Hey Elf on the Shelf Moms, Please Calm the Heck Down

Is it a good idea to keep upping the ante on holiday magic?

It’s 3 am; do you know where your Elf on the Shelf is?

I know I’m not the only mom who’s woken up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat with the realization that I forgot to move my elf and therefore came this close to ruining the magic and wonder of Christmas.

I have a love/hate relationship with the ol' elf, or at least what he has become. Full disclosure: I do the elf. Ours is named Marco. I find him helpful to remind my mischievous 4-year-old son that’s Santa’s got eyes and ears on the ground here.

But does anyone else feel like the elf has gotten too big for his tiny red britches? He started out as a cute extension of a book. Then he became a source of one-upmanship as moms tried to figure out the funniest, most creative tableaus to put him in (and then share on Facebook, natch). Now, according to an article from the New York Post, the elf is bringing some kids GIFTS -- right before the biggest gift-giving day of the year.

The elf has become a source of guilt for busy moms, who worry other families are creating a gauzy-lit childhood of enchantment while their kid has to be content with an elf who doesn’t get up to all that much and just one stupid day of presents.

But I’m taking a stand; I refuse to let an elf add stress to my season.

Once I get my two kids in bed, tackle dishes and next-day prep, I have about an hour of me time until I’m sleepy. During this time of year, what with cards to write and presents to wrap, sometimes it’s even less. The elf cannot have my hour. I refuse. So I am keeping my elf low-maintenance, basically drawing inspiration from Elf on the Shelf Ideas for Slackers.

Marco’s hung out on our Christmas tree, sat on top of a lamp, and perched on our mantle. My grand piece de la resistance will be having him deface the family photos with a dry-erase marker, all of which will take me about 20 seconds. My son still races down every morning to find Marco. Perhaps he’d adore seeing him make flour snow angels or take a mini-marshmallow bubble bath, but then again I’d have to set the scene and then clean that all up. That’s gonna eat into my hour.

But my reasons are not just selfish. I think the more we go out of our way to shower our kids with magical experiences, the less special they actually are. Let’s remember: gifts, more time with family and a steady stream of cookies is not nothing. In fact, when you were a kid, wasn’t it everything? If we keep upping the ante on Christmas, I’m not sure how we’ll keep topping ourselves. New Year’s Eve unicorns? Winter Solstice fairies? I’ll do it up for Christmas, but I just don’t have the energy for 31 days of special, and furthermore, I don’t think it’s a good idea to set my kids up to expect it. How special is December 25 if every day in December is basically a mini Christmas?

Oh, and one last gripe: I do not need any more backstories to keep straight at Christmas. Santa already has my pants on fire (Why does that mall Santa have a fake beard? Why can’t Santa bring me a third American Girl doll if that’s what I wish for? How will he know I really didn’t mean it that time I pushed my sister?) and now I have to keep my elf story straight too. This year, my 8-year-old daughter saw the Elf on the Shelf on display at our local toy store, and came running to ask me why I told her he just magically appears in our house one day when you actually buy him? My flustered silence revealed the truth, and now I’m pretty sure Santa’s on thin ice too.

She’s been having fun helping me remember to move Marco each night, but now that she’s lost the magic of elf, she’s asking me why we can’t do an advent calendar. You know, one of those one’s where you get a prize every day?

Ready to bare some over-the-top Elf on the Shelf stagings:

Elf on a Tracktor

Elf on a Shelf for Slackers

Home Stories A to Z

Elf on a Hammock

Elf on a Shelf for Slackers

Rae of Light Photography

Elf on a Scrabble Board

Elf on a Shelf of Slackers

Dina Roth Port


Elf Playing Uno

Elf on a Shelf of SlackersDina Roth Port


Mom of two Sasha Emmons is a writer and editor. Follow her on Twitter and Google+.

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