There has been an influx of Pinterest and blog arguments in my newsfeeds recently and they are pretty heated. The parents who are flashing their artistic talents and seemingly eerie lack of sleep with their Elf-magic and those who think it’s creepy. And so… Here I am, with my thoughts on Elf on the Shelf.
I leave “Elf”, as Addie calls her, in a Dollar Store stocking on our stairs. We wave hi and bye to it, but we do not touch it. I have plans to move and change her and be creative next year, or the year after, but for now- just introducing her to the family is fine for us. THESE ideas are some of my favorites for future use.
So, clearly I am an Elf on the Shelf supporter. Having our own Santa’s Helper is just another piece of magic to inspire my holiday… but then I see parents who are stressed, pulling their hair out because they didn’t move the elf. I have ideas for you at the end. And then there are parents who think the elf is creepy because it moves, and that it’s just another lie we tell our kids. I have a lot to say, but I’ll whittle it down to this:
He sees you when you’re sleeping.
He knows when you’re awake.
He knows if you’ve been bad or good so be good for goodness sake.
You better watch out.
You better not cry.
This is not a song about a goblin or ghoul. This isn’t the boogeyman or the Devil himself. This is a song about Santa. The man that we bring our children to thousands of nationwide malls and pop-up locations to visit. The imaginary dude we make cookies and purchase milk we otherwise don’t drink for. The man whose reindeer we peel carrots for and leave out with a lovely note for he and his wife. The man who sneaks down your chimney and leaves your kids gifts. The man that parents have used for generations to scare their children into being good “for just 5 more minutes”, “while I finish…”, “I can’t take it anymore”, “you can bet Santa is not coming this year!”.
Yeah, that guy.
If the Elf on the Shelf is creepy because he or she chills out and makes a few messes in your house, than Santa is clearly the ringleader of the whole charade.
And while I’m on the tangent, if the Elf is just another lie, then stop the whole thing… because Santa is a lie, too. Screw Christmas and the spirit. The joy of putting out poinsettias and competing over the best eggnog recipes- you know the one you spike just to get through that party. Forget telling your kids there’s a Santa and don’t you dare buy a gift- because it’s all a lie. It’s the birthday of Jesus… so go to church and pray. Maybe light a candle for the guy, if you believe, and order yourself some pizza from the only place open within a 50-mile radius.
Damn. That sounds like a bummer.
So take a moment. Close your eyes and wrap your fingers around a hot cup of cocoa. Inhale the scents that surely fill your home. The pine-scented candle, the smell of cookies on a plate, the crisp air. Remember this is the magic- we help nurture those moments for our children, and yes it’s stressful, but in just a few short decades your children will be in your shoes and they will have all the silly memories of crying about Santa, not being allowed to drink the nog, how Jingle or Hoppy or Firefly made a mess of the kitchen and the dog got into it and had to go to the vet but was OK and everyone helped clean up. The magic isn’t as innocent to you now, but it is still real, and it’s still there for our children. It is because we as parents make it so.
The Elf isn’t there to parent for you, neither is Santa… but isn’t it fun to watch your kids stop arguing over the most ridiculous of items because Zippy or Socks or Frank might be watching them and they don’t want Santa to know because they have been good all year? At the same time you bend down to discuss how sharing is crucial to our civilization and you are being the kick-tail parent that you are, the Elf is just chillin’ as back-up for the moment that you really need some magic.
Still don’t want an Elf on the Shelf of your own, but you’re sick of your kids continually asking and it’s making you so mad you have to tell everyone how you hate the Elf and that it’s so stupid and…?
Then don’t get one.
It’s really that simple. Our kids will drive us crazy over everything, and everything PLUS during the holiday season. Someone will always have something they want. And lots of things will drive us mad. Is it annoying that you get asked for ice cream for dinner? Yep. Do you hate ice cream and think it’s so stupid and the jackbutt that invented it is on your naughty list? No. It’s just annoying that “XYZ’s mom lets him have ice cream for dinner,” is being repeated from the backseat of your car the whole ride home. Everyone else will always have something your child wants… at one point I tried to get a new car because everyone else had a new car. It didn’t work and it wasn’t true. Lots of people don’t have new cars or the Elf on the Shelf. Lots of people do. We all make it through the holidays one way or another with one “but so-and-so has it” after another.
There is A LOT of stress around the holidays, but it’s stress we make for ourselves and so I offer you a few ways to ease your holiday season, with or without that
lying creepy Elf.
1. Do what you can. Can’t get the lights up? There are a lot of houses that go Griswold for the holidays. Just Google-search your area for light displays. Don’t want a real tree? Allergic to scented candles? Can’t find the specific battery for the lights that go in every window? This is your holiday. Sometimes it won’t all get done. Sure your mom/dad/aunt/sister-in-law) always got it done, but here’s the secret: you don’t remember the year that the only sign of Christmas was a wreath on the front door that fell before Christmas Eve. Trust me, it’s happened.
2. It’s OK to say no (thank you). There are a lot of parties, get together, reunions, open houses, fairs… You can’t do it all. Don’t say maybe, say yes to some and no to others. Emily Post would say there is no “maybe”. You say “yes” to the first thing you can and “no” to anything else in that time frame. Sure you would love to have met up for lunch, but you promised to work that shift at the school’s bake sale. Or better yet, you made yourself an appointment to get your hair done. Don’t ask for just color and no cut so you can do something else. Enjoy your time- this is your season of magic, too! Book your time without over-booking. It’s a win for all, I promise.
3. Remember that there is no “easier”. We will find ways, as humans, to make life hard. It’s just a fact. There are only so many “life hacks” one can employ before you need a life hack to life hack your life hacks. So when you decide you will buy cookies and put them on a plate like you made them, use that free time to sip some tea (or wine) and watch some of the things you have DVR’d, while plowing though the Christmas cards you have yet to send and now finally have 5 minutes. Christmas is always the same date, yet we are never prepared… just bask in the crazy that is the holiday season.
4. Creative issues with the Elf? Make it easy! Your Elf might just relax on a different shelf everyday, or maybe s/he just knocked over one picture frame. Try The Year of Hugs… where your Elf hugs something different everyday (a stuffed animal, the milk in the fridge, a lamp…). The Elf doesn’t need to make snow angels in powdered sugar or zipline from your ceiling- each Elf has their own definition of “mischief”. Maybe Elf makes one heck of an appearance (although starting with “I’m Back!” seems a bit awkward), or maybe s/he leaves with a bang. Maybe your Elf is only around for a week, or comes and goes because s/he was assigned to more than one house.
5. Oh no… The Elf didn’t move last night. It’s not an emergency, and if your kids go crazy about it- maybe your Elf needs a timeout. If they simply ask why s/he didn’t move, it’s probably because:
* The Elf doesn’t fly on the weekend.
* Someone didn’t brush their teeth before bed.
* Someone got out of bed during the night.
* The Elf knew you had an early day and stayed the night as to not miss you in the morning.
* There was a storm and it was too risky to fly.
* Santa asked s/he to stay because s/he seemed like they needed extra rest, the North Pole was having a storm… you name it.
* Because. Because he didn’t. He didn’t feel like it, the union didn’t pay him/her, because you said so. This is meant to be fun… not to stress you out (even more!).
Finally, remember THIS story with the parents and the magic and the creativity and the making something cool they were celebrated with? Anything brought to life at night could be strange… or is a chance to teach a lesson, be silly, inspire imagination in both ourselves and our children and something very different than the stressful Christmas craze we’ve created? You decide for yourself, of course!