Eve Vawter wrote an article condemning parents for staging adult scenarios with their Elf on the Shelf, saying that “For every asshole parent out there who finds this sort of shit funny, there is a little kid out there who has this sincere optimism about the holidays, who still loves dolls and elves and ugh, we get it parents, you are cool and smart and oh so clever and you can take a dumb elf idea and puke all over it. Now go away.”
While I personally don’t engage in this kind of behavior with our elf, I understand where these parents are coming from. The Elf on the Shelf isn’t just a harmless holiday activity that “cool parents” are annoyed by. It is a manufactured tradition that parents are either forced to engage in or otherwise have some creative ‘splainin’ to do to their child who is worried that Santa won’t know if they’ve been naughty or nice.
The first I heard of Elf on the Shelf was last year when I stumbled on a blog making fun of an insane list of Elf on the Shelf ideas, and I immediately resolved never to have one. The following day I received a call from my Mother-in-law who excitedly explained to me that she had sent our family one of our very own! I made a feeble attempt at protest, but as the package would be arriving after Christmas, I knew that I had at least a year to come up way out of this. This year, her mid-November text gently reminding me that the elf needed to come out soon combined with the fact that she would be staying in our home during the month of December made it apparent that I had to choose between an unpleasant confrontation with my MIL or simply using the damn elf. I picked the latter.
The first time my son (age four) laughed hysterically over the fact that the elf had actually moved from one shelf to another, I was thrilled. I even thought it might be worth it. However, the elf simply moving around only elicited that reaction once. Last night I decided to step up my game a little bit and suggested my son leave some blocks out for his elf to play with. After he went to bed I built a little house and sat the elf in it, but in the morning he didn’t even remember that we had an elf. I finally pointed it out to him, and he gave a very underwhelmed, “haha. cool.” Um, no. Don’t we already experience enough of our children not comprehending and therefore not appreciating the effort we put in to make them happy every day much less during the holidays when a fat stranger gets to take credit for all the presents we to slaved to get?