THAT is the real question at Christmastime.
For several years, Griffin was just too young. Then last year he never mentioned it. It was easy to ignore the great Elf on the Shelf® debate. I was ambivalent to an elfish presence in our home. On the one hand, I understood how much fun it was for kids and I knew several friends who openly advocated for the little guy. They said all the hassle was worth the look on your child’s face when searching for the mischievous creature every morning. On the other hand, I wasn’t completely comfortable with the NSA-like surveillance that went with the elf and bribing my kid to be good.
Nicholas was not ambivalent. He hated the elf. He argued it stank of consumerism and adding one more “must buy” to a holiday that already involved spending too much money. He rightly pointed out that we already had enough going on every day with our five advent calendars and we didn’t need one more thing to do.
He wasn’t the only one hating on the elf. For every friend that loved it, I had parent after parent tell me they wish they’d never started. One friend exclaimed in frustration, “EVERY night you lay down to go to bed and remember SHOOT! I didn’t move the dang elf!”
So, I was on the fence. Nicholas was opposed.
Then, Griffin asked one simple question over dinner. “How do we get an elf?” His friend William had an elf. The elf did all kinds of silly things when William was asleep and Griffin thought it would be fun to have an elf. So, he asked again, “How do we get an elf?”
We punted and said we’d ask William’s mom. Nicholas was still adamant. We didn’t need an elf. Were we going to cave every time one of his friends had something he wanted? This would have been a valid point… any other time of year. However, Christmas isn’t about consistency. Christmas is a magical time when the rules don’t quite apply and when you have a chance to make your child’s eyes fill with glee, you do it.
So, I decided if Griffin wanted an elf, an elf he would have.
BUT this elf was going to be on MY terms.
First, I would not be purchasing an Elf on the Shelf®. I applaud the idea, but I don’t think they need my $30 and I don’t need THAT elf or THEIR rules to have fun with my child. So, I went to our local home decor store and bought a little elf with wire limbs (I was told this was essential to arranging the elf) for 60% off. Ten dollars later and I was on my way to Christmas wonder. Plus, our elf has little knitted clothes and I’m thinking about changing them up every year.
Second, our elf will arrive ONE WEEK - not one month - before Christmas. I have enough experience with every day projects to know a week is doable but a month is a commitment. Gathering seven elf adventure ideas takes about 15 minutes on Pinterest. Thirty or more ideas is a week long organizational project and while I want this experience for my kids, I am simply not willing to dedicate that much energy to it.
Not to mention, December is an insanely busy month and I know some days I simply won’t have the mental or physical energy to deal with the elf. However, I always find things have slowed down by the final week. The anticipation is building and all the major projects are either completed or abandoned. The perfect time for our little visitor to arrive.
Mommy and Daddy can move the elf with gloves. I explained in our elf’s first letter that, while his magic is fragile, adults can move him carefully if wearing gloves. I just didn’t want the elf dangling from a fishing pole for 24 hours. I also didn’t want Amos, who can’t keep his grubby little paws off my tree much less a cheery little elf, “murdering” the elf every chance he got. So, after Griffin finds him every morning I place him high upon a shelf.
The elf can disappear at any minute. I set this one up so that if we have a particularly crazy day I can skip the elf. I haven’t done it yet and don’t anticipate needing to but I wanted the option either way. Plus, I’d read the horror stories of kids crying all Christmas Day when the elf left so I wanted Griffin to know that was an option from the beginning.
My elf will not be making an appearance on social media. This is a big one for me. I decided I would not be posting the elf’s nightly adventures on Instagram or Facebook or Twitter. I won’t say I’ll NEVER post a single picture but it was important to me that I expend this energy for the right reason. The elf is for Griffin, not to prove what an awesome mom I am. I don’t consciously post anything to impress but I know the science and psychology behind social media and I am not foolish enough to think I’m immune. So, Awesome the Elf might appear once or twice but you won’t see his daily antics in your feed.
We are currently five days into our little elf experiment and so far so good. When the elf first made his appearance in our mailbox, the sound of Griffin gasping as we pulled in the driveway was worth the $10 I’d already invested. Griffin clearly loves his little elf. After making the elf a hand glider and writing him a letter, he told me that when he was grown up and had his own house he would be taking his elf with him.
And really that’s all I want - one more happy Christmas memory he can take with him into adulthood. The time we spend fully immersed in the magic of Christmas seems so incredibly short. If a little stuffed elf can make that time seem better or longer, who am I to stand in the way?