What’s Up with The Elf?

Unless you live under a rock, I’m sure you’re aware of the newish Christmas tradition — The Elf on the Shelf. This is a silly story that someone dreamed up about a mischievous elf that watches over the children of the house to see who is bad and who is good and reports back to Santa each night.

Every morning said elf appears in a new spot (the book comes with a little stuffed elf), forcing the parents who were foolish enough to buy the set or unfortunate enough to receive it as a gift to get creative each night and come up with a new hiding place, and in the morning the kids have fun finding him.

Sounds fun and harmless, right?

I s’pose, except I can’t even remember to put the Tooth Fairy money under the proper pillow every couple of months, say nothing of move an elf every night during the busiest month of the year. And besides, am I the only one who is bothered by the moral implications of this tradition?

If you are good, you will receive gifts, and if you are bad, you will not?

Except we all know that they will, because what modern parent is going to really withhold Christmas presents from their child for bad behavior? (If you can do that, then you are made of stronger stuff than I am, that is for sure!)

And even if they did, what is that teaching them in the end?

Now don’t get me wrong, we do enjoy Santa around here, and while I’ve never taught my kids to believe that he is real, we have the story books, and we play along. But I have never told my kids that they better be good because Santa is watching or any of that nonsense. I want my kids to be good because it is the right thing to do, not because they might be rewarded (which, we all know, is not how life works anyway. And let’s not get started on how it contradicts the doctrine of grace for those of us who are believers.)

In my mind, the Elf on the Shelf is the icing on the cake.

I have largely kept my mouth shut and gone along with this silly little game because my kids think it’s fun (I did NOT buy the set, but my daughter begged her grandmother for it, and you know how that usually ends up… yes, we got the set in the mail one day last December) and I figure it is fairly harmless.

And fortunately, my husband is a lot more fun than I am and is willing to take responsibility for finding a new hiding spot for elphie every most nights.

But when my friend Cecily inquired on Facebook about Christmas traditions we find disturbing, I found myself chiming in:

I hate the elf and I have never told my kids that if they don’t be good Santa won’t come. I think that is a deceitful parenting tactic. I do, however, have the stupid elf b/c my daughter BEGGED for one. She doesn’t believe in the story (or Santa, or the Easter Bunny or the Tooth Fairy… the list goes on, she is contrary like that) but she wants one just the same and DEMANDS he gets moved every night, for her little sister, who is determined to believe in every make believe novelty that comes down the pike… how can 2 kids be so different!? LOL!

Then I did what every good blogger does. I immediately opened a new tab in my browser and wrote a post about it.

(Seriously, you should read the entire thread on her Facebook post. It is highly entertaining.)

Besides all that, parents everywhere are even getting into the madness, taking pictures every day of their elf in his latest hiding place, and posting them to all their social networks. Some are quite creative and fun, I will admit, but as far as I’m concerned, that’s just one more thing to make the rest of us feel inadequate. As if it weren’t enough to be bombarded with all the Martha-esque holiday decor and clever craft ideas every time I open Instagram.

Bah humbug.

Now, lest you think I’m a total Scrooge, there are lots of holiday traditions that I can get behind. I love taking the family to a local tree farm and cutting down our Christmas tree. I even let them help me decorate it if I’m feeling generous.

And I’m all about the advent calendar — especially the cheap cardboard ones you get at Trader Joes that have a chocolate candy behind each door. No work for me, and the kids think I’m awesome because they get to have a candy before breakfast.

See, I can be fun. I just don’t get the fascination with the Elf.

I am curious. What are your thoughts on the Elf on the Shelf? Do you have one? Do you play along? Do you think it is fun and harmless or creepy or downright deceitful?

Inquiring minds . . .