Last night, while I whipped up a batch of blueberry muffins for the morning rush, my 7-year-old sat at the kitchen counter and looked up to the top of our tallest kitchen cabinet.
“Mom?” she asked. “When is our Elf on the Shelf coming back? Because I saw him up there for a really long time … ”
[Insert un-family friendly word here.]
In a frenzied rush to rid ourselves of the Elf last Christmas, my husband had pitched that evil minion sent from Santa to the furthest recesses of our kitchen cabinet. And there he sat, unbeknownst to us, in plain sight to our much shorter children for actual months.
I had hoped the kids would somehow forget about Elfie this season, but oh no. Of course, he is everywhere — in their classrooms at school, in the grocery store aisles, in the library. I can’t escape him.
It will be fun, they said. The kids will love it, they said.
And they did. For the first day. Because that’s exactly how long it took for us to completely forget about the little guy and ruin everything.
My story begins last year, when after years of protesting the Elf, I finally gave in. I reasoned with myself that I would not be pressured! Our Elf, I declared, would be an Elf of the simple variety. He would not be mixing up with the Barbies in a giant tub of hot chocolate or leaving chocolate surprises for us in the toilet. No, our Elf would be laid-back and go-with-the-flow.
Like the wise man that he is, my husband was completely against the idea. We had a 4-month-old at home, I was getting about an hour or two of sleep at night, everyone was sick every other week, but still I convinced him that I could do this. We would have fun staying up every night together, simply moving the Elf to another literal shelf in our home. It would be like date night! No fanciness required, just the pure joy of seeing our kids find the Elf every morning. And bonus! Maybe they would be on their best behavior.
So we jauntily set up the Elf on one of our wall sconces, with a note announcing his arrival. The kids were super pumped.
For about ten minutes.
And then the questions started: “Mom, how does the Elf go back to Santa?” “Mom, why is the Elf looking at me?” “Mom, why doesn’t our Elf look like the other elves?” “Mom, did you and Dad just put the Elf there? Just tell me the truth, because it kind of looks like it.”
Over the kitchen table, my husband and I exchanged fearful glances. What had we done?
After a day spent avoiding my children’s incessant questioning, shooting backwards glances at the Elf (it really does feel like he’s always watching, doesn’t it?), and finally collapsing into a giant heap on my bed, I woke up to my children’s tears.
“Mom, the Elf didn’t move!” the 4-year-old was sobbing. Behind her, the 7-year-old, chin quivering. “Mom, did we do something wrong? Is Santa not coming?”
What. The. Elf.
I realized right then and there that I had made an awful, terrible mistake. I had no desire to position and pose a freaking Elf every night — I could barely remember to brush my teeth before bed! I was not creative enough to think of any Elf antics, even as simple as moving the darn thing to the fireplace and back again. Even seeing other parents’ posts of their Elves made me panic a little inside. Who can think of those things?
In the end, it had only taken not three, not five, not even 20 days for me to ruin the magic of Christmas with the Elf — oh no, it had taken but a mere one day for me to forget about it completely and send my kids into complete and total panic.
Let the Christmas magic commence.
The worst part about it was that I feel like our little Elf Experiment really started to ruin the magic of Christmas for our children. When we panicked and realized there was no way we could keep up the charade, we made up some excuse about how the Elf had gotten all the information he had needed (“Good news, kids, you’re all on the nice list!”) and flown back to the North Pole.
Then my husband chucked the thing to the furthermost recess of the top of our kitchen cabinet. Which is where, as I told you in the beginning of this sad and sordid tale, the Elf remained in plain sight of our children, perched on the kitchen stools, for months.
If not downright disastrous to the magic of Christmas, it at the very least made our oldest two very suspicious as to why on earth we told them the Elf was at the North Pole when he was clearly hanging out on top of the kitchen cabinet. Our weak excuses such as “Well, Elves like to play tricks!” and in some moments I’m not particularly proud of, “Are you sure you saw the Elf up there? Maybe it was a mouse … or a fake Elf trying to trick you … or a shadow … or a fly … ” didn’t really convince them.
So boys and girls, let this be a cautionary tale before you venture into the land of the Elves.
And at the very least, if you join the ranks of Elfdom Dropouts with yours truly, never, ever stash him on top of your kitchen cabinets.
The end.More On