I’m sure most of you know about the popular Elf on the Shelf by now.
He comes with a book that you read to the children, and the story explains how Santa sends one of his elves to “spy” on them during the day, and then at night he flies back to the North Pole to report to Santa on their behavior that day. You are to name your elf, and then look for him each morning, because when he flies back the next day he always sits in a new spot in the house. The fun part of this “tradition” is when the kids look for the elf’s new hiding spot each morning.
Okay, so after hearing all the wonderful things about this Elf on the Shelf tradition, I decided to buy one for our family last Christmas. Our elf was given the name “Peter” by our then four-year-old Andrew. I read the book to the kids two times, to be sure they knew and understood the “rules” — the main one being that you never, ever, ever, ever touch the elf! Never! or he loses his magic. Yes, it says that in the book.
The first few days that Peter visited us, he was doing his job just fine. But then as the days went on, Peter’s true colors began to show and we realized that we got ourselves a lazy elf! On most mornings, the kids would wake to find Peter sitting in the SAME EXACT SPOT as the day before!
“Why didn’t he move to a new place?”
“Did he forget to fly back to the North Pole last night?”
“Did someone touch him? Is his magic gone?”
Okay, I’ll admit that I hated this little guy and his stupid Christmas tradition right from the start. It’s like having to be the Tooth Fairy every single night! The pressure! I mean, come on. As if us parents don’t have enough to remember each night before going to bed, but we are supposed to remember to switch the Elf to a new spot in the home every night during December? It just wasn’t happening in this household. I tried to remember. I really did! But I just couldn’t do it every night.
Anyway, so that was last year’s stress fun. I believe “Peter” changed places a total of seven or eight times total, the entire month of December. I felt the mommy-guilt like crazy, but did my best to cover up, saying things like: He must really, really like that spot if he keeps going back to it! and Yes, of course he flew back to the North Pole last night; doesn’t he look tired to you? and No, I’m sure no one touched him. Look how high up he is! No one can reach him.
Christmas Eve is supposed to be the elf’s last night with the family. On that night, he is to fly back to the North Pole, give his final report, and stay the entire next year helping to make Santa’s toys. Then next year he returns to the family during the month of December to Spy & Report once again. So, that adds yet another stress responsibility for us parents: On Christmas Eve, after we stay up half the night wrapping and setting out the presents, we not only have to pretend to eat the cookies and drink the milk that was left out for Santa, being sure to leave crumbs and just a little milk at the bottom of the glass, but we are now also supposed to remember to grab the elf and put him AWAY for next year — AWAY so that the kids do not accidentally FIND HIM during the year. Because if THAT happened, well…wouldn’t that be a disaster? How would you explain that?
This is what gave me my biggest dilemma last year: where to hide our elf? I couldn’t put him in the Christmas decoration box, because I knew without a doubt that I’d forget he was in there and one of the kids would find him when we were decorating the house next December. So I hid him in a really good spot, a place where the kids would never find him.
Now fast forward to this year: We finished decorating the tree and the house, and then one of the kids asked, “I wonder when our elf will come?” and right away I tried to remember where I hid that guy. I could not remember! I searched every inch of the house. No elf. Every day the kids asked me, “Where is our elf? Isn’t he coming this year?” and I’d say, “Oh, I’m sure he’ll come. Maybe they are just extra busy at the North Pole and he’s needed there right now.”
Days went by and still no elf. I kept assuming that I’d eventually find him, and after a while the kids stopped asking for him. Mommy-guilt BIG TIME! I thought that I should just buy another one, and I planned on it, but things just got busy and I’d keep forgetting to. Before we knew it, it was December 24th and one of the kids said, “I guess our elf isn’t coming.” and oh, I felt so bad. I really did. DARN THIS STUPID ELF on the SHELF thing!! So I explained that maybe the elf goes to another family on some years. And then Andrew said, “But WE named him Peter. He’s ours.”
Ugh. I had nothing else. I failed, and there was no going back.
However, the excitement of Santa’s arrival took over and the elf was soon forgotten. The kids woke up to presents galore and we had a very nice Christmas despite being Elf on the Shelfless.
It’s now four days after Christmas, and today Rich and I took on the oh-so-fun job of cleaning out our closet; getting rid of old clothes, going through the shelves and the drawers, sorting things. After about an hour of this, I decided to take a quick break and went down to the kitchen. Rich stayed to finish up his side of the closet. After about two minutes or so, I heard him calling my name. But because I had just sat down at the kitchen table, I didn’t feel like going back upstairs to see what he wanted. Since he only called my named two or three times and then stopped, I figured it couldn’t have been too important.
Then all hell broke loose.
A.J., Aislynn, and Andrew came running down the stairs, top speed, shouting, “MOM!! MOM!!” and they ran into the kitchen. I could see that Aislynn was in tears. In A.J.’s hand was our elf.
“Look what Dad found in his sock drawer!!”
“Daddy touched the elf!!!”
“Now Peter’s magic is gone!!!”
Everyone is upset. Including me. My immediate thoughts:
a) Ah, so THAT is where I hid him!
b) Damn my 42-year-old forgetful brain! I hate getting old!
c) Why did Rich give it to the kids when he found it! Why wouldn’t he just keep quiet about it?
d) I bet that’s why he was calling me. I should have gone upstairs to see what he wanted!! Then he would have given it to me instead of the kids!
So I grabbed the elf, marched upstairs to find Rich still sorting through his drawers. He looks over at me and says, all cheerfully, “Hey, I knew you were looking for that thing. I found it in my sock drawer!” He was actually proud of himself. Proud!
“What’s the matter with you? WHY did you show it to the kids?!!!”
He looked so pathetically confused. “What? Why? I shouldn’t have?”
Seriously, had he no clue about our Elf on the Shelf ritual last year? How could he not know!
“NO!! You can’t TOUCH the elf or his magic goes away!” I rolled my eyes at him.
“Yes! Weren’t you paying attention? Should I have read YOU the story? OMG. How am I going to explain this to the kids? They are all in tears now.”
So then he got defensive. “Hey, I don’t know the stupid rules to that thing! Don’t blame me. You are the one who hid it in MY sock drawer!”
He had a point. And I was mad mostly at myself, anyway. No use beating him up about it.
So I went back downstairs to face the crying and distressed children.
“Here’s the thing, guys…” I began, “The elf…well, he doesn’t lose any of his magic when he is touched AFTER Christmas Day! And today is the 29th of December! He is going to be fine!”
and then, the questions and more lying began…
Aislynn: But what was he doing in Dad’s closet?
Me: Maybe he did a little exploring last year when we were all sleeping, and then he got shut in that drawer by mistake. Poor Peter!
A.J.: Do you think he’s been in there all that time? A whole year?!!
Me: I bet he was. Poor Peter!
Andrew: But when Daddy opened up the drawer each day to get his socks, why didn’t he come out?
Me: Because Daddy was there, and you know he can’t move or fly when people can see him. So he had to wait, but then Daddy would shut the drawer. So he was just…stuck….day after day. Poor Peter! (I kept trying to pull the focus back to the poor shut-in elf hoping it would quash all their questions)
Aislynn: But how did he fly back to tell Santa that we were good?
Me: I guess he didn’t.
Andrew: But then how did Santa know if we were good or not?
Oh my gosh it just went on and on and on.
And after every lie that I told, I kept thinking to myself…
Darn that old saying, haunting me well into adulthood. But it was true. I was just digging myself deeper and deeper, and for what? For some stupid Elf on the Shelf “new” holiday tradition.
Now, to prove that our Elf still has magic and will fly away to the North Pole now that he’s out of the closet, I set him in our now dried up and curb bound Christmas tree and told the kids that we will know if he’s still got his magic if he is gone from this spot by morning. If he isn’t here tomorrow morning, I explained to them, that means he flew back to the North Pole. And then you will know that he’s okay!
That seemed to settle them down. And the drama was over.
Now, before I go to bed tonight, I must, 1) remember to take the elf from the Christmas tree… because if I don’t, and the kids see him there tomorrow morning… they will be convinced that his magic is gone for good, and 2) find a new hiding place for him – one where I will actually REMEMBER when next December rolls around!