find women absolutely fascinating. I am one so you’d
think that would clear up some of the mystery. But really, it
does almost nothing to help.
instance, women seem to always be working at cross purposes. For
a long time Relief Society meant a monthly crafting club. Now this is
down to a few craft extravaganzas a year.
what else was taught at these meetings? Organization.
Decluttering. Could we just preemptively declutter our
homes by not making crafts the eleven other months of the year?
we are now knee deep into helpful hints for surviving Christmas.
Apparently the celebration of the birth of Christ has become so
complex that it, like a knife fight, an open-seating budget flight,
or Mondays, needs surviving. Every list includes some version
of “scale back, focus on what’s important.”
someone said, “Let’s institute a super labor-intensive
holiday tradition that teaches your children incorrect principles
about how life works and how they should behave while normalizing
super-creepy behavior and making the focus of Christmas as convoluted
and worldly as possible so that I can sell you a book and a doll,”
we would all say no.
yet, there is the Elf on the Shelf.
you are not familiar with the Elf on the Shelf (and if you aren’t,
please share your location so the rest of us know where to find
sanctuary) here’s a quick rundown: The Elf on The Shelf
purports to be a revival of a 1950’s tradition. You
purchase a suitably retro looking elf and a storybook that explains
see, Santa has deputized this elf to sit in your house and observe
your children all day. At night the elf flies back to Santa and
reports on the children’s behaviors. Every morning the
children wake up to find the elf in a new place after a new wacky
for $24.99 you cannot buy a real elf, Mother gets to stay up at night
coming up with new mischief for the elf to do. There are whole
Pinterest boards dedicated to elf mischief. The elf can take
all the ornaments off the tree or spool toilet paper everywhere or
have a marshmallow fight. In short, this elf that is ostensibly
evaluating the kids’ behavior is behaving like a liquored-up
sailor on a three-day pass. Whee. Holiday Fun.
know that my preternatural ability to be curmudgeonly in the face of
holiday cheer is nearly legendary. My hatred for the dreaded
“Christmas Shoes” song has been shouted from the
rooftops. But this is more than my annual run at out-Scrooging
Scrooge. This actually bothers me.
why do we do this to ourselves? Have you really gone through
the holidays and thought, “I need to find something elaborate
and new to do as a practical joke every night?” I don’t
know a woman who seriously needs more to do during the holidays. How
fun would April Fools be on day 30? But setting the mother’s
well-being aside (as we so often seem to do), can we just look at
this elf business logically?
set aside the fact that the elf looks like every toy that ever came
alive in a scary movie and tried to eat someone’s face. I
think his eyes are supposed to be mischievous, but instead he
looks like he is just waiting to shriek “time to play”
and gnaw through your Achilles tendon, leaving you unable to defend
yourself. Yes, let’s set that aside (but not too far
aside, safety first) too.
does this teach kids?
teaches them that there is an authority outside of parents and the
Lord over the home.
teaches them that we behave for extrinsic reasons.
teaches them that good behavior is a commodity to bargain with.
learn that the Elf may be naughty but expects goodness.
unimportantly, it follows up the dreadful message from Twitlight
that it is perfectly acceptable for some creature to come to your
house and watch you sleep if they claim that it is for you benefit.
teaches children that some unseen bad behavior has no negative
teaches them that there must be ever-escalating entertainment and
scariest of all, it teaches children that parents are so unsure of
themselves that they must employ a little leverage.
brother-in-law manages a mega bookstore. He reports that some
parents are so anxious to have the elf come and lay down the law that
he gets requests for the elf in September. Parents warn their
kids that the elf is watching. Some elves even leave
recriminating notes outlining a day’s naughty behaviors.
now, I shall deeply annoy everyone. If
you need an elf to address your child’s behavior, you are not
doing your job.
I said it.
are supposed to teach our kids right from wrong. It is our
responsibility to teach them that goodness is its own reward.
Goodness is happiness. It is our responsibility to use
their young dreaming years to forge bonds that will compel us to let
them live through years 13-17.
I can hear the reply, “It’s just fun. It’s
not a big deal.” And I suppose on some days, I could have
seen it that way. When I had a house full of knee-high people,
the days of wonder looked endless. I thought I had time for
my eldest turned 18, I was nearly broken with the realization that
the time that had seemed so limitless was gone. It was over.
My heart broke for everything I was sure I had left undone. I
was terrified of what she didn’t know.
buy an elf to make wonders for your children. They want you.
The world (and neighbors) will tell them they want to buy the
thing that everyone has bought. But in their hearts, there is
no greater wonder for a child than time with their parents.
put the elf away (I assume they burn beautifully). Be the magic
yourself. The minutes you would have spent on a prank are so
much better spent with your child. Catch snowflakes on black
velvet. Make cocoa when you should all be in bed. Have a
slumber party. Draw nativity pictures. Pretend that you
don’t really hate Christmas carols and sing along.
bought, more you. Because someday you will be out of time. You
will want to know that the things you taught on purpose and on
accident were true.
the record, if any child I love informs me that they are being
watched by an elf when they sleep, I will arm them with pepper spray and
a rape whistle. That’s just common sense. I will
also explain that we are good because we must be ourselves for a very
long time. And it’s much more fun when we are good.
I am me. I live at my house with my husband and kids. Mostly because I have found that people
get really touchy if you try to live at their house. Even after you explain that their towels are
fluffier and none of the cheddar in their fridge is green.
I teach Relief Society and most of the sisters in the ward are still nice enough to come.