being a mom

Anonymous Mom: It’s Time To Shelf The Elf

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And it’s not like you can just not have an elf because now everyone has an elf. My boss with two older elf-crazed children explained to me that part of the “fun” is that the kids all go to school and swap stories about what their elves did the night before. So what are elf-less parents supposed to do when their kid comes home from one of these elf story swaps and asks why Santa didn’t send him an elf? They can’t say the elf is made up because then they are the asshole parents who ruined the magic for the other kids at school. So, what? They just bum out their own kid with some story about why they are the exception? I’ve spent 10 minutes trying to come up with a creative lie that both lets parents off the hook and won’t make kids sad. It is not easy! And this isn’t a regular lie. This is a lie about Christmas. If you type “how to tell your child” into google, the first autocomplete is “there is no Santa.” This is before “they are adopted” and “about sex.” Christmas magic is not to be fucked with, which is why we need to end this ridiculous fabricated tradition today. Elf on the Shelf is still relatively young having first hit the market in 2005, and if it has gained this much speed in just eight years, just imagine what will happen when this is reinforced by a second generation? It is quickly barrelling toward Christmas staple status right up there with Santa and the tree.

If other moms want to take their own children on a Pinterest fueled, constant candycane coated carnival of Christmas for 25 days, I will not begrudge them that, but I do not want to be dragged into it in the name of tradition. Christmas is magical to me because it is the time of year when everyone decides to be just a little bit nicer, when family is just a little more important, and I would like my own traditions to reflect that- not reinforce some idea the my child is entitled to a month of constant fun at my expense. Furthermore, what of the parents who cannot afford an elf? Or those who simply don’t have the time or energy stage dorm-style pranks and elaborate elf shenanigans after the kids are in bed? In the spirit of Christmas, can we please all find some common ground as parents? Can we agree that parents should be supportive of each other and respect that not all families have the means or desire to carry on tradition that literally none of us even experienced in our own childhoods? I know I’m asking for a Christmas miracle, but can we please shelf the elf?

(Image: Pinterest)

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  1. Andy

    December 17, 2013 at 3:12 pm

    Oh, I hear you…my MIL also gifted us with our elf. We promptly named him Kurt, after the Glee character (you have to admit, there is a strong resemblance) and it’s been downhill from there. He just rotates around our living room. I REFUSE to create ‘fun’ scenes for him (you know, a marshmallow snowball fight, the elf spilled the flour ect) because I already have a three year old, a newborn, and two dogs (not to mention two adults) to clean up after. Not going to happen, sorry. My kids will just have to be content with having a boring-ass elf! I will give him props though, I have gotten some very good behavior from the three year old since the elf climbed out of the attic (somewhat like the creature from “The Ring”)-all I have to do is say “The elf is watching you” and she toes the line 😉

  2. SA

    December 17, 2013 at 3:12 pm

    #1 – THIS is fabulous…

    #2 – I just hope by the time my daughter is old enough to realize that this isn’t a “thing” anymore…

    We most likely aren’t going to be Santa people so I don’t think we’ll have much explaining to do on that end. If kid feels left out at school we can make a game of everyone taking turns hiding the Elf to crack each other up. (We unwillingly have one – given to us for her First Christmas)

    I’d much rather spend my time baking and watching Christmas movies (aka – drinking wine, eating chocolate chips, and dancing along to White Christmas)

  3. EmmaFromÉire

    December 17, 2013 at 3:14 pm

    I only learnt of teh Elf when I started reading american blogs, about a year ago. And in this year i’ve gathered that the elf is creepy as fuck. Between his stalking antics and his sex offender little face, I don’t want one anywhere near me.

    • Andy

      December 17, 2013 at 3:15 pm

      No kidding-I don’t like dolls, and this little bugger looks like the spawn of Chucky crossed with one of the elves from “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”. I didn’t want one, but just like anon mom, I didn’t have much say in the matter.

  4. Katie L.

    December 17, 2013 at 3:15 pm

    You don’t need the elf to sucker your kids into behaving around Christmas. My mom once picked up the phone to call Santa when I was misbehaving. Thank goodness she was put on hold or I’d have been in real trouble.

    My only issues with the elf pictures are this:

    1. Why do you have to put the picture of your kid’s underwear on the tree?

    2. When someone tells you how creative your are for putting your child’s underwear on the tree don’t reply “Oh thanks! I just come up with these on the spot! I never pre-plan them!” Bitch, I’ve seen your Pinterest board. Don’t lie.

    • Janok Place

      December 17, 2013 at 3:30 pm

      My mom called Santa once too! Seems the customer service in the North Pole is a little slow around the holidays.

    • jendra_berri

      December 17, 2013 at 4:01 pm


    • Ptownsteveschick

      December 17, 2013 at 4:06 pm

      Yeah, I totally have Santa on speed dial. I figure when my kid is old enough to wonder why we don’t have an elf (if it is even still a fad in 3 or so years) I will just tell her its because we don’t need an elf to watch her and report to Santa because he is my close personal friend and I have his direct line.

    • Aussiemum

      December 17, 2013 at 5:57 pm

      I’ve totally done the “I’m ringing Santa!!!” But I don’t get put on hold, I’ve got the direct line! Lucky for me, Santa sounds a lot like my dad, so he has received calls from me in previous years, and has played right along. Even if he’s been at work, he has still put on his best Santa voice and told the little shits to behave or there will be nothing under the tree but a rotten orange and a pair of socks.
      Luckily, this year we haven’t had to make the call, due to only Mr 7 being Santa obsessed. I have threatened Mr 16 & 13 and Miss 11 that I’ll quite happily cancel their Christmas lay-bys and keep the money for my self and hubby and put it towards our very first holiday to Bali next year! ( We live in Perth, Ozland and must be the only 2 people in the city that haven’t been! Even the kids have been. I’m so lame!)
      But in saying that, I’m so excited to see their faces on the big day! I’ve picked some good shit, and god dammit I’m benefiting from the presents this year. Miss 11 is getting a cupcake making thingo and Mr 7 is getting a kit that makes lollies (I have a very sweet tooth!)
      As for the Elf? Not in my house. I’m far to lazy to come up with a new idea everyday, and I think the day 1 photo would be the cat dragging the Elf away, never to be seen again. I hope.

  5. Fuzzy 'n Broken Mirror

    December 17, 2013 at 3:18 pm

    It was cute, until the pervs got a hold of them…

  6. T

    December 17, 2013 at 3:26 pm

    I refuse to get my kids one. What a stupid, needless thing. I have such a hate on for it!

  7. allisonjayne

    December 17, 2013 at 3:29 pm

    Ugh. We do santa but I am sooooo not doing the elf. I guess I should figure out some ironclad reason why other than “he looks like a fucking creep and also I am lazy”.

    • Andrea

      December 17, 2013 at 4:38 pm

      I was ahead of the curve with that stupid elf because the author is a local and kids around here started before the rest of the nation. I’ve been doing that stupid elf for years and I am THOROUGHLY sick of it. It is a royal pain in the ass and I am not creative enough to come up with creative scenarios of have the energy to carry them through even if I were.
      This year I was hoping that my kid would have outgrown it or maybe forgot about him. Fat fucking chance. He started asking at around Thanksgiving when I though the elf was coming. Couldn’t get out of it.

    • EX

      December 17, 2013 at 10:27 pm

      I’m thinking maybe I’ll tell my kids “only bad kids need an elf to keep an eye on them.” Too much?

    • Alfreda Wells Morrissey

      December 18, 2013 at 9:11 am

      LOL I did this. It didn’t work. I asked, do you really want an elf to spy on you for Santa. She says, “Yes” I say, I always tell Santa you are always good because I know you always try to be good. The elf might be more picky. She still wants the stupid elf. I said it is too late now to ask for one, so I will ask next year. 🙁 I hope she forgets.

    • Alfreda Wells Morrissey

      December 18, 2013 at 9:12 am

      I’m actually thinking of picking up some elf like doll at the dollar store and using that. She doesn’t know what the thing is supposed to look like. She only knows her friend has an elf. A REAL elf.

    • M.

      December 18, 2013 at 10:03 am

      That’s exactly what I plan on telling my kid! That kids who misbehave get the elf sent to make sure they stay in line and we don’t have one cuz he’s such a good sweet angel 😉 I hate that stupid elf and I have enough Christmas traditions in my house already, ones that were traditions when me and my husband were little (we’ve merged them), I don’t need to add some Hallmark manufactured tradition that’s been a thing for like 3 years…

  8. Jess

    December 17, 2013 at 3:31 pm

    if you replace elf refences with those of santa, then this is just the same dilema that non-christian families face every year. seems like an explanation along the same lines like “different families believe different things” and “we have our own traditions” would probably work.

    • Skipper

      December 17, 2013 at 5:52 pm

      So true. What makes one tradition better than another? They were all new at one point- Santa, Rudolph, the North Pole. Non Christian families face this all the time. All families face this. I ‘had’ to explain to my son why some people at his school get to have a menorah and he doesn’t. Diversity is good! That said, I find the elf to be creepy and the story of Rudolph to be kind of depressing.

  9. CMP414

    December 17, 2013 at 3:37 pm

    My daughter is only 22 months old and still doesn’t get the whole Christmas thing but I do feel a pressure for next year. I hate the Elf thing but EVERYONE I know does it. I don’t want my kid to be left out but I think it’s so creepy not to mention over priced. If we do it, the elf can move about the mantle but I am so not putting it in any situations that I’ll need to clean up after.

    • Mikster

      December 17, 2013 at 4:26 pm

      I agree on the messes…..there are other ways to get creative with the little guy. And there’s no Elf Police that says you have to make him do something every single day!

  10. Savannah61

    December 17, 2013 at 3:47 pm

    No kids yet, but planning to have them in the near-ish future. I am hoping that this elf nonsense dies before they are old enough to care about it. Because I have no plans to do it. It’s super weird and creepy to me. Plus, there is no way in hell I’m intentionally making a big ol’ mess that I’ll just have to clean up later. I make enough messes doing holiday baking (which I’m sure will be much bigger messes when it’s holiday baking with children “helping”), I don’t need anymore!

  11. Natasha B

    December 17, 2013 at 4:06 pm

    My 9yo and 4yo have never asked why we don’t have an elf….my answer would be…because Hallmark invented it? What ‘tradition’ is the creepy thing rooted in??? They weren’t even popular until 2/3 years ago.

    • Andrea

      December 17, 2013 at 4:41 pm

      A lady wrote a book that explained it. She basically created the whole thing and it sucks. She’s a local too, so my kid even has the book autographed by her. I met her during the singing when she went to my kids’ school and it was all I could do not to choke her with the damn elf.

    • Natasha B

      December 17, 2013 at 4:56 pm

      I feel like we should sneak into her house and start hiding the creepy thugs everywhere. And everywhere she goes…one would pop up…

    • brebay

      December 17, 2013 at 6:11 pm

      The thug under the rug? I’m in.

    • Natasha B

      December 17, 2013 at 6:20 pm

      We could start a Pinterest board.

    • Andrea

      December 17, 2013 at 8:30 pm

      HELL YES!!!!!

    • Alicia Kiner

      December 17, 2013 at 4:45 pm

      Yeah, my kids are too old for it too. I just this year found out what the heck it was all about. Shrug. No big. We have our own traditions, and my kids haven’t asked a thing about it. They go to a very diverse school where about 1/2 the kids are non-Christian, so that could be why.

  12. Mikster

    December 17, 2013 at 4:25 pm

    tough. Mine go to school and ask why they are the only kids without a cell phone, to which I answer: “You don’t have a job to pay for one yet.” Deal. While my kids are too old for the Shelf Elf, I have no doubt I’d have had a ball with it when they were little. And now he’d be boozing and partying like a rock star …..

  13. Aja Jackson

    December 17, 2013 at 4:34 pm

    Can’t stand that creepy looking doll and he will not step foot in my house. Luckily most people I know don’t actually have an elf so I’m good.

    Every Christmas when I was little my mother hung an ornament that was a little bag of coal that had “naughty” written on it. It never moved, I don’t even ever remember her talking about it or pointing to it. The bag just hung there as a threatening reminder of what could be. It was enough.

    • Natasha B

      December 17, 2013 at 4:56 pm

      That is diabolically fantastic.

  14. pineapplegrasss

    December 17, 2013 at 5:17 pm

    Yeah, no creepy elf for me. Besides I’d just fall asleep and he’d be outed the same way the tooth fairy was.

  15. Jessica

    December 17, 2013 at 5:33 pm

    I feel like all the elf antics are pretty ridiculous & I don’t understand why people post them on Facebook. However, Christmas elves are a favorite of mine. My mom has had some pretty cute ones hanging out on her tree. So even though my daughter is too young to care about the elf on the shelf, we have one sitting in our tree among some other elves & fairies. I don’t have any plans to move him or really buy into the whole backstory.

    This is one of the only pictures I really liked of the elf 🙂

  16. brebay

    December 17, 2013 at 6:09 pm

    Kids swap stories about this at school? Um, I think that’s wishful thinking and justification.

    • Lucille two

      December 17, 2013 at 7:08 pm

      I was surprised but one of my coworkers was just complaining that her son (4) was asking why they didn’t have one after preschool. Maybe the teachers ask about it?

    • Andrea

      December 17, 2013 at 8:28 pm

      Yeah they do. They totally talk about it.
      I was raised in S America, where we have the tradition of the Three Wise Men coming on Jan 6th if you leave your shoes by your bedroom door. My then 4 year old happily yapped about this to his preschool friends and I had 2 panicked calls from other moms asking me WTF was this about because their kids were asking when the Three Wise Men were coming to THEIR house.

    • FormerlyKnownAsWendy

      December 17, 2013 at 9:24 pm

      That was Saint Nick at our house. Weird…. (Catholic childhood difference?)

    • Andrea

      December 17, 2013 at 9:57 pm

      Could be!

    • brebay

      December 17, 2013 at 11:11 pm

      I think I’d tell my kid that it was fake and to tell them their mom needed a new hobby 😉 jk

    • Savannah61

      December 17, 2013 at 8:49 pm

      I teach & I’ve heard a few lunchroom conversations about it. I haven’t heard teachers talk about it, but a few kids do.

    • FormerlyKnownAsWendy

      December 17, 2013 at 9:23 pm

      Yes, and both my kids had them in their preschool. However, we don’t have one at home and neither of them asked, so I say we’re good 🙂

    • Jessica

      December 18, 2013 at 8:52 am

      I didn’t think they did either, but it’s apparently a big topic of conversation at circle time when the kids share each morning in kindergarten.

  17. AP

    December 17, 2013 at 7:15 pm

    “They can’t say the elf is made up because then they are the asshole parents who ruined the magic for the other kids at school.”

    The Elf is for sale quite prominently in the kids’ section of pretty much every store, with giant price tags. Kids aren’t stupid. I mean, the “Mall Santas are Santa’s Helpers” makes sense, because Mall Santa isn’t standing under a “Mall Santa Sale Only $21.99 this week!” and he doesn’t end up in people’s homes (usually…). You’d literally have to never go into a big box store, watch a commercial, or have a Sunday circular in your home from mid-October to January to keep the charade up very long.

    I’m a big supporter of Santa, but the Elf is so commercially for sale, covering his true story of origin just isn’t plausible for very long.

  18. NotTakenNotAvailable

    December 17, 2013 at 11:03 pm

    “So what are elf-less parents supposed to do when their kid comes home from one of these elf story swaps and asks why Santa didn’t send him an elf?”

    What we Jewish kids whose families ignore Christmas have been doing for years–develop a look of smug condescension whenever this babyish crap comes up in conversation.

    Alternatively, since my (admittedly limited) understanding of the Elf’s purpose is that he/she/it (see limited understanding) is supposed to be watching the kids to make sure they aren’t doing anything to get them put on the naughty list, tell your kids that you know deep down that they’re good human beings, and good human beings don’t need their behavior monitored constantly.

  19. CelesteF

    December 18, 2013 at 4:28 am

    How to explain why other kids have the elf and you don’t “Santa only sends the elf to watch over naughty children.” BOOM problem solved.

  20. scrooge

    December 18, 2013 at 4:55 am

    My kids got one from my hateful sister-in-law last year. Its still in the attic. They’re young, so that creepy bastard is staying up there. Now my husband’s ex wife poses her elf and takes photos everyday and posts them to facebook and her blog. She has elaborate stories about her wacky elf. Here’s the thing: She’s 35. And childless. I think that elf is the only “person” who can stand looking at her bitch face.

  21. Kay_Sue

    December 18, 2013 at 8:42 am

    I still hate the elf. But it is fun to see the look on my seven year old’s face when he finds it in the morning. And he does look for it. I think we are stuck, at least for a little while.

    I can definitely see why parents get addicted. We’ve been a little more creative this year, and it would be easy to get sucked down that rabbit hole if I was less lazy.

  22. Litterboxjen

    December 18, 2013 at 8:53 am

    I have a serious hate-on for the Elf, and given my tradition of stuffing my foot down my throat with my MIL whenever I express a strong opinion on something, I just *know* that the year I go on a tear condemning them will be the year I ended up getting one from her for my kid.

    It makes me angry that this is a manufactured “tradition” that is becoming a thing, and yes, I know that’s how traditions are made, but I prefer traditions that come organically and not those that a company tells us to adopt.

    Finally, if it ever came up as to why we didn’t have one, I’d just tell my kid the cats chased it off. 😀

    • EcnoTheNeato

      December 19, 2013 at 1:50 pm

      Up-vote for “hate-on”!

  23. EcnoTheNeato

    December 18, 2013 at 3:00 pm

    Easy explanation: “Santa said you were SO GOOD this year, you don’t need *insert elf name her* to watch over you anymore! But you better stay good, otherwise I’ll write him a letter and he’ll have to come back and watch over you for all the times I can’t”

    Boom. Easy-peasy. I’m not a parent, but I AM an expert liar…

    • EcnoTheNeato

      December 18, 2013 at 3:02 pm

      Also, calm down on the hype train. I figure the Elf bubble will burst. I won’t put it down with eggnog or trees or watching a certain movie just yet. It has been around since the 50’s (technically), but thanks to social media it exploded after it became “canonized” in 2005 by a particular company.

      But I hear you on the main gripe. Let’s calm down a bit because not everyone is creative or LIKES to clean up a mess they made just for the sake of a picture to post on FB (and then pretend it’s actually about the kids). And you strike home with the fact that the elf is another means to have children neglect the hard work of a parent who is working extra hard to enhance their Christmas; it’s bad enough Santa does that, to a large extent, already…

  24. ranch mom

    December 18, 2013 at 4:13 pm

    An important, if not critical, part of being a parent is being able to live by, and explain to your children your own creeds and philosophies (religion or not, liberal or conservative, vegetarian or bacon lover, dog vs cat). If you can not do this, and your guiding fear is that they feel “left out” of any trend, you have a bigger problem than a ridiculous elf.

  25. Sara

    December 18, 2013 at 10:43 pm

    My friend told her kids there is a secret webcam in the tree that Santa watches them on. She just points to the tree, yells Santa and it’s like the elf,but less work.

  26. whiteroses

    December 19, 2013 at 11:36 pm

    I refuse to do Elf on the Shelf for all the reasons described- creeps me out, laziness, etc. We do St. Nicholas Day on Dec. 5-6, we do Christmas, we do chocolate advent calendars, we go to holiday light shows, on Christmas Eve we bake sugar cookies and gingerbread, there’s Midnight Mass for the hubby and Boxing Day… etc. The holidays are busy enough. I don’t want to add one more flipping thing to the list.

    I’m all about Christmas magic. I adore Christmas- it’s the one day of the year when, in my family, anything goes. No set bedtimes, eat whatever you want whenever you want it, and basically party down. But I think that doing Elf on the Shelf might be going a bit overboard, what with all the other traditions my family observes that are far more personal to us. No hate on anyone who does Elf on the Shelf, but it’s just not my style.

  27. Larkin

    January 24, 2014 at 8:11 pm

    I’m late to this article, but OMG THE ELF!!!! It is the creepiest thing I’ve ever seen. I’m pretty sure I would have had nightmares about it if I’d had one as a child, because I had an ongoing fear of my toys coming to life.

    Our eight-year-old niece has one, and actually mentioned once that her best friend didn’t have one and wondered why. We said it was because Santa only has a limited number of elves, so her elf went to visit other kids’ houses during the night and watched them all when they were at school. 😉

    My favorite was in a STFU Parents post where a mom told her kids that the elves hid in the vents. She didn’t have to do anything, and the kids were super well behaved any time they saw a heating/cooling vent (which are pretty much everywhere).

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