I love everything about the Christmas season — the decorations and lights, the cheesy movies, the food (and drinks), the good deeds, and the get-togethers with family and friends. The list goes on. But there is one thing about this time of year that I really hate.
I remember back in 2005, when this phenomenon first hit the stores. “Did you get an Elf on the Shelf yet,” my sister asked.
“No, and I’m not going to,” I replied. Because I thought the idea of having a weird-looking doll spy on us in our home was a little too Chucky-esque.
But by the next year, my then four-year-old had noticed these elves popping up in other people’s houses. “When are we going to get our elf,” she asked, over and over.
And soon her younger brother joined forces. “Can we get an Elf on the Shelf mom?” they pleaded, every time we went anywhere for anything. “When are we getting our elf?”
Now, normally I’m fairly good at saying ‘No’ to my kids. In fact, I’ve weathered my fair share of in-store tantrums — the kind where you grit your teeth while your kid screams in the shopping cart or bawls face-down on the floor, snot and tears running together into one big gooey mess that you know they’re going to wipe on your jacket the second you pick them up. And you try to calmly sooth your child (“There there … shhh … it’s okay.”) because you know the whole store is watching, but the whole time you’re gritting your teeth and thinking, Just wait till we get to the car.
I have survived so many of those moments, but for some reason, this time, standing in our local Chapters with my two kids looking up at me with their darling angel eyes, I caved. And we went home with an Elf on the Shelf.
I have a made a lot of parenting mistakes, but getting an elf is pretty close to the top of the list.
Because it is a years-long commitment designed to make you fail as a parent. Because at some point, your going to forget to move the damn thing, thereby breaking your children’s hearts and ruining the magic of Christmas forever.
So how do you survive the years ahead? By doing all of the things you’re using your elf to scare your kids into not doing.
We are on day eight of this year’s Elf on the Shelf adventure. So far, I have woken up in a cold sweat twice in the night because I forgot to move the damn elf! Just when I thought things couldn’t get worse, the little bugger starts haunting my dreams.
But I guess that’s better than sleeping peacefully and forgetting entirely, as I did on Day 3.
One saving grace about Elf on the Shelf is this — if your kids touch it, the elf temporarily loses its magic and doesn’t move.
So if you forget to move the elf, you can just put the blame on your kids. If your house is like my house, odds are one of them has touched the elf anyway and will fess up. And if they don’t, because they know that it wasn’t them, they’ll surely blame each other.
Either way, you’re off the hook.
Elf on the Shelf is the ultimate test of creativity. Unfortunately, I used up all of my good ideas in year one. That’s okay, I thought. My kids are getting older. They could figure out the truth about Santa and his elves at literally any moment now. I can half-ass this Elf on the Shelf thing for a couple more seasons, if needed, until then.
Then we decided to have another child. And as we were weighing the pros — love, love, love — and cons — diapers, diapers, diapers — of becoming a family of five, I forgot the biggest con of all — another decade of Elf on the Shelf.
We’re talking hundreds of new Elf on the Shelf ideas.
And while my kids aren’t overly creative themselves (they named our elf “Elfie” after all), they are extremely perceptive and they never forget. So rolling with an elf on repeat is a no go.
Fortunately, Elf on the Shelf is a Pinterest parents’ dream. You know the type — the ones who make home-made Hallowe’en treats to share with the class, who plan perfectly themed birthday parties where the décor, the activities and the treat bag contents all match, and who document every excruciating detail ad nauseam online.
Less talented parents such as myself may be tempted to mock this level of dedication, if only to exact a small amount of revenge. Maybe because their keenness shines too harsh a light on my slacker tendencies. Or maybe because every time my kids come home from a class party with individually wrapped, chocolate dipped and hand-painted marshmallow treats while I sent dollar-store suckers to school (or forgot to send anything at all), I die a little bit inside.
But in the end, I have to push those feelings of jealousy aside. Because slacker parents like myself need these awesome parents and their crazy efforts. We need them to post their pictures on Facebook, and Instagram, and Pinterest, and share the ins and outs of every crazy elfin’ adventure they come up with.
So that we can steal their ideas, of course.
I have often thought about staging an elaborate “accident” to put an end to our elf. Maybe she falls from the ceiling fan. Maybe she gets a little too close to a Christmas candle. Maybe she slips into the toilet while having a chocolate chip poop.
This is where my creativity comes alive — when thinking of ways to kill off my elf. But I would never get away with it because I live with an eight-year-old human lie detector. A kid with an unquenchable thirst for the truth and unrelenting demand for justice. Though these character traits make me proud, they would surely be my downfall.
So maybe I can’t kill off our elf yet, but there are ways to bend the rules to make life a little easier. Like maybe the elf gets a special assignment from Santa that delays her arrival? Or maybe, as this genius mom did, our elf breaks a leg and is under doctor’s orders not to move for two weeks.
Sometimes desperate times call for desperate measures. Feel free to keep these ideas in your back pocket. Just in case.
So if, like me, your knee deep in Elf on the Shelf and dreading the days and years ahead, don’t feel bad if you have to lie, cheat and steal to make it through.
And if you haven’t yet embarked on this holiday tradition, I have only one word of advice.