Remember when trolls were, at worst, innocuous oddities? Now, instead of evoking images of furry-haired plastic dolls, they're considered a contemptible lot. Perhaps most shocking, it has nothing to do with the whole geriatric man-baby weirdness (seriously, look at that thing). Internet trolls, who take great pleasure in stoking discord through inflammatory rhetoric on message boards, comments sections and social media, have ruined the good name of those original trolls.
I aim to do my part to change that.
Like most parents desperately trying to keep pace with two kids with grand designs on taking down the family institution (just like online trolls!), I frequently use kids' movies to distract them while I plot my next course of action.
This plan rarely works. Mostly because -- as best I can tell, anyway -- the five year old has extensive counterespionage training. He knows that I know that he's up to something, and putting on a movie only raises his suspicions. So instead of, you know, watching the movie long enough to let me get something -- anything -- done, I can only imagine he has this conversation with himself as it pertains to me:
"As long as I'm awake I will engage you with an inane running commentary that will, through sheer tenacity, wear down your defenses and bend your will, and eventually render you helpless to do anything about my grand vision for eating sugar and staying up late."
And then he proceeds to ask some of the most ridiculous things you can't even imagine.
"What are chairs?" is one I got recently.
I've discovered that most five-year-olds do this in some form, and I suspect there is a secret network they use to share ideas. I hope to one day infiltrate their ranks and troll them out of existence. IT WORKS BOTH WAYS, KIDS.
Okay, back on Earth...
A few weeks ago, the kids and I had the evening to ourselves. We decided to rent "Trolls," an animated movie about the old-school furry-headed creatures, not the internet a-holes. At this point in the proceedings, with a 10-year-old and a five-year-old, there are very few kids movies from the last two decades that we haven't seen. Some are terrible, some are adequate but very few are able to capture the attention of a younger audience while also appealing to the old-timers tasked with sitting through it with them.
"Trolls" is one such film.
In fact, I'm willing to go so far as to say that it's my favorite kids film ever. This proclamation, I can assure you, has nothing to do with my unhealthy obsession with Justin Timberlake, but mostly because "Trolls" is a great story, with great characters and a fantastic soundtrack that works seamlessly with the storyline.
I say this bit about the soundtrack as someone whose musical interests remain rooted in the 1990s, when I was in college and had people to tell me what I should be listening to. This probably goes some way in explaining why my kids aren't that into popular music. And this isn't to say that we don't play music at home -- I do it every day -- it's just that, like sports on television, the kids have an uncanny ability to tune it out.
But a funny thing happened after we watched "Trolls" three times in 24 hours.
A few days later, we were driving somewhere. The kids were in the back and unusually loud and annoying. I had long ago given up playing music in the car to drown them out; they a) usually ask me to turn it off because "they don't like it" or b) start in with the inane questions that require me to turn down the music, ask "What did you say?" only to have them repeat said inane question, which invariably leads to me cranking up the music even louder to take my mind off driving off the nearest bridge. It's a vicious cycle.
But this time, I didn't say anything. Instead, I found the "Trolls" soundtrack on Spotify, fired it up ... and magic followed.
Immediately, everything went silent, save the soothing vocals of Justin Timberlake and Gwen Stefani. It was like sleeping gas poured out of the vents and the adults had gas masks. It was a legitimate "Eureka" moment.
So now, anytime we're in the car for any length of time, "Trolls" gets played. In fact, the kids request it. Just the other day, I said these exact words to the 10-year-old before a short car ride: "You want to watch 20 minutes of Rogue One on the iPhone or listen to 'Trolls'."
"'Trolls' please," was the response, which came without hesitation.
That was my cue to expand operations.
It is almost impossible to get the 10 year old to clean, well, anything -- the play room, his room, himself. Between all the arm-waving and sighing with such requests, you might think he was having a seizure. And when he eventually relents, it's a begrudging and half-assed cleaning effort, one that involves one-word answers, no eye contact, and a lot of stomping around.
On Saturday, we needed to do some cleaning, mostly in the kids' play room and bedrooms. But before I brought it up, I blasted "Trolls" on the house boom box (we don't really have a house boom box, though now I wish we did). After about a minute, I mentioned we needed to do some picking up.
I'm not making this up when I say this: Not only were they eminently amenable, they did it while dancing. It was right out of a Roald Dahl book.
Smash-cut to 15 minutes later and the house was clean. More amazing than that? Nobody cried!
Most amazing of all: This isn't even an April fools' joke.
So thank you, "Trolls," for your important contribution to making me a better parent.