Winning at a Pinewood Derby
I really wanted to write a blog post bragging about how my son won 3rd place in the Cub Scout Pack’s recent Pinewood Derby. The problem is I can’t. Yes, he won 3rd place but I can’t brag about it because he’s not excited about it. As a parent you want to see the look of excitement on you child’s face when they succeed. It’s the best feeling in the world when your child is thrilled because they did well. For those of you with children you know the look your child gets when they are proud of what they have done. Both me and my son had this thrill robbed from us.
I did a post a while back about Participation Trophies. At the time I knew how bad giving a trophy to kids for just showing up was bad. I didn’t think it would ever affect me and my son, because I thought I’d explained it to my son better than that. I was wrong.
When my son’s name was announced that he had won 3rd place at the Pinewood derby I was a very proud dad. Especially since I got to do the announcing. When I handed him the trophy and he just took it and didn’t show any emotion I thought something was off. Then I made the mistake of asking if he was excited about getting 3rd place in the Pinewood Derby. He’s exact answer was “sure dad, I have 4 Pinewood Derby trophies now”. The last three trophies he had received where for just showing up. No matter what I said I couldn’t make him understand how this trophy was special, it was just bigger.
Building the Car
I’d love to place all the blame of this on the participation trophies, but I can’t. In past years I’ve gotten fed up quickly with how bad my son was as building his car. This frustration on my part had turned into, “here just let me do it”. I thought this year was different. It really wasn’t. My son started by designing a car that looked like a train. I wasn’t going to have that, I wanted him to have a fast car. He tried to learn what a fast cars look. He even watched YouTube videos on Pinewood Derby car. In the end we still went with my design, because I didn’t like his simple wedge design.
Cutting the car
I showed him how to use a hand saw. He cut it out, and it was rough. So I “helped” him sand it into a good shape. I even got out my router and started rounding all the edges which ended with me ruining his car. Oops we had to start over. He then talked me into doing the cutting this time since he’d done it once. This was all my mistake. I never should have done that. He now had a car he hadn’t cut, and had only spend a few minutes sanding and shaping.
Painting the Car
I figured I’d make up for it by letting him spray paint the car. This was good, I taught him how to use a can of spray paint. He ever did a good job. However I “had” to touch it up. I even did it when he wasn’t around so he wouldn’t know I made it look better. I’m sure he knew. I just couldn’t let him have a car that wasn’t perfect.
He wanted his car to look like Captain America. We went out and got paint and I showed him how to paint with a paint brush. He painted the A on the front of the car. Then he asked me to paint the star, and he did the shield. However, he let the paint run together and he was frustrated because he messed up. So DAD fixed it. Dad fixed it all. Yet again I couldn’t let my son have a car that wasn’t perfect.
Are we really helping our children?
Which brings us back to me bragging about my son winning 3rd place. I just can’t bring myself to do it. This year my son learned how to build a car. This is great. He learned how to paint a car. My son also learned that if he isn’t perfect DAD will fix it. This isn’t what I want for my son.
Let Them Fail
With all of this I had forgotten that I had to let my son fail. If kids don’t ever fail they can’t enjoy winning. I had shown my son how to build a car, but I hadn’t really let him build the car himself. This is why I’m admitting to all this. I hope other parents can learn from my mistakes. That way when their child comes to them with a car that came in dead last. They can be happy. Like their child that is just happy to watch their car race. The parent can be proud even when their child fails.