Why my Elf on the Shelf is Boring

Let me start off by saying that I have no problem with one-upmanship. Or one-upMOMship. I’m totally fine with moms who want to spend thousands of dollars on their child’s first birthday party (though I’d suggest spending some of that money on a professional photographer so the child will remember it), or who make their children get up an hour early on the first day of school so they can get the perfect in-front-of-the-door-first-day-of-school photo. Partly, because I’m guilty of some of these crazy antics as well (I threw my son a half birthday party), and partly because I know that while you are taking a photo of their child dressed in the perfect princess costume, accessorized with rhinestone-studded kitten heels you DIYed the night before, you are wearing yoga pants, uggs, and yesterday’s mom bun.

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But your Elf on the Shelf baloney is one step too far. Sure, it is cute to have your elf make a mess of cookie crumbs on the counter, have snowball fight with marshmallows in the living room, or play dress-up with Barbie’s clothes and mom’s makeup. But that isn’t the point. The point is: READ THE BOOK.

The Elf on the Shelf is a family tradition that was Hallmark-isized. It was mass produced as boxed sets and manufactured dolls. And I bought one. I read the book and fell in love. Haven’t read the book? There is a movie. But if you missed that too, here are the Cliff’s notes: the elves are spies sent down from the North Pole to check on children. Each night they fly home to the North Pole to report to Santa, then fly back to your house to find another hiding spot so that they can listen to conversations and take notes on the behavior of small children. And if someone touches them, they lose their magic and can’t fly home.

THEY ARE SPIES. Sent to live among us, in secret. And wherever they stay during daylight hours – they are not supposed to be touched.

These moms who create elaborate dioramas that span the length and breadth of their dining room table – you really leave these up all day? You’re not worried that the ants are going to find that sticky syrup trail that Snickers McCandyCane left? You are going to walk around the livingroom, avoiding the cocktail party that Chappy Stockingfill is throwing with Rainbow Brite and and the My Little Pony twins? Really? Between Christmas shopping, baking, and shipping, you have time to dedicate sections of your house as shrines to a stuffed toy?

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When I was a child, the warning that “Santa is watching” was enough to keep me in line. It seems kids today need a little extra coaching. But what kind of sports metaphor has the assistant coach pitching goals into their own basket? Not a successful one.

We’ve taken a story that was cherished by one family, shared it with the world, and allowed social media to bastardize it.

The Elf on the Shelf is the silent, unpaid Nanny who reminds our children to be good. After a two weeks of fall break in October, a week of Thanksgiving Break in November, and two more weeks of winter break in December, we moms need all the help we can get. So why are we tossing down tequila shots with our nanny elves each night, and leaving the trail of salt and lime rinds for our children to witness in the morning?

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If you must be a Pinterest Mom or Instagram show-off, have your elf dress up, challenge the kids to do a good deed each day, or leave treats for the kiddos as an early reward for good behavior. Remember that your elf is on a mission from Santa – not out on Rumspringa.