Pinewood DerbyYou know I'm not much of a scouting enthusiast. But with two boys now in the throws of belt loops and merit badges — and a husband who has volunteered as an 11-year-old scout master — it's hard to escape. So, here I am.

If you're a Cub Scout parent, the Pinewood Derby — a series of races where scouts (ostensibly) build cars out of wood blocks and then spend a couple of hours racing them down a track — is a familiar event. All sorts of fabulous prizes and ribbons and trophies are awarded to the winners in various categories. It's awesome sauce. At least in theory.

In reality, this is what we face every single year:

  1. Son comes home with kit.
  2. Dad shapes the block into something resembling a car body.
  3. Son sands it.
  4. Son paints it.
  5. Son adds decals to it.
  6. Son adds wheels.
  7. Dad and son take it to the church on race day.
  8. Son loses to the kid whose dad buys a super slick, aerodynamic, extra length, pre-cut car body with a skin, polished axels, and ultra-light wheels with graphite pads, lathed treads, and tapered rims.

Who knew an entire industry has been built around the bragging rights of scouting daddies?

Here's my humble solution to the overly-invested-derby-parent problem in Cub Scouts:

  1. Den buys the same Pinewood Derby kit for all the boys.
  2. A volunteer cuts down the blocks either the same for each boy or within a given selection of shapes that all the boys can choose from.
  3. Den spends a couple of den meetings with the scouts building the cars. (Not to be confused with the parents coming in and building the cars for the scouts.)
  4. The den holds a special race day and awards are given based on how well the cars the boys built look and function.

Seems common sense to me. But the again, I'm not known to use scouting and common sense within a few thousand yards of each other.