A friend at work asked me today at lunch whether we had an Elf on a Shelf and I trembled in horror at the thought. “No,” I answered. “I’d forget to move it. My kids would think our Elf was dead and the whole thing would just be another way to fail as a parent.”
Everyone at the table laughed, but I wasn’t trying to be funny. If you haven’t been plugged into the parenting community for the past several years you may not have heard about this particular marketing gimmick. You buy this book and elf set for around $30 and then use the elf to encourage your kids to be good even when you’re not in the room. That elf – he’s your eyes. To prove his animation you move him around the house every night, and if you have extra energy you put him in funny situations, like in the midst of a tea party with resident dolls, having a bath in a bowl of cotton batting, sneaking a glass of wine in the bottom drawer of your dresser.
So there’s no Elf in our house, at least not one who relies on me for survival.
We do have Advent calendars, despite our lack of religion. Our belief that a bit of chocolate before breakfast 24 days out of the year is a wondrous thing more than fills that gaping hole of Christianity.
The thing about boys behaving badly – mine rarely do mean things. Of course they fight, they leave messes, they sneak cookies and cough drops, they feign paralysis when the dogs need feeding. But mostly I trust them to behave in way that lets us get on with the business of being a family. Do I really need a stuffed dude with a permanent smile spying on my kids? No. He’s not going to see anything they wouldn’t do right in front of me. And if a tattletale elf were able to tell me their secret moments of evilness, then I’d have to act upon my knowledge. And I am a busy woman these days.
Kids need secrets and I need to believe my boys’ secrets won’t blow up the house. No elves need apply.