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Confessions of a Reluctant Elf on The Shelfer

Erin Zammett Ruddy

I know there are parents who swear by this new Christmas tradition and get really into it (um really, really into it). I am a reluctant Elf on the Shelfer, but I’m warming up to the idea.

I am new to this whole elf thing. To be honest, I wouldn’t have one if we hadn’t been given the book as a gift a few years back. We’ve read it during the holidays before but this is the first year we’ve actually played along and hidden the elf every day. I think they must talk about it at school because Alex asked me last week when our elf was coming, which basically meant I had to buck up and jump on the elfwagon. So we got our book and elf out of the “Christmas Toys” box over the weekend (I did not let the kids see me unearth him since apparently he’s supposed to swoop into town from the North Pole, not out of your garage). We’ve already had some bumps in the road—on day two I forgot to hide him so when I ran downstairs in the morning to do so and Alex followed me despite my imploring him to stay put, he saw our elf lying face down on the counter and accused me of finding him first and that was unfair and “you totally ruined my whole day, mom.” That awesome morning aside, I think overall we’re off to a good start.

The first day he arrived I told the kids they needed to name him, then Nick and I overheard this conversation between our very excited kids:

Alex: “I think we should call him Elfie, what do you think, Nora?”

Nora: “That’s a really good name, Ali!”

We melted. The book is kind of cute, if a little creepy (again with all the naughty and nice and watching and the doll coming to life at night—eek!). Apparently you’re not supposed to touch the elf but my kids do sometimes and I don't freak out. I’m not always watching them when they search for him in the morning and Nora isn’t even three yet and she doesn’t understand/listen when I tell her not to touch something that looks like something a kid should be able to touch (i.e. a stuffed toy). Alex often mumbles, “I hope he doesn’t lose his magic,” but I don’t have the energy to make a big deal out of it. Though I’m probably going to have to. When Nick and I came home Saturday night to relieve our sitter, I went to check on the kids and Nora had Elfie sleeping under her chin—whoops! (Obviously, I removed him since he had to "go to the North Pole to report back to Santa"). And yesterday she came over to me and said this: “Mom, I just broke Elfie’s arms but I don’t think he cares.” Oy. (She just pulled the stitch out that keeps the hands together. Again, whoops!).

I don’t talk a lot about our elf reporting back to Santa and telling him whether my kid are naughty or nice (e.g. I did not tell Nora that Santa would notice Elfie’s broken arms and not think very kindly of that act—or of Nora). If they ask I confirm his magic but I’m not perpetuating the story too much. It just feels inauthentic to me since, like I said, I’m new to this and it’s a new thing anyway and I’m a slow adapter to made-up holiday traditions. Maybe my hesitation comes from a place of jealousy—that I didn't make up a holiday tradition and get super rich from it. I don't know, though I also feel uncomfortable saying “Santa is watching” and that guy’s been around forever. All that said, my kids are really into the elf thing and I’m definitely a fan of whatever makes this magical time of year even more magical for them. Am I going to take it to the epic lengths some other moms do? Doubtful. (My friend, Christi, shared this post about one mom’s struggle with the Elfsanity last week—hilarious. Elves who make cookies in the middle of the night and leave a huge mess? Why??!!). Right now the only expectations my kids have is that Elfie is hiding in a new spot every morning. I think I can handle that. (Parenting posted these cute and do-able ideas I may try if I’m feeling creative/bored/like being a really great mom).

Anyway, I’m curious about how you guys feel about Elf on the Shelf. Are you into it? Against it? Did you dive right into it or were you dubious at first like me? And do you get super creative or is it just enough that you remember to hide the little bugger each night? Let’s discuss.