My daughter has been on a Trolls kick lately, running through the house pretending to be Poppy, escaping the clutches of the cruel Bergen Chef looking to toss her in a stew. She bends the script a tad when she grabs a light saber from her toy bin and wards off her imaginary foes with a mighty swing. Although, as a long time Star Wars fan, I’m partial to her rendition of light saber wielding trolls. They have become a regular staple in our household, in fact, I can quote way more of that movie than I care to admit, catch me on a good day and I’ll even sing you a jingle. Bryn is often the role of Poppy, questing through our house troll hunting to save her family and friends.
It was Sunday afternoon, the sun was shining, birds chirping, and the neighbor was jack-hammering a pool for his backyard… I wanted to enjoy the weather with the family but had to get away from the racket outside. With a few recent hefty home improvement purchases, we were also a little tighter in the pocket book than usual. I thought about taking the family for a little hike in the nearby Santa Rosa Plateau. Bryn, so preoccupied with her trolls, didn’t seem too interested when I suggested it though. Then I remembered I had recently purchased a Troll figure on Amazon for just a few bucks and had it tucked away in my secret toy hiding place. (I like to surprise her with little rewards at random when I notice she does something kind for someone else).
I grabbed the figure, stuck it in my pack, gathered everything we’d need for a family hike and told her we were going Troll hunting. The look on her face said it all. “Troll hunting, dadda?!” she exclaimed exuberantly. Aubrey, wise to my tricks knew I had something up my sleeve, or in my pack as the case would have it.
We drove to the plateau and Bryn hopped out and hit the trail immediately. She was on high alert looking for trolls. As we walked the trail, not a stone was left un-turned, no bush left unchecked, and all the while her little voice hollered out, “Branch?… Poppy? Where are you?”. As we searched, we had plenty of opportunity for family photo ops. Searching fallen trees, looking under bridges, climbing large boulder formations. Sometimes tossing her on my shoulders to check a nearby tree. Not only were we getting the family hike I’d hoped for, it was extra exciting for Bryn because she was on a mission. At times, she was so enthralled with the things she found in nature (bugs, flowers, birds, squirrels, etc.) we were able to put our troll hunting on pause and take time to teach her about all the fascinating things she stumbled across.
At long last, I decided she had put in enough leg work and deserved the fruits of her labor. I snuck off and hid the figure on a rock. I returned to Bryn and with Aubrey’s help, we herded her in the general direction of where her coveted Troll was hiding. She needed a little help, but she located the it! Standing there on the rock triumphantly in all its glory, hair perfectly quaffed and slightly blowing in the breeze. The look on her sweet little face was priceless as she exclaimed, “I found one!” She was so proud of her accomplishment, all her hard work paid off. She brought home her new friend and he’s been her favorite toy for quite a while.
At the end of the day, this adventure wasn’t about finding a Troll. IT wasn’t about escaping the noise at home or getting out in the nice weather either. This was about bringing the three of us together to have some inexpensive, fun, and most importantly, creating a special memory. That simple toy only cost a few dollars and it would have put a smile on her face anytime I gave it to her. But as any parent knows, a shiny new toy only holds their attention so long. The magic of finding a Troll out in the wild though, that is something she won’t soon forget. We often lose sight of how simple it is to make a child happy. Put their imagination to work and let the games begin.