Who knew a little Christmas elf could create internal conflict and even spark a mommy war? It wasn’t designed this way. The Elf on the Shelf was created by a mom in 2005 as a promise for more magic at Christmastime. Each household’s elf reports naughty or nice behavior back to the North Pole each night. By 2011 when it became a holiday staple across America, many parents said they’d never seen their kids behave so well.
Flash forward two years later and the mere mention of the Elf on the Shelf is just as likely to draw groans. No longer is he the silent observer in the home during the holidays; these toy elves evolved to play tricks much like leprechauns do on St. Patrick’s Day. Imagine the mischief of leprachauns or Tooth Fairy visits stretched out every night for all of December. For every child who giggles and begs, “More! What will Tootsie the Elf do next?” There’s a mother nearby cursing the invention, overwhelmed by the pressure of having to make one more thing Norman Rockwell perfect at Christmas.
There are entire websites devoted to Elf on the Shelf antics. One site suggests: “Make a vignette involving your Elf and other characters.” Barbie in a convertible with Nick the Elf, anyone? Or “Make mischief around the house.” A pillow fight during the night could make a fun mess of feathers for the kids to see next morning. Oh, did Silly Skip take all the ornaments off the tree? Oh dear.
Not surprising, the same web author said it’s hard to keep up the tricks (and damage control) from Thanksgiving to Christmas so has shortened her Elf’s welcome by a week.
The reasons for not wanting an Elf vary. Parents who don’t invite elves into their home may want to focus on the reason for the season, the birth of Jesus, or they may feel Santa is more than enough. For others the Elf creates an atmosphere of pressure, not to mention competition. Whose elf is more thoughtful and fun? Children like to report back about how great their friends’ elves are. Does this mean these kids have more amazing moments to carry with them through life?
For any parent still on the fence about whether to get an Elf or wonder whether their Elf is active enough, don’t be so hard on yourself. Ask yourself instead whether you’re there for what matters. Many parents I know spend hours of time volunteering at their kids’ schools. I often marvel at how many dads attend school events held during the day where I live. Though my childhood was a pretty good one, my dad never stepped foot on my elementary school campus.
Giving kids attention won’t make them spoiled. In fact, the opposite is true. Kids whose needs are met and given love in spades are often kind and polite- eager to lend a helping hand. Now add Elf on the Shelf to this mostly harmonious scene and you get an extra, over-the-top childhood.
If you have an Elf and enjoy it, more power to you. Yet many moms have added it as another “must do” to the long list of giving their kids the ultimate childhood experience. Focus on the marathon parenting is and not just the sprint. Give kids what they need most: your time.
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