Today was Pinewood Derby Day. The local assisted living center, where we sang Christmas carols, kindly hosted the event.

The boy’s derby car was done. And I have to admit, it looked pretty sweet:

The design was 100% the boy’s, and the color scheme was 100% the boy’s. I probably did too much of the actual woodwork, and I tidied up his paint job a bit. Number 90 looked a bit more professional than even some of the older boy’s cars, which made me feel a bit guilty. But in my defense, I’m not really ready for the boy to be using edged tools, and we’ve never done this before. It was hard for me to know exactly where to draw the line between ‘helping’ and ‘building’.

I know I didn’t worry enough about the weight of the car. It’s allowed to be up to five ounces. Which meant that everyone that was under five ounces was screwing lead weights, strapping pocket change, and taping batteries to their derby cars to bring the total weight up. We came in at 4.3 ounces and I was just happy we were under the weight limit. It didn’t really occur to me to try and get it closer to the maximum weight.

The ramp was longer than I expected, much longer.

We had heard that this ramp had been in the troop for untold ages, and was periodically refurbished when needed. It had a pretty slick timing system, though, with photocell detectors in each lane.

In the trial run, the boy’s car came in second. In the first heat, he came in second, but the timer malfunctioned, so it didn’t count. In each of the real heats, he came in third. They were all close, though, and I think that if I had taken the trouble to put another half-ounce of lead on his car, he might have won a couple of them.

How did he take it? Well, I think he would have been okay with second, but coming in dead last every time bummed him out pretty badly. Fortunately, every kid got an award of some kind (part of the feel-good self-esteem liberal agenda) so number 90 was awarded “Best Design” among the Tiger Cubs. This made the boy very happy, but not as happy as the little laminated ‘Pinewood Derby’ driver’s license with his picture on it. THAT made him really happy.

The folks in the assisted-living center enjoyed having an entire pack of hyperactive kids in uniform running around their dining room. Most of them stayed and watched every single heat. Some of them may not have understood what was going on, but the noise and the kids seemed to make them happy.

So, what have I learned? I learned that I need to let him do more of the construction, even if it scares me. I learned that I need to worry about weight. I learned that when you let the six-year-olds go first, they don’t have to sit and be patient before their heats, but that the long wait after their heats is murder (”Byron! Do NOT jump over the track during a heat!” “Kevin! Sit DOWN!”). And I learned that I really enjoy making little wooden cars.