Contrary to the true spirit of Christmas, I hate Elf on a Shelf.
My kids’ father has an Elf on a Shelf, and so for a time, the kids enjoyed it down there when they would visit during the holidays. Tiny and Chicken Little wanted me to get one, but I would resist. “No,” I would say, “Let that be your father’s tradition and we can have other traditions.” This year though, I lost my common sense and decided we could get an elf. At Barnes and Noble, my son and I looked at all the boxes of elves. We opened one and looked it over—the box had a hole cut in the plastic window so the little fella could breathe. We reached in and tried to poke it with a finger. The elf looked all skinny and shocked, with cartoonish dilated pupils and a forced smile, like a miniature crack addict in a cheap red suit. “Creepy,” said my son. So at another store, we found similar elves, but these were fuzzy. What a good idea, I thought foolishly, that way the kids will want to touch and play with it. They chose a girl elf and my daughter spent the rest of the evening embellishing her with earrings, a sparkly hair bow, and a tiny tutu for an underskirt. I had to rescue the thing from her, remind Chicken Little about her habit to glom all over things and take over, and passed the elf to Tiny for him to cuddle before bedtime.
But apparently, touching the elf is against the rules. In fact, the elf has lots of rules, and while the kids stood behind me at the store laying out who would do what with the elf and when, what they didn’t tell me until they got home were all the conditions of owning an elf as those applied to parents. As it turns out, you have to move it every night. The elf is really a stool pigeon for Santa. The elf is supposed to leave notes. And there is supposed to be some sort of scavenger hunt. Our third day of owning the elf resulted in a complete melee before school one morning, where I busted Chicken Little for fooling with the elf while the one who was actually to blame allowed his sister to take the heat. At one point, I announced to the oldest that Mommy had a full-time job and it didn’t include time for fooling with an imaginary toy. Yes, shock, horror, and the corruption of childhood innocence, all on an ordinary Wednesday morning.
We managed to recover somewhat. Our elf has left one note. I have been kind enough to see to the elf’s comfort in our house—the providing of a Kleenex for a nose blowing, the application of chapstick, and even a refreshing yoga workout (downward-facing-elf). There will be no scavenger hunt, but the elf may make her way to the top of the Christmas tree on Christmas morning.
I see some of my friends’ elves have perused liquor cabinets and hung out in the Barbie car to pick up chicks. I celebrate that creativity. Largely, however, I am interested in getting rid of this elf. Is it flammable? Does it have a life expectancy? Does Santa ever recall his elves back to the factory? Parents have told me that they have purchased one elf per child to resolve the tensions created by owning one of Santa’s helpers. I find this to be a sad state of affairs and plan to write Santa immediately about how this recent tradition of Elf on a Shelf is really dividing households and causing pain and consternation. In the meantime, what is the elf really reporting to Santa? “All is well chez Catiche as far as the kids are concerned, but I think the mother needs to be moved to the naughty list.”