Just when I thought it was safe to relax and enjoy Christmastime, my daughter comes home from school and asks, “Mommy, why don’t we have an Elf on the Shelf?”
I choke on my cocoa and look at her in disbelief. I have done everything to keep her sheltered from that homely creature but it has been all for naught. I dislodge a miniature marshmallow from my nose and poise myself to answer her question.
I decide to try and play dumb. “What’s an Elf on the Shelf, dear?”
“It’s an Elf that sits on your shelf, Mommy.”
I take a minute to appreciate the sheer sarcasm of her statement, then I get right back on the Elf offensive.
“Oh, one of those? Well, we don’t have a lot of shelves, so I don’t think an elf would be comfortable in our house.” Yes, limited shelf space, she’ll buy that.
“It doesn’t have to be on a shelf; it can sit anywhere. My teacher told us all about the Elf on the Shelf,” she says brightly.
So it is the teacher that is smuggling Elf information to my daughter. I was such a fool to think my fortress was secure. I never let my daughter watch the Elf on the Shelf movie, I distracted her so she wouldn’t see the Elf in the store, but all the while the evil had already infiltrated…at the most unlikely source. Well played, Elf.
“So why don’t we have one, Mommy?”
Why don’t we have one? First, he’s creepy. Second, I can’t handle the commitment. That thing is supposed to get moved around everyday. With my luck, I’d forget for a few days and my daughter would start to worry and I would have to make up a story about how the Elf obviously got ahold of Mommy’s Xanax and is just taking an extended, yet well-deserved, holiday nap.
The pressure is getting to me, my thoughts are a jumble. I. Must. Focus. No, I won’t be outsmarted by a semi-plush, non-posable Elf with freakishly long limbs. I rally and come up with a brilliant countermove.
“You know, honey, Santa Claus only sends an Elf on the Shelf to children who are real discipline cases; the kids who are so wild that they are on the verge of being put on the Naughty List. It’s a kind of reprogramming, if you will, to coerce the children into making better choices. This kind of psychological approach has been banned in most European countries because it was deemed inhumane. But of course here it’s still allowed. Elves and red dye 40. When will our country learn?” I shake my head disdainfully for effect.
My daughter just looks at me in utter confusion then asks, “So all the kids who have an Elf on the Shelf are naughty?”
“Yes and Santa sends in the Elf on the Shelf to get a good indication of exactly how much coal he is going to need to fill all the naughty boys’ and girls’ stockings on Christmas Eve.” Take that, Elf on the Shelf.
I can see the wheels turning in my daughter’s head as she tries to process all this. “But Addie has an Elf on the Shelf. Is she naughty?”
Addie is my daughter’s best friend and the sweetest child I have ever met. It’s at exactly this point that I am absolutely riddled with guilt. But I have never been a person that exhibits good judgment especially when in the middle of a battle of wits with an inanimate Elf.
“Probably. But I’m sure she will start being good and get back onto the Nice List,” I say reassuringly and hope this is the end of this discussion.
“What do you think she did?” Of course it’s not over; she is her mother’s daughter and she is not going to let this go.
“Hard to tell. It might be mail fraud or possibly shoplifting. Look, the point is, the Elf can rehabilitate even the rottenest of kids, so Addie will be fine, okay?” I really couldn’t have dug myself any deeper if I had shovel.
Fortunately, my daughter is perfectly satisfied at this point and the holidays can resume being joyful in our house. I walk into the kitchen and say under my breath, “Damn Elf.”
My daughter pops around the corner and says, “You know Mommy, if you don’t stop saying bad words, Santa might send an Elf on the Shelf to you!”