Skip to main content

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.


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

You Need To Do Your Chores!

I got tired.  I really got tired.  Tired of coming to my house and seeing everything out of order.  I would straighten one thing up and another would get messed up.  So I would straighten that up, and then, the first thing I messed up again!

So the Lord touched.  Better yet, he smacked me upside the upper left side of my neck and reminded me that I had two boys sitting... on the couch... watching... TV.  Two additional helpers.  What a coincidence!  Why did I not think of this earlier?  They need to be helping!  So I devise this great scheme -- make them help me with the house! brilliant!

So I sit down at the kitchen/ breakfast/ homework/ mail collector/ pseudo business office/ conference table and devise a plan.  I then summoned the boys to the multi-purpose table and asked them what they thought would be some good chores for them to do.  I knew there would be some resistance.  They said some stuff like 'make up their bed' or 'straighten …

A Brave New World of Responsibility -- Parenting for Departure- Part 2

There's another adult in my house now.  A couple of days ago, there were only two, my wife and I.  Now there's been a third added. You guessed it:  my oldest son turned 18.  He's officially an adult.  Wow.  Our lives are about to change.

There's so much that is now involved in this scenario.  He's an adult now.  That means responsibility.  That wretched word.  Responsibility.  Don't get me wrong:  this young man is relatively responsible for his age.  He's a great provider and model for his brother (in most cases).  He's working.  He took the initiative to get his driver's license.  And he's cooki...well we're still working on that.  He can make a mean bowl of cereal though!

Responsibility.  The transition between being a teenager to an adult is huge, but should be more of a gentle transition.  Todd Kestin, a licensed social worker, wrote in the Huffington Post. Basing a point from the book, The Case Against Adolescence:  Rediscovering the Ad…

Parenting for Departure

It was a violently cold night.I parked about a block away in Adams Morgan and briskly walked to Bourbon, a restaurant/ bar that specializes in (you guessed it), bourbons.  I was enjoying a birthday celebration with some incredible men that I've known for years.  All of us were fathers, some of young kids and some who are clearly in their twenties.  Since I arrived there last, I had to sit next to the door. People walked in and out, neglectfully leaving the door open.  Ummm, did they not realize that it was -216 degrees?!? I digress.  We talked about different things, such as football, whiskeys, and of coarse, our kids. It was inevitable.  As I mentioned, some of these fathers were already empty-nesters.  As the conversation continued, one of the men said something that completely stuck with me.

"You have to parent for departure.", he said.  Profound.  I don't remember anything else from the night.  It was if Charlie Brown was listening to his teacher as she said, '…