It’s a question that divides friends and relatives, office mates and acquaintances. Some are staunchly “pro.” Others are adamantly against.
Do you “elf,” or don’t you?
Disclaimer: if you have little ones who might come across this article — imagine, kids reading newspapers! But it happens, we hope — maybe pause here and tuck this one out of sight. I don’t want to dim anyone’s holiday sparkle.
If you’re unfamiliar with “The Elf on the Shelf,” here’s a little background: on Dec. 1, parents everywhere pull out a colorful storybook as their family’s small “scout elf” appears. According to the story, Santa’s messenger — named by the kiddos — offers a daily behavioral report to the big guy. When the elf comes back, he/she is perched in a new spot. Finding their new whereabouts is part of the kids’ fun each morning.
First published in 2005, “Elf on the Shelf” has become a popular family tradition — and had it been around when my sister and I were growing up, I’m sure we would have had an elf pretending to throw snowball marshmallows as well. Our version was my dad saying “the little birdies were listening” and reporting back to the North Pole. He often pointed out crows and cardinals in the backyard.
No, friends, I was in college when the elf hit the scene. As such, I’ve been a bit of a hater. OK: definitely a hater. Even before I was a frazzled mom who comes standard with a cup of lukewarm coffee, I recognized that this was another demand on the time and energy of worn-out parents. If the elf does not “fly” that evening and move by morning, will the kids be confused? Upset? Is Christmas ruined?
Dramatic, yes. But call me Superman: taking mighty leaps in a single bound.
Other parents are not similarly overanalyzing this, though. Do a quick search for “Elf on the Shelf” ideas online and you’ll find — well, you’ll find enough to keep you occupied through 2020, for sure. Parents have fun with the daily scenarios: making snow angels in spilled flour; drawing funny faces on banana peels. The elves are silly, cute, posable.
My early opinions on the Elf on the Shelf were formed long before I had any skin in the game. The idea of a figure watching your every move can certainly be seen as creepy. And it’s true that dads and moms have enough to worry about.
But, you know, my mindset has changed with a 2- and 4-year-old at home. December is all about holiday magic — and if an elf introduces more whimsy in this cold world, why fight it? Let kids be kids as long as they can.
I had this conversation recently at the office. Friends are pretty divided on the appeal of the Elf on the Shelf — but Ruby, with two daughters close in age to my children, eventually convinced me to give it a shot. My sister is firmly “against,” so I trust you all will keep this from her.
Because, well, I bought one.
My hesitancy mostly revolved around the kids’ need to touch anything and everything. We’re supposed to leave the elf alone; according to the story, touching them diminishes their magic and prevents their nightly North Pole mission.
There are ways to get the sparkle back, however. Christmas carols are among them.
If you came to visit, you’d notice toys, electronics and leftover Halloween candy lining the top of our kitchen cabinets — and it isn’t there for looks, I’ll tell you that. Little is safe around our son Oliver, in particular. My husband refers to our dining-room chairs as our son’s “height assistive devices,” because Ollie can — and does — push them anywhere he needs to go.
I recently found Oliver perched on a tall counter holding a snow globe. He’d gotten a glimpse of it in a closed cabinet, then wheeled an office chair over to pull it down. I’d deliberately tucked it on a high shelf, never imagining he would be able to reach it.
My instinct was to holler, but I didn’t want Ollie to fall. Or, you know, drop it and send shards of glass flying. I helped my son down, then tried explaining how that was dangerous and the snow globe is fragile — not a toy. Ollie heard what he wanted and took off. Good times.
If the kids manage to pull down our elf, I guess we’ll deal with it as it comes. As a staunch rule follower, even over silly things, I struggle with this. But we’re going to give it a try. No elf police are going to arrest us.
I secretly brought our new elf home last weekend ahead of her Dec. 1 debut. By some miracle, both Hadley and Ollie were napping. I was able to sneak it inside and tuck it away before any inquisitive children could notice.
Definitely not in a tall cabinet, though.
Mama needs a new hiding place.
Follow Megan Johnson on Twitter @rightmeg.