Pumpkin Girl was excited to participate in the Powder Puff Derby. She told all of her friends about it and had a great time designing and decorating her car. She could hardly wait for the day to arrive.
Her Brownie Troop was the first to race and hers was one of the first cars. Two of her best friends’ cars were racing against hers. We loaded the cars on to the track and away they went. Two of the cars finished a close one-two and Pumpkin Girl’s car was a distant third. The disappointment in her face was clear, but I gave her an encouraging smile and she smiled back. The cars were set to race again, with similar results. Pumpkin’s car raced in the next few races and each time it seemed to get slower. In fact, it looked like it was barely going to make it to the finish line.
As parents, we do our best to coach our children through the disappointments and hurts of life. Sometimes we can head them off ahead of time by stressing a positive attitude before a big game or competition. We make sure that their dances or music pieces are well rehearsed before a recital. We talk about what to expect and how to react. Many times we can be right there as their hearts begin to hurt, guiding them through the complicated and fickle world of best friends and second best friends, friends that move away and friends that never come around anymore. And then there are the times that either by circumstance or design that we must stand back and let them suffer through a heartache alone.
The Powder Puff Derby was one of those times for Pumpkin Girl. As she sat in the racer’s area, her back was to most of the spectators, but those of us helping with the race could see her face plainly. She loved her little Becky Angel car so much but to watch it race so poorly was too much for her 7 year old heart. My Brownie co-leader said that she looked so serious and I said, no, she’s struggling not to cry. Even the Cub Master who was MC’ing at the time commented to Philip that Pumpkin looked shy. He gave the same answer – she’s about to cry. In between races, the Cub Master (also named Phil) volunteered to take a look at Pumpkin’s car to try to help it. As soon as her car cycled out of the line up, he whisked it away to work on it.
Nothing much could be done. Her wheel axles were bent and no spare ones were to be had. Cub Master Phil did his best, but it was clear that she wasn’t going to be winning any races.
The next time her car raced, it did better. It finished last, but this time it was much closer to the #2 car. I continued to help out with the race, all the time watching her struggle to maintain control. How she did it, I will never know, but she dug down deep and found a strength inside her I didn’t know she had. She maintained her composure the whole time and even smiled a little when both her best friends made it to the troop finals.
When I was finally able to go to her, she was still upset, but no longer on the verge of tears. I told her how proud I was of her. It is so hard when we expect one thing to happen and something else happens instead. It’s even worse when it happens in front of a lot of people. The easy thing to do is to run and hide. The hard thing to do is to stick to it and try to smile. It is easy to give up, but hard to say “I want to try again next time.”
As we were leaving, I told her that Cub Master Phil, after seeing her car and trying to fix it, said that next year he’d like to have a workshop for the Girl Scouts, to help them cut their wood and teach them how to buff their axles and add graphite to their wheels. Pumpkin Girl said, “It’s good that God made my car go slow so that Mr. Phil would know he needed to help us next year. If my car hadn’t lost, it wouldn’t have helped the Girl Scouts.”
It was at that moment that my eyes started to water and I struggled to maintain my composure.
It was at that moment that Pumpkin Girl showed her quality.