happy with whatever the results happened to be:

Not last! Yes!!