So, the Pinewood Derby… as my friends K and M can attest to, always an event fraught with stress. It combines some of my least favorite things: suburban dads with their standard issue KU baseball caps, church gym, paramilitary boys’ organization, ex-wives, deafening noise of unminded screaming, running children, fluorescent lights, plastic chairs.
Last year was particularly rough, because all of the wonderfulness above was coupled with the disappointment of my favorite cub scout. The much-labored-over car of my stepson failed to finish the track. That outcome is the perfect mix of humiliation, regret, and disappointment on par with farting in a meeting or causing a traffic accident. It sucks. It sucks even more because of the two-sets-of-parents dynamic. The last thing you want is for your child to experience any sort of disappointment… but if that disappointment happens, you want it to be on the other set’s watch.
Last year we picked ourselves up from the disappointment. My SS was a champ, brushing it off, not tearing up, agreeing to the tenant that next year will be different.
And so in *NOVEMBER* the work began on the car for the race this year. DH read books, investigated materials, strategized… and did it all while making sure that the car was the product of the work of SS, not him. (Because really, the ugly truth is that most pinewood derby winners really prove that some grown man can make a better car than a bunch of grade-schoolers who worked on their own car.)
24 Karat Cheese was a product of blood, sweat, and almost tears. Every free moment DH had the twins was spent making that car. From the custom-cast weights to the shiny gold finish, that car was born of pure grit and determination.
And so there possibly couldn’t be more pressure on the derby last night. DH has had nonstop stress dreams and my level of anxiety had reached a fever pitch by the time I showed up to watch the racing. I can’t think of the last time I have felt that much anxiety – definitely on par with any anxiety I have felt about work, health, or money issues. After all, the joy or pain of my SS and husband lay in the fate of that damn car.
We sweated through two dens before SS got to race. I was near tears with stress. My stress compounded by the fact that my heart was beating so fast that I thought I would have a heart attack. What is more humiliating then having your car not finish the track? Having your overweight 35-year-old STEPMOTHER carried out on a stretcher in the middle of the pinewood derby. People will remember that kid.
24 Karat Cheese was positioned at the starting block, the race started, and 3.7ish seconds later it crossed the finish line. IT FINISHED!! IT FINISHED!!!! I looked at my husband, tears spilling over and smiled. It finished. BIGGEST EXHALE EVER… an exhale for the ages. That, my friends, was a moment of true parenthood… realizing with your partner that it was going to be ok for your kid. Ain’t nothing step or second wife about the relief and joy I felt. It is a testimony to my sense of decorum and restraint that I didn’t grab the cub scout flag thingie from its holder, and run around the gym screaming and tearing off my shirt like a professional wrestler. I *am* refined, bitches.
But, wait, 3.7 seconds… that was *good*. Dern good. The track record for the evening was 3.1. A very respectable finish. He came in second for the heat. SECOND FOR THE HEAT!!
There were three more heats for SS. And his times just kept getting better, 3.2ish and 3.3ish.
WAIT. FOR. IT.
There was one more den after SS’s. I made the mistake of telling him that I watched the times and I think there was a good chance he would come in second. The thought hadn’t even occurred to him… he was just so relieved the car finished. Yea, smoov move… that is why I am an amateur parent, not a professional. Way to raise hopes, ya loser. DH did a good job of resetting expectations and letting SS know that he might not get second.
WAIT. FOR. IT.
So then there was the computer interlude while they tallied the results. They use some sort of application to run the timed races. And the program obviously wasn’t working… and so I saw the dance of the f’ed software that I get to witness a lot at work. Guy at computer looking more and more stressed… hitting the restart button and holding his head and his breath alternately, disconnecting the projector so that his hell is private. Other dudes (all wearing light blue KU caps – NOT OVERSTATING THIS FACT… THEY *ALL* HAVE THEM) coming up and pointing and shaking their heads and offering “helpful” advice that makes computer guy even more mad. Tee hee… our car finished and I have *absolutely nothing* to do with that software. Oh, yes, the stepmom of 24 Karat Cheese was happy.
After giving up on the software and using pen-and-paper (tee hee), the results were announced.
WAIT. FOR. IT.
SS came in second for his den!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Did you catch that?? SECOND SECOND SECOND SECOND SECOND SECOND SECOND SECOND SECOND SECOND.
Joy everywhere. HE GOT A TROPHY. I emitted my pro-wrestler YAWP!! for all to enjoy. (I kept my shirt on.)
Pure joy. I tear up and smile and get shivers just thinking about it. JOY!!
And the cherry on top? Today I get to be that person who tells people without kids that my kid did such and such. And then relish their bemused smiles as they try to figure out why that is something I would talk about. I used to be the bewildered one, now I am the bewilderer. TEE HEE.