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Loss or Defeat? Lessons from the Pinewood Derby

     It was the night. The night of all nights. It was the night we had anticipated for quite some time. It was the night...of the Pinewood Derby. Our car was ready. It was named the Cool Man Lamborghini. Cars from all over the land (well, the local Cub Scout troop) came to compete. Great designs, fast designs, and some silly designs.
     The track was ready. It looked sleek and very fast tonight. The judges placed the cars on the track and the excitement intensified. Cool Man Lambourgini was the #19 car. Red. Aerodynamic. Ready. The judge yelled, "Ready!" And they were off. The #19 car got off to a fast start. Oh snap! The car in lane one slid off the track! And so we can in 3rd on the first heat. Drivers (Cub Scouts) made adjustments to their cars and we were readied for the 2nd heat. They raced down the track. The smell of tires burning and engine exhaust (work with me here) was everywhere. Yet, we got 4th place. My son's eyes looked disappointed, but we reminded him that there was one more heat left. The top three cars went to the next set of heats. It was all riding on this last heat. Nervousness. Anxiety. Who would win the final heat to go on to the semifinals? The crowed hushed as the judge let the cars go. It was neck and neck for all the cars. We're at the finish line- the #19 car, the Cool Man Lambourghini finished...4th.
     I knew what was coming next.  I looked into my son's eyes. And I saw the disappointment. I knew the tears would come soon. I was very disappointed also. I knew he felt like crying. Shoot, I did too! For three years in a row, we didn't place to the second round. We put out some good cars. We had the #29 car, Jet Blue last year which did okay. But we were putting some promise on the #19.
     Interviews were going, dads talking about the designs of their...their son's cars.  Yet, I found my son in the hallway...dejected. The derby was still going, but he was done. I took him into a private room, he knelt down on my leg, and the silent tears...began...flowing. I didn't say a word.  I couldn't say a word. I just let him cry. No whaling, just silent tears.


     I started with some (what I thought) would be encouraging words. That didn't work. "Son, do you know how many times Thomas Edison had tried to get the lightbulb to work?"

"No.", he said.

"Guess", I said.

The guesses went from 10 to 36,000.  I said it was about a hundred before he got it right. I had to speak to his language- he loves technology and science. Know your kid.
     The point was I had to convince him that this was a loss, not a defeat. A defeat is when you're done and it can't be changed. A loss is a lesson that is used...for next time. The Nationals had a losing record two years ago. It was bad. No, for real!  They made changes in the offseason, picked up some players, and then next year were in the playoffs. A loss turned lesson. Your defeated when you can't and won't get up when you lose.  In the Bible, Peter had a big mouth that often got him in trouble, but he  learned how to use that mouth...and now there is a church. Lesson learned.
     I had to remind my son that this was another lesson to use and remember for the next time Pinewood Derby comes around. We prayed and I sent him back out to cheer on his peers.

That one was tough, but needed.  I'm sure it may come up again, if not in him then my oldest.  For that matter, it may be me.

How do you teach your children about a loss and defeat? In your opinion, is there a difference? Would love your thoughts. Besides, I have NOS...

BTW, next year's car will be a winner, as in line with prophesy of Richard Petty!


  1. Way to just Be there Dijon. Sometimes, when our kids need us most, we tend to begin speaking, trying to 'make it all better'...and some of those times, they really do just need us to be quiet and Be There. We need to allow the hurt to penetrate for a moment or two, so we give them a little bit to remember when they go through it again. Its like the hand on the hot stove...when that pain sets in and the tears flow, it is literally burning its way into their memory and flesh at the same time. As parents, we never want them to feel pain, but know we must in order for them to learn. We can't keep them from pain...but let's try not to let them be afraid instead...and in this case, not afraid of the loss. I love your description of loss and defeat, and will keep it in mind the next time I need to talk to my Bean about something of this sort. Thanks for being NOS, friend.


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