Blogger, Writer, Urban Adventurer
This past weekend I was attending a mothers-of-multiples event and getting our annual pictures with Santa. This particular Santa has been visiting our group for more than 17 years and is the only Santa most of our kids have ever known. I was explaining the power of this to a few new moms cradling their ridiculously sweet, tiny twins. For the first time, they were pondering what sorts of holiday traditions they wanted to maintain in their homes as their children grow.
Then I said something that shocked them: We have an Elf on the Shelf and I don’t hate it. They looked at me confounded. “Isn’t he a lot of work?” “Do you have to do those antics every day?” “I don’t want to tell my kids someone is always watching them!” “How do you remember to move him?”
I looked around to be sure no children were listening and launched into my pitch on why I love our Elf.
For starters, the Elf is what you make it
The holiday season is stressful enough, don’t make yourself nuts by setting some high bar of expectation for you or your kids. Our Elf is super low key. Basically, he moves. No crazy snowball fights. No following Pinterest sites for new ideas. We don’t threaten our kids that he is always listening and they’re going to get in trouble. And you know what, it is more than enough. We might throw in one or two different big moves each year, but pretty much if they wake up and he is in a new place, they’re thrilled. I can manage that. You set the rules here, not your friend on IG.
It adds to the magic of Christmas
I cannot overstate how much our kids love the Elf. The morning after Thanksgiving, our eight-year-old threw open her door and exclaimed, “Where is Tiger?” (Tiger is our Elf’s name. Don’t ask me why. This is what happens when three-year-olds are in charge of naming things.) Historically, Tiger has brought our matching Christmas pajamas the first night of his arrival. I buy the jammies every year, so it’s not a big leap to get the Elf to bring them. Plus, I like to give them early so we wear them all season long. Every morning between now and December 25, the kids will search for the Elf. It is a mini Christmas morning each day and I love playing the dumb mom having not “found” him yet.
I’ll catch the kids whispering to him or telling him about their day. And on the days that we do decide to do something a little “extra,” like hide him in the fridge in a bottle or take him on vacation with us, they are thrilled. It has helped us maintain a bit more of their belief in Christmas magic, which is invaluable when I feel like childhood seems to be getting shorter and shorter.
Use the Elf as an opportunity to reinforce family values
We live in a pretty diverse faith area. The kids have come home multiple times saying that their friend doesn’t have an Elf. Sometimes that leads to conversations on different families having different rules and traditions. Other times they will tell me their friends are Jewish and have a Mensch on the Bench instead of an Elf. Having the Elf in our home has sparked discussions on what exactly we believe and how that might differ from others. Equally importantly, it has given us a chance to talk to our children about other faiths and instill understanding and respect for these communities. These conversations don’t have to be serious either. Sometimes it’s as simple as reminding them what our family believes and telling them it is okay that their friends’ families do things differently. Basic, but an important life lesson.
It’s okay to “lie” to your kids
Santa, Tooth Fairy, Easter Bunny, not to mention the classic “I am not sure where all of your Halloween candy went! Sorry honey!” We may not want to admit it, but parents have been telling white lies to their kids since the beginning of time. Now that our oldest is almost nine, she knows the score. She’s a smart kid. She asked me recently if I move the Elf. I gave her a sly glance and responded, “What do you think?” She contemplated for a moment then said, “I think he’s magic.” “Then he is magic,” I declared. If I believe, then she believes. I’ll admit, there is something special about Christmastime that makes that belief just a little bit easier.