I first heard about Elf on the Shelf long before I had kids. Right then and there I swore I would never, ever buy a supposedly magical elf that really runs on Mama’s finite steam and creativity. And unlike many of my parenting never-evers, this one has stuck.
If you’re in the pro-Elf on the Shelf camp, please don’t automatically assume I’m a Grinch. I’m all for Christmas and fun, meaningful traditions. If you do have an Elf on the Shelf and enjoy surprising your kids with all of the creative mischief it gets into each night, I toast you with my peppermint mocha.
But for someone who can barely remember to transfer her laundry from the washer to the dryer, coming up with a new, unique elf hijinks for 25 (or more!) consecutive nights is asking too much. I’m certain that Jingles would be pretty disappointed when I left him sitting in the same spot for a week, and I would be the one getting a “naughty” report sent to Santa Claus.
I also have a problem with my children being told that an inanimate object is watching them at all times. That’s not cute. That’s creepy. Similarly, I don’t want my children to behave and obey because they’re concerned that if they don’t, Santa will find out from Merry the North Pole Narc and they’ll get nothing but lumps of coal on Christmas morning. I want my children to behave and obey because they respect me and my authority. Sorry, Santa!
Speaking of the jolly man in the red suit: we already downplay Santa in our house, simply because we choose to focus on other things at Christmas. I hate lying to my kids, even to promote something as magical and wondrous as Santa Claus. There will be a day when my inquisitive older child will put two and two together, and I don’t want to compound that realization with soul-crushing disappointment. Adding an Elf on the Shelf into the mix only complicates this.
And most importantly, I want my children to understand that the holiday season is not about getting but giving, for serving and loving others. While Elf on the Shelf can be amusing and fun, it doesn’t really further this goal, and tends to put the emphasis on getting a lot of great presents on Christmas morning. Gifts are, of course, an enjoyable part of Christmas, but I also want to teach my kids that people are more important than things.
In an overly-commercialized world, sometimes simple is best. Christmas is inherent with wonder and magic, especially for children. It’s already the most wonderful time of the year. So let’s leave the Elf on the (store) shelf.