By Heather O.
**Lost post is forthcoming, after I watch it. I haven’t had a chance to because I’ve been running around like a spider monkey on speed. Hopefully I’ll get to it tonight.
The pinewood derby was last night, and in a word, it was a disaster. My son’s car was very slow. And when I say very slow, I mean he lost every single race by, um, a lot.
He didn’t take it well, to say the least. He held it together until his last race, and when it became apparent that he was going to lose that one too, he started to melt. I pulled him aside and tried to cheer him up, but he broke down in tears and demanded that he wanted to leave, because, “I just can’t stand to watch any more races where I lose by a FOOT!”
The kid wasn’t wrong. It was embarrassing and heartbreaking to watch.
Tensions were high among the parents too, because every parent hates to see his kid lose. And somebody said, ‘Well, at least they are learning this lesson in a positive environment, where they know everybody loves them.”
I suppose that’s true, to an extent, but I’ll be willing to bet that my kid would say that the “love” he felt from grownups he doesn’t know very well or care that much about (sorry, but it’s true) didn’t make up for his humiliating loss. Besides, the losses are pointed, individual, obvious. When J’s basketball team lost every game but one this season, he didn’t feel devastated or embarrassed, just sorta bummed. I mean, there were 5 other kids who lost with him. His soccer team has also yet to win a game, but the games have been close, intense, and he has played well in all of them, so he doesn’t feel crushed when the score is 1-0, which has so often been the case.
But when his very much non-aerodynamic, completely unique car goes slowly down the track and finishes very far behind the other car, the loss is about him. Everybody knows his car is the red one with the wings, and everybody can see it sucks.
It was a cool design, to be sure. (I’d post a picture, but Little Sister broke our camera when she hucked it across the floor of the Joseph Smith frame home in Palmyra and practically dented the 200 year old floor in her tantrum. That’s another post entirely.) My husband had to make the decision to either encourage J’s own design that DH knew wasn’t a fast one, or take over the project to make a faster, better designed car. It was DH’s call, and I supported him in his decision to let our son own his car. But, as is so often the case, the 8 year old didn’t have the experience with Pinewood Derbys to know how to make a fast car, and so his 8 year old design finished DEAD LAST.
DH, who wasn’t able to be at the event, felt awful.
“I should have done more! I should have put in more time with the car! I should have weighted it better, I should have put graphite on the wheels, I should have encouraged a better design! I’m a bad father!”
So suddenly, it’s not about the 8 year old having fun at all, it’s about the quality of parenting.
Nobody, and I mean NOBODY I talked to last night digs the Pinewood Derby. Everybody hates it, they said, because it causes undue stress on the boys, and to make the car actually work, a parent has to be involved, which means that it causes stress on the parents, too. I suppose the idea is to create a bonding experience between father and son, but I’ll bet if you asked any father there last night, they would have said that they would rather have gone camping.
Mosquito bites are bonding too, right?
So really, the statement that they are learning defeat in a controlled environment actually turns out to be pretty meaningless. Kids learn about losing all the time. But with the pinewood derby, they learn how to lose in the spotlight, with all their friends watching. Safe environment, my butt.
Moms with boys, please tell me this gets better, because after last night, I’m ready to throw in the towel completely when it comes to racing those stupid boxcars, and just take my kid out for doughnuts instead.
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