{Perseverance} Life Lessons from the Space Derby

I think there are some quintessential childhood lessons that we all must learn. Some are hard, some are easy, some are funny, and some are earned by blood, sweat and tears. They come in many forms from small moments, to big events, conversations and questions, personal prayer and schoolhouse woes. As a Mother, I spend a fair amount of time thinking about these lessons. Looking for opportunities to share, to impart wisdom, and to shape my children into the adults I hope they will someday become. Sometimes, though, these moments fall into our laps, with no prompting from me. Sometimes, they come from the strangest places, even the cultural hall at the church, in the midst of a Space Derby.

Before we begin with the heavy stuff, can we talk about the space derby for a second? Best I can tell, it's the newest incarnation of the good old Boy Scout standard, the Pinewood Derby. The age old rite of passage that boys (and their overzealous fathers) have practiced and perfected for generations. The very same derby for which we invested a small fortune in books, supplies, and hours watching YouTube videos last year. For which we were handsomely rewarded with a second place ribbon. And by we, of course, I mean Jon  Landon. The boys in the house spent a good portion of time after the last derby planning how to improve their car, including what aerodynamic and weight placement changes they might need to make in order to exchange that second place ribbon for a first place one. So, when we received word that we were instead doing a space derby this year, we were all a little surprised and taken aback. I'm not really sure who came up with this idea, but appropriate credit must be given to the scout leaders who obviously planned carefully for it well in advance, with field trips to Lockheed Martin, and discussions about aerodynamics.  Thanks to some really fun scout activities, Landon was already primed to be excited about this new undertaking, even if his Dad was less than thrilled.

Naturally, as with any Godbold project, work on this rocket commenced in a timely manner. By which I mean that I reminded Jon and Landon about it on Saturday and they finally got busy with it on Monday. Given that the race was on Wednesday, you can see how this maybe wasn't the best plan, though it bears a striking resemblance to our typical project timeline. What can I say? We like the adrenaline rush of added pressure. After a minor disaster involving a missing bushing and an impromptu trip to the scout store, the rocket was complete, and ready for an inaugural run with a couple of hours to spare. 

Ready for action...before Derby Disaster
In the hours leading up to the derby, Landon could scarcely contain his excitement, and kept letting me know, "Mom, I'll bet I get first place. I mean, I got second last year, so I'll bet I get first this year." To which I gently reminded him that this was about fun, and sportsmanship, and that it would be great if he won, but the most important part was cheering on his friends, and the process of building the rocket. A little background on Landon, he's a very sensitive child. And also incredibly competitive. You can see how this is not always such a great combination. Hopefully, you can also see why I was maybe less than excited about the coming event. 

At 5:40, we all piled into the van and headed to the church. I know, you're already confused, as this means we arrived not only on time, but early. I'm sure no one at church knew what to make of this, either. There were 24 competitors, and Landon and Ashlyn both quickly made their way over to their friends. This left Jon and I on our own in desperately attempting to keep Harper from knocking over the (very complicated) track. I'm happy to report, we did manage to do our part, and no space derby tracks or rockets were harmed by the maniacally running and destructive one year old we had in tow.

Don't let the cuteness fool you, she's very fast...and very destructive!

As number 7, Landon was in the second heat for the derby. He watched, and cheered for the first four rockets to compete, and carefully counted out the 100 clockwise rotations required for his propeller. His rocket was docked on the track, and he made his way to the finish line. The countdown was started, the rockets were released, and then, with a VERY dramatic nosedive, Landon's rocket left the track, and hit the floor, with propeller blades going all over the place. His rocket was dead in the water (or on the gym floor), and his heart was broken. I could see he was trying very hard not to cry, and to be honest, he wasn't particularly successful at this task. We walked him over to our seats, and tried to cheer him up. He was pretty darned upset, even with some really great friends patting him on the back, and trying to cheer him up. 

Jon had a stroke of genius, and remembered that due to the previous day's debacle of the missing bushing, he had an extra propeller in the diaper bag, so he and Landon decided to head to the hall to see if they could rig something up. What I really mean, is that Landon was pretty upset, certain that all was lost, and that new glue would never dry in time for a repeat run and wasn't even sure he wanted to try to fix it. But, after a little pep talk, and maybe some not-so-gentle pushing from his impatient Mother, the boys worked together, and pieced the "Blue Baron" back together. 

As they docked his rocket for a repeat run, I couldn't help but be nervous for him. Even though I had told him to keep his head up, and be positive, I was also pretty certain the glue had not had enough drying time to hold onto the wire track. Four rockets were docked, on at a time, the boys took their places at the finish line, and they started the count down. Lo and behold, the glue held! His rocket made it to the finish. To be honest, I don't even know what place he was in, because I was so focused on his face, which was lit up in pure JOY. The smile on his face couldn't have been wider, and this Momma's heart was pretty darn full. He jumped up and down, and just had a great time racing and laughing and talking with his friends for the rest of the night. He even got a certificate at the end, for the "Blue Baron Award," which put him on Cloud 9 again.

Just look at that smile!

When we got home, we talked about the events of the night, and about what he might have learned from his experiences. First, he learned that it might be a good idea to start his rocket more than a couple of days prior to the race. Or to finish it more than a few hours before. The jury's still out on whether it's possible for a Godbold to complete a project without procrastination though, so we'll see how that shakes out next time. He also learned never to give up; that if you work hard, and persevere, you can overcome a lot of obstacles, especially if you've got some really great friends and family members by your side. 

Perseverance is defined as, "Steadfastness in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success." And although it took some gentle prodding from his parents, I'm proud that Landon was able to remain steadfast, and that he was able to experience some success. I hope this will be the first of many times he is able to put the fruits of this lesson into practice in his life, and the first of many times he is able to feel the power of the love and support of family and friends. I hope he'll always know that when things get tough, while it's okay to be sad or disappointed, it's never okay to give up. Most of all, I hope he always remembers that he's got so very many people on his side, rooting for him, and willing to help him in any way we can. 

When I look forward, into the future, and think of the kind of things I want my kids to get from their time with me, this idea of having someone in their corner is always near the top of that list. I want them to know they always have someone on their side, ready to build them up. And not just one someone. A whole lot of someones willing to help them find the silver lining on a cloudy day. 

Wednesday night, I was grateful not only for fast-drying glue that defied the laws of physics, but for all of the great friends and ward members who cheered on, and supported my little boy after such a big disappointment. 

I also must admit that I can't help but hope we might go back to that good old Pinewood Derby again, next year!

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