Four years ago we attended our first Cub Scout Pinewood Derby. Grandpa and I helped James and Ben with their cars but really had no idea what to expect. When we walked into the race we were a little concerned that maybe we had violated “The car should have minimal adult assistance” rule. We had not. Cars that had obviously spent time in a NASA wind chamber destroyed us. I am pretty sure one had a nitro-tank on it. James and Ben were by far the two slowest cars in the field, and it was not close. It was like watching the 2008 Detroit Lions go 0-16. Dan Orlovsky, you just ran out of the back of your own end-zone and do not even know it! As we left, Grandpa said, “That will never happen again. They do not have to win, but it won’t be like that again.”
Grandpa is a very handy, skilled man. I am not. The following year he fell out of a tree stand and broke several vertebrae. He spent the next couple of weeks on the couch. Did he read? Watch movies? Write a blog? Nope, he spent hours watching YouTube videos on making Pinewood Derby cars. Realizing that my involvement would more than likely result in some type of gruesome injury, I excused myself from the process and let Grandpa and the boys go to work.
There was a lot of time put in those cars for the next three years. Yes, G-pa was heavily involved. Whether or not people believe it, he provided guidance, suggestions, told the boys how to distribute the weight and helped with a lot of the assembly, but he made those boys do the grinding, put in the graphite, do the test runs, etc. When the boys were done working, the cars went away and Grandpa was hands-off. James, who put in significantly more work than Ben, won the next two Pinewood Derbies and moved on to Boy Scouts. Ben won in his final tournament today. Would they have won without Grandpa? No chance, but I am comfortable with the work they put in. They put in a lot of hours and had a very talented adult with them. So be it.
I loved watching my kids win and seeing their excitement, but I the time my boys spent with Grandpa was far more important than winning. My father and I are very different people and frankly do not have a lot in common. He can build or repair almost anything. I draw stick figures. He sits in a tree stand (when he’s not falling out) for hours to hunt and has been all over the country hunting various animals. I once bagged a 10-pt on Big Buck Hunter on the Wii while sitting on my couch. I have never heard of someone falling off their couch and breaking their back while shooting stuff. We think differently, have different opinions and sometimes it can be difficult for us to find a common ground/interest so when my kids have an opportunity to spend that much time with him, it is very special to me. G-pa has a skill set that I will never possess and it thrills me that he will spend so much time working with them and giving them that opportunity that I could never provide them.
Yes, my boys had a pretty dominant three-year run at Pinewood Derby and it is mostly because they got to work with a very talented man. Not going to lie about that. My suggestions for flame-throwers (seriously, you know pinewood has to be highly flammable) were ignored and time was spent working with tools that I did not know even exist. I can use a fork. I see things. I stab them. I eat them. That is how I use tools. Yes, we have a lot of trophies laying around now, but I am far more proud that my boys and grandpa had a three-year run of working together on a common interest. All three had a blast doing it, and that is what is important to me.