Your elf spends his time getting into adorable mischief. He throws powder around! He rides dinosaurs! He sneaks into the Barbie Dream House! He gets into cereal boxes and generally makes a giant freaking mess you have to both arrange and clean up (I blame Pinterest).
I don't have time for that crap, partly because I'd have to clean it up, and partly because I'm lazy.
But aside from the cutesy elf antics (the stuff Pinterest boards are made of), the Elf has one purpose: it's Santa's little spy. He's a creepy little informant with a creepy little smile that looks like he just peed in someone's Solo cup. This elf's sole job, his raison d'etre, is to report your kids' behavior to Santa. He's like a one-man magical surveillance team.
Replace "elf on the shelf" with "dude in a white van across the street." Creeped out yet?
You go to the trouble of pretending the behatted fink reports back to The Jolly Old Elf every single night. Joey said the f-word today. Susie stole the last Ding-Dong. Molly refused dinner and threw spaghetti at the ceiling. Behind all that twee Pinterest posing, you spend the run-up to Christmas convincing the kids you've installed a supernatural surveillance camera.
Joey and Susie and Molly think the elf is watching them all the time, so they behave. Intermittant surveillance forcing compliance. Kind of like Wal-Mart and shoplifters. Your elf is recreating the hellish Brave New World postulated by French philosophers, except with jingle bells.
I find this deeply unsettling.
But no, you say! I don't use [insert weird elf name here] to force good behavior! He's cute! He's fun! He writes Merry Christmas on the bathroom mirror while we sleep! He just happens to look sort of like a cross between Chuckie and one of those cymbal-clapping monkeys that always turn out to be demon-possessed! That's pure coincidence.
Uh-huh. No way, Jose. Throw some holy water on that Elf and watch it sizzle. You can keep your Christmas creeper. My kids can find their holiday magic somewhere else.
Do you also find the Elf on the Shelf an unsettling means of forcing compliant behavior? Or a beloved holiday tradition? Fight it out in the comments, people. First to accuse someone of hating Christmas, fun, or God Himself wins the Internet.