In recent years a most polarizing phenomenon has swept this nation. It seems fairly innocent at first, but I assure you it is not. When you spend a few minutes thinking about it, you may begin to ask yourself some interesting moral questions. Then, when you read what others think about it, you may find yourself swayed by one camp or the other.
This trend dividing our nation? Why, the Elf on a Shelf, of course.
This little guy (or gal) didn’t exist until fairly recently, but he (for the sake of simplicity I’m going with a male elf) has certainly hit the big time. I can honestly say I’m glad I was unaware of him when my son was little, because I would have had to take sides.
What’s at stake? Well, a fair amount. There are elf do-ers, elf wannabes, and elf avoiders. Some of those avoiders are vehemently anti-elf, for a variety of reasons.
For the uninitiated (where have you been?) here’s the story, as I understand it. One of Santa’s little elves goes to live with a family during the Christmas season and while he’s there he spies on the kids of the house to make sure they’re being good. He regularly flies up to the North Pole to report on those kids. He also routinely gets into trouble while he’s visiting, usually when everyone else is sleeping..
Said elf is a creepy looking little guy who is easily pose-able and gets moved around the house and often into various crazy situations.
Now aside from the unpleasant fact that harboring a spying elf seems a lot like being forced to house an opposing army, it can end up being a lot of fun. IF it’s something you want to do. IF it’s something your kids would enjoy. IF you feel like you have the time, energy, and creativity. And if you do, why not?
Honestly, I don’t think I would have been an elf mommy if they had been around when my son was little, but who knows? Maybe I would have been swept up in it. Maybe my son would have asked why none of Santa’s elves came to live with us. Maybe I would have been intrigued by the whole mischief element. Maybe.
All I know is that it’s a good thing that Pinterest didn’t exist back then either. I was having enough feelings of inadequacy just watching HGTV every now and again, I didn’t need to be bomarded by images of everyone else’s perfect worlds.
I think that’s where some of the elf hate comes in. Oh sure, it’s kind of creepy that grownups are setting up mischief scenarios involving their elves while their kids are asleep, but so what? I think the so what is that those who aren’t doing it don’t want to feel badly about not doing it.
Holidays are crazy times. We hold on to old traditions, evaluate new ones, and decide which ones we want to adopt. The elf is a fun tradition for many families, and a collosal pain in the neck for others. If that’s the case for you, don’t do it. Elves fly away. Maybe yours was needed elsewhere. Maybe your child can behave without a doll checking up on her.
Many parents are irritated that they are being made to feel like they don’t do enough for their children because they don’t stay up half the night staging an elf kitchen disaster. They forget to move the elf and wait until the kid is in the bathroom. To those parents, I say, don’t sweat it. Pack it up, put it away, and let the children know they have reached a new milestone, the time in their lives when they are expected to make good choices because they’re the correct ones, not because Santa has spies.
Opting out is perfectly okay. You are not the Joneses (or maybe you are, but you just don’t want to do it). No worries. Your kid will bounce back.
But what about the flip side? What about the parents (typically mommies from what I can tell) that obsess over the antics of these little elves? Is there really anything so awful about that? They’re expressing their creativity in a way that’s meant to delight their child (is it bad to guess that they only have one?). I like to think they are creative and quirky and fun. I’m not talking about the parents who try to scare their kids with threats of “No Christmas” or other such nonsense, I’m talking about the ones who are taking this whole little elf theme and having fun with it, dreaming up clever new scenarios for the elves to charm their kids. Are these bad people? I submit that they are not.
The mommies who are having fun with the elf thing are NOT doing it to irritate you. They are not secretly thinking that if only you did the elf thing, you would be a better parent and your child would have more success in the future. Well, maybe they’re thinking some of that, but who cares? You shouldn’t. It doesn’t affect you. It isn’t about you. It’s about them having fun and sharing the fun with others. If you feel bad about it that’s your issue, not theirs.
1. The elf is kind of creepy
2. Having him in your home is sort of like harboring the enemy during wartime
3. If you don’t want to do it, don’t
4. If you’re already doing it but don’t like it, stop
5. If other people are enjoying it, leave them alone
That’s it. Regardless of whether Santa’s elves are watching you or not, be nice. Today, tomorrow, always.
December 10, 2014 at 6:09 am
We have the creepy elf in our home. I can’t stand him, but the kids love him.
December 10, 2014 at 6:17 am
Ah yes, the things we do for love.
December 10, 2014 at 6:44 am
My real issue with making Christmas a month-long magical extravaganza is it takes time, energy, and money away from doing things that are more important. What’s more important? Going for a walk and pointing out the birds in the now leafless trees, or reading a book together, or playing a board game, or quietly doing homework at the kitchen table, or working together for 10 minutes to pick up all the Legos, or … boy, name almost anything! Yes, I’m glad the elf business wasn’t around when my son was little. But he wouldn’t have been charmed by it and I wouldn’t have done it, anyway. I’m not being very articulate, I guess, just bristling at the transformation of a holiday that used to be meaningful, and now is Disneyland.
December 11, 2014 at 4:38 pm
I absolutely see your point, and surely it’s not for everyone, but I do think that you can make just about anything meaningful for your family, if you set your mind to it. Doing the elf business (or any tradition, really) just because everyone does, or it’s expected, or you’ve done it before doesn’t seem sane. Doing it because it’s fun for your family or you’ve created some special meaning to it is a whole different story. I guess my feeling is that although I personally find the whole elf business incredibly creepy and time consuming, I choose to give the elf mommies the benefit of the doubt. There are certainly lots of commercial aspects to Christmas, but there have been for ages. Santa’s been pushing Coca Cola since our grandparents’ time, and Rudolph is the product of an ad campaign. It’s up to each of us to pick and choose what works for us and our families. Thanks so much for your response, I’m with you on preferring to spend the time together differently.
December 11, 2014 at 4:45 pm
My response is mostly relative to how I see my daughters. They work frantically year-round to make every THING a special experience for their children. It turns them into 24-7 entertainers. Life outside that just ain’t that entertaining! And the kids don’t get much down time. IMHO, kids need a lot more down time, so … I react to that, primarily. Thanks for your answer.
December 13, 2014 at 9:01 am
I agree about the downtime. When my son was small we tried to limit his activities to one at a time, aside from Sunday School, which was ongoing. In fourth grade we got away from that with scouts, music lessons, and for a short while sports. It was awful for all of us. There was too much running around and not enough time at home. We learned and adjusted. For our family it just didn’t work.