I started writing for Mommyish in May of this year and I am not joking when I tell you that I have been waiting since then to write about Elf on the Shelf. More specifically, why I think Elf on the Shelf is the worst thing to happen to Christmas since fruit cake. I know plenty of parents think this is a harmless new tradition to enhance the "magic" of the season for their little ones but I don't see it that way.
And contrary to what certain Elf lovers might think (*ahem* Megan Zander) I am not a Grinch. The furthest thing from it. I have a December birthday and this time of year is my very favorite. In fact, I would argue that it is my deep and abiding love for the Christmas season that makes me dislike the Elf as much as I do. I don't enjoy the commercialism of Christmas to begin with and to me, the Elf is a symptom of that problem. Get him out and prop him up all around the house for weeks so your kids can obsess daily about the presents they are earning? Big old nope. Santa is enough commercialism for my taste and I cannot understand why we would want to emphasize that aspect of the season even more. Here are the reasons why the Elf will never make an appearance at my house.
1. Kids can see him for sale at the store. How is this magical, exactly? I don't like feeling tricked and I guess my first-born inherited that trait. Last year, at age six, she went to Hallmark with me on a Christmas shopping trip. She pointed out that little stinker and his overpriced book, appalled that there were dozens of him, and I was like "Yep. Anyone can have him for $30. Magical, right?"
2. The Elf is one more thing to make kids feel bad. You know how some kids get nothing for Christmas? No, seriously. We live in a nice neighborhood in a town without much poverty but my daughter still came home from school last year telling me a little girl in her class told her that she got no presents for Christmas. Can you imagine how those children feel when their classmates come to school every day for weeks rambling about some Elf that visits them in the night and scatters sparkles and marshmallows everywhere? $30 is a large amount of money to some people. Particularly when all it gets you is a children's book and a cheaply-made elf doll.
3. Christmas is already magic enough without adding a new commercial tradition. Isn't it pretty damn amazing for most kids just to know that Santa is on his way? To hear stories of the reindeer, the elves, the cookies, the gifts. Do we REALLY need to make even more special, little things for our children to revel in?
4. The Elf watches the kids to be sure they behave and get presents. Ick. My children's good behavior will not be conditional. As it is, I do not use the Santa threat. I do not want to teach them that they need to be good to get presents. I also don't want them to giggle at a tattle-tale Elf when I tell them all day long not to be tattle-tales. They need to be good year-round- whether there are presents or not. Whether there is a creepy Elf perched on a shelf watching them or not.
5. I'm just not that Pinterest-y. Now, I've heard several Elf parents say that they don't do anything elaborate and the Elf just gets moved now and then. But we all know there are many who go way overboard. These elaborate Elf-scapes some parents set up are so intricate and I just can't. So, if I did it, my kids would tell their friends "our Elf went from the top of the refrigerator to the end of the couch!" and their friends would probably be like "OUR Elf took a bath in a mug of hot chocolate and left a trail of cocoa all over the counter!" Ugh to the highest power. I don't need to compete in any other areas, thanks.
6. Kids who don't have him have to uphold this Hallmark myth for kids that do. Elf lovers are fond of saying- why begrudge me this fun with my children? Well, if your children go to school, it affects their peers. How am I supposed to tell my kids that the Elf doesn't come to our house because Mommy and Daddy think it's ridiculous but OOPS don't ruin it for little Ava-Sophia-Grace at school? I can't be that cruel. So now, I have to adopt a new "belief" and pretend I think it's real too, although he doesn't come to our house. And clearly, I realize Santa is a myth too but at least the vast majority of school children believe in him. I hate lying to my kids about something else that doesn't exist.
7. Santa is MORE than enough. I said it already but it bears repeating- Christmas in and of itself is pretty incredible. My kids are thrilled to just listen to Christmas carols, go pick out a tree and watch Daddy cut it down and help me hang ornaments. They love hot cocoa. They love the TV specials. They have fun helping pick out gifts for their grandparents. They don't need gimmicks. They don't need us setting up whole worlds for a doll that corporate American has convinced so many parents they need. Just do Christmas. It's what we've had all along and it needs no help to be the best day of the year.