Between having a lot of December birthdays in my family and Christmas being the busy season at my parents' job, I didn't have a ton of holiday traditions growing up. Having a less than perfect childhood makes me a sucker for anything trendy when it comes to the holidays. So even though most parents seem to enjoy the Elf on the Shelf only when making him perform unspeakable acts or just loathe him outright, I have several reasons why I am jingle bell-ing myself with excitement over starting the the Elf On A Shelf tradition with my kids this year.
1. Toddlers and traditional Christmas decorations don't mix. I'm not just talking about the fact that most ornaments are breakable and/or choking hazards. My children can destroy entire pieces of furniture in less time than it takes me to make a cup of coffee, so I shudder to think of the damage they could inflict with a Christmas tree. That tinsel would serve as belay lines, those blinking lights as guide ropes, and I'm pretty sure they would be off to race each other to the star at the top faster than a snowman melts in summer. Hard pass.
My kids are young and have no idea what's going on, but I still want them to know that Christmas time is special. The Elf on the Shelf is the perfect way to do that. The Elf is soft, so when they chuck it at my head or bite it, no one ends up in the ER. People do the Elf thing all December long, and let's be honest, in my house, he'll probably make an appearance starting the day after Thanksgiving, along with the Christmas carols. Young kids learn well with repetition, so this is a great game for them. Looking for the Elf in the morning is a way to get them excited about Christmas and keep them occupied for a few minutes while I surf the internet uninterrupted. Over a month of independent play time? It's a Christmas miracle!
2. The Elf is a way to make Christmas be about more than gifts. The official marketing tagline for the Elf on the Shelf is that he's a spy for Santa Claus to tell if kids are being naughty or nice. The doll comes with a book that explains his back story. I'm not really down with the idea of using an inanimate object to threaten children into behaving, but I do want my kids to appreciate that Christmas is about more than just one day, and that it's not all about the gifts, so I like the idea of a book I can read to them all season long.
With very few exceptions, like my toy kitchen set that I got when I was four, I can't remember the Christmas gifts I received as a child. I don't want my kids to grow up expecting tons of boxes each year. The good parts I remember about Christmases growing up are singing carols with my sister while recording ourselves with the camcorder and wrapping my BFF in Christmas lights to make a human tree. I hope that by starting a tradition that doesn't revolve around gifts, I can avoid my kids getting the gimmies and create a fun memory. And fine, if thinking this Elf is going to tattle on them helps my kids behave a little better, well, raising toddlers is tough and I will take assistance anywhere I can get it. Up top, little dude.
3. I unabashedly love Christmas. Out of respect for the Grinches around me (like Valerie the Elf Hater), I wait until after Thanksgiving before I start decking the halls, but that doesn't meant I don't listen to Christmas music in the privacy of my own home year round. I struggled with infertility and now that I'm a parent, I really want to share that joy I have for the holidays with my kids.
I know one of the reasons the Elf get so much coal heaved in his direction is because parents feel pressure to come up with elaborate scenes for their kids to discover each morning. We all do things for our children that we deem important or meaningful. There's no reason to hate on another family's holiday traditions, even if they aren't ones you chose to do.
I have a flair for the dramatic, so I can't pretend that I won't be up at midnight making flour elf footprints on the kitchen counter. But I won't sneer at other parents who don't do the same. I will make those efforts because I will get a kick out of them and for my own kid's amusement, not try and prove my value as a parent on social media.
Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to check out the helpful holiday display at Target to see if I can snag an Elf. Fingers crossed they aren't sold out already! Is it too early to wear my Santa hat? Fa-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-laaaaaa.