There’s a room full of screaming men. Well, the little ones are screaming. The big ones, commonly known as dads, are lined up with their arms folded, nervously rocking back and forth like they’re watching their wives labor. I’m looking around at this madness and I realize I am waaaaay out of my element. This is the modern-day coliseum, where men are weighed, measured, and some are found wanting. Or rather, their cars are.
It’s the Pinewood Derby.
When our Pack Leader first asked me if we were going to participate in the Derby, my first gut reaction was not only “no;” it was more like “HELL NO.” I mean really. Do you know what this entails? It’s buying this little “kit” (and I use that word sparingly), and making a car to race. It’s basically a long block of wood, 4 nails and 4 wheels. But I guess these are the materials of which legends are made…
The question here wasn’t if I wanted them to do it. Of course I did! The Pinewood Derby is a huge Boy Scout event, and I wanted them to experience the whole bit. But my wood-working ability is limited to the semester I spent in woodshop in 7th grade. Most of that semester was spent trying not to slice my finger off in front of the boys in the class. I had no freaking clue how to take a block of wood, make it resemble a car and then make it roll-able. If that’s even a word. You want me to make a car out of fondant? No problem. I’ll Ace of Cakes the heck out of it. But a real car? That actually moves? That’s debatable. My question was, could I take on this HUGE father/son activity with zero ability, and not embarrass my boys? I could just imagine making this car, and having it not make it down the track. Or watching a wheel fall off and it rolling across the finish line as the rest of the car was a ways back.
But what it came down to was that I couldn’t punish the boys for their father being in Afghanistan. They give so much, and they miss out on so much more, and this was something that I was ready to put my foot down for.
So, I said yes.
A dad in the den cut out the kid’s designs, Thank the Good Lord. There are a few things I do well with… like sugar, and fondant, and cake. There are a few things I do not do well with… like vices and band saws. But paint? Yeah, I can do that. Paint is easy. The kids chose their designs. Aidan, my resident Dark Knight, of course chose the Bat mobile, and Aaron went with the Mach 6 from Speed Racer. So, paint is bought…. and now I’m searching for…. weights? What the heck? You’re telling me not only do I have to figure out how nails make axles, I also have to weight the car to weigh precisely 5 oz? And please, do not get me started on the random assortment of Pinewood Derby insanity in Michael’s. There’s a whole section of stickers, weights, chassis, and greasing kits. My thoughts here? Hello, I’m just trying to get a block of wood down an elevated track, not break the sound barrier, people. Their dad can do that next year.
Okay, so we paint the cars over 3 days, I hammer those nails in, screw those weights on… weigh the car… take weights off…. snap parts of weights off… screw the rest on… weigh the car… you get the picture. Now imagine that Jason is on Skype, and I’m cursing. Loudly. But he watched as the cars rolled across our living room floor. =)
The boys were so proud of their cars! They registered in their division, they sat anxiously along the “do not step over this” line with their tiny hearts racing so fast I could hear them. The chaos was overwhelming, and loud, and completely wonderful. As the mother of 4 boys, I often feel out of place with the sheer number of boys I have. In public, people give us second glances, or say “awh… no girls?” I refrain from smacking them, of course. But here, at Boy Scouts, I’m just another mom with a boy… or four. They all fit, they all play, they all belong. They are just another voice in the beautiful cacophony of boydom.
So all of this work was over in 2 1/2 hours, but watching them jump and yell as their cars streamed down that track was worth every second. Hearing their names called, and seeing those trophies in their hands was so overwhelming to me because I did that. I stepped out of my comfort zone, I sucked up my frustration, and we built some cars. Cars that placed 3rd for Aaron and 2nd for Aidan. As they stood up there, so proud of their places, they weren’t labeled according to their deployment status. There were no pitying glances of “oh those poor boys, their dad is gone.” They stood on their own, they carved out their own little place, and they owned it. They may not have had the fastest cars (next year, weights more forward, and a wee bit more graphite powder on the axles), but they fit in without needing any pity or notice that their dad hadn’t made their car. They got to be normal for just those few moments.
That being said, the first thing we did when we got home was jump on Skype to tell their anxiously-waiting dad how they did. Jason was sad that he missed it, but so proud of them, and proud of me. The best part was that for one of the first times this deployment, through the dirty dishes, the piled up laundry, and the never done to-do list, I actually felt proud of myself. I felt like the mom I have been striving to be.
Thank you, Pinewood Derby. Though there will be much better cars in the year to come, I think these two cars will always be my favorites.