My boys had their first Pinewood Derby. As I sat there it dawned on me what’s really being taught; all the ugliness of life in one 7-ounces block of resentment.
My older son had what I can charitably describe as a cross between a rocket and a racecar in the form of one slightly rounded block. It’s not his fault, he’s worse at woodworking than his old man, and we really don’t own any appropriate tools.
Mom saved it a bit with the paint job, but I had to temper his talk of taking home a big trophy, certainly not the one for design.
The real hoot was the opening prayer. Three hundred people praying to God almighty that he bless all of their cars collectively, but individually. No big deal, I’m sure God didn’t have more pressing matters to attend.
Let’s take a hard look at the hard lessons hard learned:
Other dads love their kids more than mine – Your car looks terrible and sometimes doesn’t even cross the finish line. Other dads spend whole weekends researching online and building a winning car, but your dad just doesn’t love you as much. Truth is, all he really wanted was a romantic night out, but here we are, ten years later, and this is what his life has come to. He used to have a boat, you know.
When I was a kid my stepdad was put in charge of my car and did the absolute bare minimum. My car was ugly, didn’t even roll right, and I came in dead last in every heat, never even crossing the finish line. I learned that other dads actually meant to be married to women with kids… and that he was kind of a dick. Mostly a dick.
I can do anything, with the right parents! – Winning the womb lottery is a big deal. Have you ever tried not being born white, or American? It’s tough. The right parents can get you into the right schools, get you the right jobs, and even get you a trophy you honestly did nothing to win.
I can win if I contract out the heavy lifting! – Why spend $5 on a kit and invest all that manual labor when you can just go on eBay and purchase a winning car for as little as $18. That’s cheaper than buying your own trophy, and yes, there is a huge black market in professionally made, record-busting racecars online.
Cash can buy you anything, even victory! – If you want to buy a really amazing car online, you can spend upwards of $80-$90. Just the custom machined axles alone can cost $15. They’re still technically legal, they’re just not in the reach of most families, and they will improve your time, and not just by a little.
Buy amazing parts or an amazing car, and you can win. This is also true later in life, such as in the case of straight teeth or fixing that hysterical nose with which God blessed you.
Having a proper suit for your interviews makes a big difference, and having money means having that suit. Having a reliable car isn’t cheap, but it can keep you from getting fired.
Almost everyone is usually a loser – You race four times against three other cars. That leaves 12 opportunities to place out of first. Even the ultimate winners get to experience defeat during the night with very few exceptions.
Prayer only helps people with other advantages – Go on, pray all you want. In the end, the best designed cars still won. It’s almost as if it doesn’t do anything at all, oddly.
Both teams pray before a football match, but God usually favors the team with a better coach, higher budget, healthier players and strong odds in Vegas. God’s funny that way.
My older boy, the one with the ugly car, placed first in his division, and he did it honestly, which is to say he did it with a mediocre car and tepid competition. He won three of his four heats, and almost cried on the other one, where he placed third, despite it being his best time of the night.
My younger boy had a hand-me-down car he was given from a previous year. He didn’t even make the damn thing himself. I offered to help him modify it, but he wasn’t interested. It was fast, but he always came in second. He got a trophy too because there were only two kids in his division. He came in second. He was miserable all night until he got his trophy (pictured above.)
To nail home my point about grown-up help, or as I like to call it, “mostly cheating”… out of 105 cars, the three fastest racers of the night, were three kids from the same family. Unlikely coincidence. It’s almost as if God only heard their prayers. Better get that family praying for us when times are down, or if we need medical help, hope their dad is a surgeon.