Sunday, October 4, 2009

Trolls and the Cruelest Mother Ever

There were no rocks on my mind today, no doubt a few in it but not exactly on it. Then I suppose that just veers off into some silly Monty Python episode. But I digress, though I’ve barely started. I think sums up my Sunday.

Monty Python actually had some pretty healthy advice laced throughout their comedy. Life is too serious to take seriously. I am a huge advocate of taking control of your time on earth and living every moment at least a couple of times. I have skipped out on death often enough to know that every moment actually counts twice. You don’t have to climb mountains or jump out of planes, you don’t need to conquer the world or even travel it for that matter in order to live fully; but you do have to own every moment inside and out. I don’t believe that you have to be happy and infused with joy all the time but I do look for it and try to create it if I can.

When our son was a teenager I told him that we were not going to buy him a brand new car like the rest of his friends at school. I told him that I thought kids should suffer a little in life. He was genuinely shocked and appalled and he took personal offense that I had actually said that to him. It wasn’t about getting a new car as this was his first volley into that arena. It was about giving him the gift of no. How’s that for a parental phrase?
At the time there was no way he could understand what I meant by my comment on his suffering. All he knew was that I was the most horrible mother ever to walk the earth.

All his friends had brand new expensive cars purchased by their generous parents. They were birthday gifts, Christmas gifts, getting a good grade gifts etc. and they were sporty and shiny will all the bells and whistles. He on the other hand drove what he called “The Troll.” It was an old beater Oldsmobile Calais. There was a recurrent electrical issue with the turn signal when it rained so he often had to use hand signals. Then the inside mechanism of the driver side window wore out. When he had to use his hand signals he was forced to reach behind to the back window, roll it down manually and stick his hand out that window to signal. He became quite agile with this maneuver and could have won some serious Olympic medal if it had been a recognized sport at the time. The dome light would sometimes stick on and if he didn’t catch it in time the battery would die. The car was old, completely uncool and had a suspicious musty smell to it. His favorite feature however had to be the mysterious and consistent stalling out on the off ramps. For some reason no one could ever figure out the car would just die when he slowed down to stop on the off ramps. The Troll would take a few minutes to rest and then he could start back on his way. Eventually he began to figure this resting time into his schedule.

He hated that car with all his soul. He cursed it with his every breath and he resented us just a wee bit. Eventually he bought a newer car but still not a brand spanking new one. It didn’t have odd electrical issues, the window wasn’t taped shut with silver duct tape and it continued running even on the off ramps. When he went off to college he was still a tad bitter but he was starting to come around. Then day finally came when the cruelest mother to ever live was rewarded for her horrible comment about the suffering of little children. He had come home for a visit and said to me “You know, about the Troll, I get it. I can’t explain it but I get it. I couldn’t believe you would say such a thing to me at the time but now I am glad that you did. I wouldn’t have had this experience if you had bought me a new car.”

We weren’t punishing him or testing him and he never had to prove himself. It must have seemed pretty unreasonable to him at the time because by all accounts he was one of the most deserving kids for such a reward. He was a straight A student and top notch person all the way around. He was a hard worker and understood the value of a dollar better than anyone. This is why it was so hard to explain why he needed The Troll.

Character is built not in adversity but in fully owning your time on earth. It comes in owning your decisions and the responsibility that comes with them. And with hammering out your priorities and desires longer than it takes to swipe a credit card. Sometimes in our zeal to “want for nothing” and to erase bad feelings we seem to give away our growing pains, our rights of passage. It is in those less than elegant times in our lives when we learn not the value of a dollar but the value of a moment. We learn the value of our heart’s desires and of our goals whatever they may be. It allows us to know that what we are doing with our time on earth is the value that we have chosen.

What do Monty Python’s comedy, lazy Sundays and gardening have to do with any of this? Well you simply can not take yourself too seriously when participating in any of them anymore than you can take yourself to seriously when you are driving a Troll that has a window closed with silver duct tape. You have to let go of your preconceived and often misguided conceptions of how things “should” be and find the absolute truth of your moment’s value. You have to get down in the dirt of life and find the root of what is really making you grow. Once you have done that you will know what to nurture and what to prune away.


  1. Lesan, where do I even begin? I loved this post. Your son was lucky to have "The Troll" experience. It's great that he eventually appreciated it. My husband had a Troll in college and it wasn't a chick magnet by any means, but I remember knowing that he was the One when I still went out with him in his car. :-)

    *owning* our own life is such a cool concept. I like that and am learning better how to do that. Life is such a precious gift!

    Have a great week!

  2. LeSan,
    I think Vitamin No is a great thing for kids.
    We have to give it to our children, even though they don't like the taste.
    This made me think about my kitchen and how I want state of the art sink, stove, counter tops etc. now. And I have to wait. And even then it won't be THE BEST when it's finished, because we are on a budget. I need to have a bit of Vit. No administered to myself at times. It's healthy!
    Thanks for this post, it was thought-provoking.

  3. Pink Ink thank you for writing. I really liked this line from you.
    -"My husband had a Troll in college and it wasn't a chick magnet by any means, but I remember knowing that he was the One when I still went out with him in his car. :-)"
    That makes you a genuine person and he is so lucky to have you. He can always be confident that you saw him and believed in who he was and wanted to become. It sounds like you chose well. :-)

    Rosey that is so cool that you called it a vitamin. hehe. Your right it usually doesn't taste good for either kid or parent but sometimes it just needs to be given. I trust that your kitchen will look fabulous when you are finished with it. Not because you spent oodles of money but because you value it enough to put genuine thought into it. Well that and, you just have good taste my dear. :-)

  4. Parenting is the most difficult job we will ever have... if everything is always given to us ... how do we discern a work ethic... appreciate striving towards a goal and reaching it... feeling great about it. It did sound a bit scary about your son having to do acrobatics while driving however... I suppose he was in stop mode though. He will have fond memories of this old tinker.

  5. A very good post! My parents did a similar thing with my sisters and I growing up, we called the ugly blue station wagon the blue whale. I do think them making us earn things rather than just giving it to us made me appreciate things a lot more. We are trying to teach our daughters the same thing, but it sure is hard now when they see their friends getting whatever they want.

  6. You are so right Carol. Parenting is tough and the pay is lousy but the benifits make up for it. It was a little shocking to see him do this slight of hand with the back window but it was actually the smoothness of his action that was so amazing. He is an excellent driver however and has even had the pleasure of driving for U.S. Senators.

    Catherine my sincere condolances regarding the Blue Whale. LOL There are just too many intangibles in this type of experience to explain to a kid but it is one of the best experiences to have in your past. You are so right, it is so hard for parents these days to tell their kids no. It's worth it in the long run though and reading your blog tells me that you are giving your girls a great edge in life.

  7. LeSan ~ What a wonderful post.


  8. Thank you my dear friend. :-)

  9. I love this post. My six-year old gets many things, but he also gets a good dose of "no." I hope he gets it one day.

  10. I can't think of anything more to add that you didn't cover in your perfectly written post. Because we live on a budget, my kids get their fair share of no, and each Christmas the gifts get fewer and fewer, but they aren't complaining. But to include a related topic, I spoke with my son's P.E. teacher yesterday. He'd had mud on his shoes, and she asked him to sweep up the floor. So he did so, and she was astounded that he did a good job and commented that she was really happy to see a parent teaching a child how to clean. I guess it's not just about learning the value of being without, but the value of being responsible, too.

  11. Tara your little one will "get it" one day. If you love them enough to have the discipline to say no then they will "get it" and thank you for it.

    Meredith you should be so proud of your boy! Thank you very much for the compliment on the post. It means a lot to me. :-)
    You're completely right when you say that it's the value of responsibility. That's what the no is all about. If they get everything simply because they ask then they never get to learn about earning a thing, which breeds responsibility.

    I really have loved this conversation with every one. Thank you all so much for making this post so much more rich!

  12. What a lovely post.
    Teaching our children responsiblity for themselves and their lives is such an important lesson. It's not easy.
    Our grown with children of their own ...always moaned about 'everybody' having something they wanted.
    Our granddaughter was moaning that same sentiment, just the other day. So, those lessons must be passed from one generation to the next. That's The Never-Ending Story...

  13. A little late for a response, but as I'm dealing with teenage "issues", this was a good read. Thank you!