I just this week told my husband that I feel like I am living with a troll. I was referencing my twelve-year-old daughter. “You’re not going to tell her that, are you?” he asked. “Of course not,” I said, feigning mortification. Truthfully, I have implied this before, however, when telling her how she stomps around the house.
Not only is our Chicken Little heavy footed, but she leaves a trail of crumbs that betray her efforts to hide her snacking out-of-zone. I can trace her steps through the kitchen, to the living room, and up the stairs on any given day. I may come home to find explosions in the microwave and shredded cheese across the counter, her dishes piled at the side of the sink. At this point, I nudge our troll into action and watch her scuttle about vacuuming and wiping the detritus left behind.
She often acts half-wittedly, such as with her approach to laundry. Recently, I had a load of whites in the dryer ready to be folded. She removed her wet jeans from the washer and put them in with the dry whites and ran the dryer again. Of course, this resulted in an unsuccessful attempt to dry anything. Having found this late at night when she was already in bed, I had to take care of the matter myself, sort and re-dry items, and when I told her about it, received her standard, a wide-eyed dreamy “Whaaatttt?”
The other week, I pulled out the laundry she had folded, which contained a vast amount of items that couldn’t be put away because when I picked them up, they had been crumpled into random layers, not a corner to corner in sight, not a neat line or crease anywhere. Meanwhile, her little brother jet-folded into perfect quarters stacks of washcloths and napkins. I pointed this out to my Chicken Little, at which she said, “Whaaatttt?” and then with a goofy smile redid the folding.
Yesterday, I had asked for her help sorting placemats and napkins from potholders and kitchen towels in the large bins I keep in our dining room on the rolling rack. When I went in to check her progress, she had done what the trolls among us do—a sort of assemblage of semi-related items in random ways, with non-matching items tucked between them. Everything had to be removed from the bins, refolded, regrouped with similar items, and then put away one more time. It’s exhausting making sure she doesn’t slack on the job.
This morning, she was, at my husband’s suggested tactic, picking out the rabbit food from his bedding due to her having recklessly poured so much food in the feeder that it spilt everywhere. Later, she may have to put away her laundry, which she will likely shove in random drawers, therefore complicating how she chooses her outfits in the morning, and resulting in crumply mismatched pairings. Rejected outfits will become piled at the foot of her bed, which is another matter in itself; for in her bed (IN her bed), she hordes notebooks, pens, pencils, markers, scissors, novels, and toys. I don’t know how she sleeps between my forced evacuations of such accumulating odds and ends. Only a troll would know.
Toilet paper-replacing is another challenge with our pre-teen, who having not yet mastered the art of hygiene, might skip replacing an empty cardboard roll and opt for some kind of shake and dodge maneuver instead, leaving whoever comes after her in a serious lurch. And don’t ask about hand washing. On more than one occasion, I have bent over to kiss her good night, detected a foul odor and sent her back to the bathroom for a sound application of hot water and soap. Despite the shower she took before church today, I noted rings of grey in the creases of her neck, and was appalled. Like I said, we live with a troll.
My husband offers advice for troll-coaching. “Find a way not to be angry when you talk to her about this.” But it is hard not be angry or frustrated when you have spent days, months, and years repeating yourself. Like how she chews with her mouth open or talks to me with sour cream pasted across her upper lip and cheek, and I have to say, for the millionth time, how not to eat like a troll. Kids wonder what’s wrong with their parents—why can’t they smile more, why can’t they be fun? Because we live with trolls.
I asked a friend the other day how long this phase lasts—he sighed, pursed his lips, thought a minute, and then said, “Yeah. Yep. It goes to about age seventeen.” He clapped me on the back. “Settle in. It’s a long road.” Yes, it is a long road— with a bridge on it that the troll lives under.