The elf on the shelf is a new phenomenon but if I need to explain it to you then you are either even more of a Scrooge than I am or you live under a very large rock. My social media fills with elf pictures this time of year, small toy elves up to all kinds of mischief. The elves, it seems, come to live with families and sort of serve as spies on small children, recording any bad behaviour. But while they are watching the kids for acts unbecoming to those who want gifts on Christmas morning it seems the elves have free reign to get up to whatever nonsense they can, because I guess elves are just like that and nobody is spying on them to determine if they deserve a gift. Now, in between Christmases the elves get stuffed in a box like all your other decor, but around December 1 they get yanked out for another season of elf shenanigans.I got a text recently from a friend with much younger kids than my own Intrepid Junior Blogger. “The kids are agitating for an elf” it said, followed by “I fear riots and hunger protests if I don’t give in and buy the damn elf”. The kids had learned from other kids about their elves and suddenly they felt downright hard-done-by in their elfless house. How could their parents be denying them this elf business, clearly a longstanding tradition of Christmas and essential to the enjoyment and celebration of the holiday? They were outraged at their callous parents who had never introduced them to the elf and his antics, and this year, by god, they wanted the elf.
“I don’t want an elf” said the next text, followed by a string of unhappy face emoticons. I reminded my friend that when the kids both wanted smartphones she didn’t give in and that the hunger strike ended quickly when she baked cookies. I reminded her of that eternal adage of parenting (If your friends jumped off a bridge would you?) and that just because others had elves she did not need to. But I could tell she was feeling classic mom guilt, which would lead to getting an elf and even greater guilt when the family retriever ate said elf and left it lying on the floor in tattered pieces for the shrieking kids to find the next morning (true story).I asked the IJB what she thought of the elf and she gave me “that look”. I explained about the elf watching behaviour and she said: “I thought Santa had the naughty and nice list? Are the elves trying to take over his job? Those little jerks,” and then she asked how much the elves cost exactly and when she was told commented on how someone was making a tidy profit off the sale of a vaguely creepy stuffed doll backed with a shady and questionable story. I explained some of the “mom-petition” the elf seemed to engender, with moms trying to desperately outdo each other with epic feats of elf derring-do and how some elves even came close to starting house fires when moms stuffed them in lamps and too close to candles. “It’s all about the kids!” I exclaimed to her, to which she rolled her eyes and said most kids just wanted the presents and the whole Santa story (and by extension elves) was pretty incidental to the whole thing.
When the IJB was smaller she went through a difficult period when she thought her dolls and toys were watching her as she tried to understand the difference between animate and inanimate life. I can only imagine how introducing an elf who was somehow not animate and yet “watched” her would have gone down (I expect adult therapy would have been involved somehow and it would have all been her mother’s fault). And when I explained that children could not touch the elf as it destroyed the elf magic she snorted and told me to leave the room as these adult shenanigans were too much for her.You see it is my humble opinion that the elf on the shelf is a marketing gimmick and nothing more, a way to get loving parents to part with even more cash at Christmas time. It is the Tickle Me Elmo of holiday decor. I am a bit afraid that this post will cause me to become the target of the elf mafia and I could become the victim of an elf-planned drive-by marshmellow shooting or find my kitchen completely dusted in a light coating of powdered sugar with elf foot print tracks on the floor. I fear the moms who will see this as an attack on their own elves as this seems to be a topic that gets moms even more riled up than extended breastfeeding and circumcision (and trust me, I belonged to parenting forums for a long time and I am the veteran of some epic flame wars, so I know whereof I speak).
To each their own, I suppose, but I am so deeply grateful the IJB is older now and has no interest in an elf. I must admit, though, I have toyed with the thought of picking one up cheap after Christmas and hiding it in her bedroom closet so it falls out on her just to see her reaction, which could be priceless.Call me a Grinch, call me Scrooge, but know this: there is no elf on a shelf in my house, and I am quite okay with that, because in my world that elf can stay on that store shelf forever.