Thursday, December 12, 2013

Why We Do Not Have An Elf On The Shelf

An Elf so bad at being punctual
Santa apparently exiled him.
The topic of the Elf on the Shelf came up recently in a discussion with good friends of ours who bought an Elf for their child against their better instincts, fearing that their child would be the only one of his friends who didn't have this tradition.  A kind of "keeping up with the Elveses".

To which I said: We aren't getting an Elf on the Shelf. Sorry kids, hate to break it to you, but we're not..

And not because I'm being a humbug.  I'm probably one of the biggest pro-Christmas people you'll ever meet.  My wife and I start with the Christmas movies and music as early as possible.

But back to the Elf.  Let’s forget for a minute that the thing looks like a 1950s toy factory reject.  I’m even willing to forgo the whole creepy “he watches us when we sleep” thing because, well, isn’t that what we tell kids about Santa? 

Let’s forget all that.  This isn’t a “Christmas tradition.”  At 8-years-old, it is barely a "tradition" at all.  People can't wait to bash Valentine’s Day as a made-up “Hallmark Holiday,” but they gladly latch on to the Elf on the Shelf, because others have one.  All for what?  So that already time-starved parents can move him every night so that it seems like he reported back to Santa?

Just how bad at his job is this damn Elf that he can't get back on the shelf before the kids get up?


Seriously.  Not going to happen
But if it were only moving him every night it might be easy.  But to really "keep up," to really "do" this, you'll need to work up elaborate poses.

And then there is the mischief.  There is an entire calender built around the mischievous things the Elf is supposed to do.  One pose requires parents pour sugar all over a table so that the Elf can make snow angels; another has the Elf drape toiler paper all over the Christmas tree.

Isn't the whole purpose of the Elf to keep the kids in line?  How he is he going to do that when he so clearly enjoys mischief?  And how am I going to keep kids - who already enjoy throwing food around entirely too much - from misbehaving when I clearly can't control the Elf.  When your kid blames the Elf for the Christmas-tree art mural now decorating your living room wall, well, good luck explaining why the Elf who TP'd your tree the night before couldn't have done it.

Finally, In a world where parents pay twice as much to buy organic and avoid miniscule exposure to BPA, do we really want to let our kids find the Elf “tanning under a desk lamp.”  If I was to buy into the whole Elf tradition, the message I want to send along with it certainly isn't that "skin cancer is great.”


In the end, traditions have to be organic; they can't be forced or they fail.  

Some of my fondest memories of childhood are things my parents don't even remember.  Likewise, my Dad recalls high school football accomplishments that I can't remember.  These things clearly meant the world to him from his vantage point, but less to me.   To paraphrase a line from the movie Deck The Halls: its not the over-planned, big, brash, bright events that stick with a child; its the quiet moments sitting on the floor, just the child and the parent.

Watch out, Mama!
I feel for our friend's position.  And I'm sure as our little ones go to school they are going to find their new friends have lots of different possessions and traditions.  I'm sure we will pick up some of those as we go along and find them to our liking.  And I'm sure there will times when our kids ask us why we don't have X, because Harry has X and its really cool.  And did we know that Bobbi's Elf brings her a new toy from Santa every day?  How cool would it be if Santa sent us our own Elf?  Damn Santa.

Honestly, I'm sure some of those times will break my heart.  But keeping up with the Elveses is an impossible mission.  Especially not with three two-year olds destined to become three more difficult to please 10-year olds.  Because just when you've caught up with the Elveses, you'll find the Joneses are just a little bit ahead of you.  So you'll have to set your sights on them.

And that is the point where the Elf will probably push you down the stairs.


  1. I agree, but I did some research and there is a less creepy elf tradition that started over 20 years ago and the woman, now deceased, used to make the elves at her kitchen table. Her husband, now deceased too, wrote a book about her and her elves, which she made over 10,000 by hand. Her son has inherited the company and continued the tradition. This is not a naughty elf and just wants to know more about the kids that he makes toys for. He even has a little sister now too! I may get this for Owen next year when he can better follow along, but I'm still up in the air. Not even sure I love how Santa dominates the season, although, Owen is partial to carrying around baby Jesus from the nativity set and prefers nativity themed books over Santa books. Not to mention that ALL the teachers at school are also doing Elf on the Shelf, so it doesn't seem to be escapable.

  2. Thanks for the comment, Dee, and thanks for the tip on the elf.