A couple of years ago, my wife and I bought an Elf On The Shelf, that slightly – ok, more than slightly – creepy little elf doll that gets placed in a strategic vantage point each night, there to monitor the children’s activities, flying back to the North Pole each night to report any and all naughty activities to Santa. No, it doesn’t actually do that – unfortunately, Santa isn’t really that Orwellian – but this is the story you tell the kids to ensure that they comply with the house rules. It’s a ridiculously simple idea, and let’s give a slow clap to the people that came up with it, because they’ve earned that dough that they’re no doubt rolling around in. Because it works. Like a diabolical charm. My kids are cognizant of the fact that every time they fight with each other, or talk back to us, or refuse to go to sleep, Santa will know.
Now, the Elf, like every other aspect of parenting, is not without his share of detractors. Take a look at your Twitter feed, and chances are you’ll see someone railing on about how kids who are under the Elf’s watchful eye will be scarred for life, how the Elf is worse than a Scary Clown, how they’d never subject their kids to such emotional blackmail/psychological warfare because it’s not what Christmas is all about, blah blah blah. The way I see it, parents have been leveling Santa Threats at their kids for decades. “He’s watching, you know!” “Oh, really? I don’t see him.” And let’s be honest – Santa Threats are ineffectual. (Raise your hand if you’ve actually given your kid a lump of coal instead of that Lego Star Wars set he’s been pining for.) The Elf, though – that horrific little troll raises the stakes considerably. What is real and visible cannot be discounted so easily. Advantage: Mom and Dad.
All that said…yeah, I will lose the game of Christmas brinksmanship. The threats will ultimately be meaningless. Our kids put up with a lot of crap for 364 days, and regardless of their past transgressions, we’ll do everything in our power to ensure that every Christmas they have is memorable. The Elf is doomed to fail; the kids won’t be on the Naughty list. But if the dead gaze of those soulless plastic eyes gets them to eat their vegetables, or prompts them to share the last cookie, he’ll be worth the nightmares that haunt my sleep.
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