I loathe the pinewood derby.
I know; I know loathe is a strong word.
That's why I used it.
I would have used the H word, but there are four preschool children sitting on and around my lap who likely would go into shock if they actually managed to sound out any of the words on my screen.
Kimber, we don't use that word at our house!
The hate word.
Well, yes. You are right. We don't say hate to people.
We don't say itchy, either.
Nope. That's a bad word.
Yeah. So anyway, the derby.
We've had ten cars come through our house in the last few years. We have filed nails, sanded wheels, poured on the graphite, strategically positioned axles and weights; and enlisted the help of fathers, grandfathers, aunts and complete strangers.
Every year, the Lybbert car comes in last.
The pep-talk at my house goes like this:
No matter what you do, this car is going to come in last. Even if you were Harry Potter and had no scruples about using your powers to cheat–your car is going to come in last. Every heat, every time.
(Someone came up with this great idea–let's run the cars in like one thousand heats so every kid in the whole district has a chance to beat the Lybberts' car several times.)
I tell my kids–just make your car really, really cool. Don't worry about making it fast. One year my son made a pick-up truck and loaded it with logs. It came in last–but it was cool.
There's all this lip service paid to the idea of the boys doing the building–but it's a block of wood, folks! A big, rectangle block of wood. A couple years my kids went at their cars with pocket knives and they did a pretty good job but how many eight-year-olds do you know have that kind of patience? For most parents, unless you are willing to entrust a power saw to your eight-year-old, your options are pretty limited. Volkswagen bus, anyone?
Although–a boy actually did that one year. I saw this sharp-edged, hand-painted monstrosity sitting up there at the top of the track next to our sleek little blue racer and I thought, Yes! Finally, we aren't going to be last!
I kid you not; the block won.
This year we tried an entirely new approach.
We left the car in the box.
It is sitting on my son's desk right now. One block of wood, four nails, four wheels. I know this because about a month ago when he brought it home we had drama because there were only two wheels and three nails; like the derby Gods didn't think our cars were bad enough with four. Conscientious mother that I am, I secured replacement parts for him. Brand new even–although I was tempted to just swipe them from last year's model.
But that's as far as we got. Last night I got this voicemail. "Hey! This is your den mother calling! We're down here at the pinewood derby and didn't want to start without you! Are you coming?" Mercifully I didn't hear the message until long after the derby was over or I might have been guilted into bringing my son and his block to the race because it's all about fun, not winning, and stalwart members like us of course support, support, support the program.
The news was probably spreading like wildfire; Oh no! The Lybberts didn't bring in the losing car this year to cushion the rest of the boys' egos! Aaaack! What if—what if ours comes in last?
You know the phone call had to be made.
God bless my fickle phone.