Troll Hunting at the Morton Arboretum

There is nothing more heartwarming than watching the relationship between your child and mother unfold. Especially when it is a relationship blessed with love, joy and creativity. Living thousands of miles away from my mom, I rarely get to see the magic in action.

Recently, my mom had our son, Rowan, for the weekend in Chicago while I was at a training course. At break, I called to check in and found them marching up a snow-filled hill hunting for trolls at the Morton Arboretum. Winter gear ready, I could see the adventure in both of their eyes.

My son marching forward shouted “We are going troll hunting and we don’t give up until the last troll”. He looks at my mom and says, “We’re tenacious Grandma, right?”

My mom let out her trademark laugh and said that she’s teaching my 3-year-old some new words. At that moment I realized she was teaching Rowan more than a word; she was gifting him a rich part of her spirit.

My mother is a remarkable woman. She put herself through school one class at a time while raising four children on a single family salary. She and I learned in parallel, getting both our bachelor’s and master’s degrees within years of each other. She grew from a growing from a drug and alcohol counselor in her youth to an emergency room psychologist. Her curiosity and desire to never stop learning shined through. 

She is the person you always want at your side at a moment of crisis. She was my perverbial “bat phone” whenver things got bad. A remarkable listener, present and caring, she taught me the value of empathy at a young age. So much of what I am today is because of the behaviors she modeled. Loving kindness, unconditional love and a wild sense of humor.

Nowhere is this more present than in her relationship with my son. Rowan adores her. Children just know when someone’s soul is kindred to their own. My mother, even in sixties, moves with childlike curiosity and a sense of adventure that fits so perfectly in the hands of an active 3-year-old.

As they marched on, my mom caught me up on their adventures. Within minutes, Rowan blurted out another story, sharing “guess what mom, I had to tell grandma to take two breaths. She had a hard time with the car seat and needed a little time out, so we took deep breaths”.

My mom laughed and said she figured out the car seat but that she got very frustrated. Embedded in tenacity is a conditional patience that both my mom and me share. We can sit for hours listening to someone’s life story unfold with focused intensity but ask us to wait in a long line and we’re bouncing off the walls. 

Rowan’s simple request left her mesmerized by the wisdom of such a young soul. I’ve always believed that children exist to teach us as much about ourselves as parents exist to cultivate life. In that moment I saw something more. It isn’t just about education, it’s about the deepening of a relationship.

Relationships don’t grow if you both aren’t willing to grow with each other. My son offered grandma peace in a stressful moment and my grandma gave Rowan the sense of adventure he needs to explore the world. Both gave freely what the other needed most and their bond grew stronger.

We are not bonded by our proximity or genetics — but by the desire to understand others and be understood in return. I hope to never forget that magical afternoon hunting for trolls where the sparks in their eyes outshined the glitter of the new fallen snow.


  • Kristen Lampert

    Leadership Coach and HR Strategy Consultant

    Ignite the Spark Now

    I am a high-energy, eternally optimistic and driven business leader with an intuitive approach to my consulting and coaching practices. As a Senior Talent Consultant for TalentRise, an Inc 5000 recognized talent management consulting and executive recruiting firm, I partner with my clients to drive ambitious strategic transformation in the recruitment, retention and engagement of top talent. As founder of Ignite the Spark Now, I serve to inspire and engage leaders to kindle the spark within to drive audacious change in others. Over the last twenty years, I've led strategic talent initiatives in the financial services, private equity and legal services industries. I have a M.B.A. from DePaul University and a B.A. from Bradley University. I am currently the President Elect in ICF Charlotte and am an active member of ATD, SHRM and Pink Mentor Network. I hold SHRM-SCP and SPHR certifications and am currently pursuing Co-Active Coaching and ACC certification.