There are a lot of people these days hating on Elf on the Shelf. For every picture I've seen of an elf clinging desperately to the top of a Christmas tree, it seems I'm finding an accompanying piece titled, "Sorry, Elf of the Shelf, but you won't be in my house." I'm assuming this is because people don't have the time, don't want to lie to their kids or don't want to bribe their kids into good behavior, because that isn't sustainable or because every time their kids sees the elf, they scream the roof off of the house.
It's amazing to me the number of adults who seem incapable of even being able to deal with a cloth and plastic doll who gets thrown from one corner of the house to another. Who gets thrown from corner to corner for one purpose: TO MAKE KIDS SMILE.
Honestly, adults are losing it this year because Elf on the Shelf is everywhere. Because they can't look at a social media network for two seconds without seeing an elf cross their screen. We can watch movies about an abominable snowman, a talking snowman, an elf man and a grown up man who slides down chimneys to deliver gifts, but we can't for the life of us deal with a plush toy who moves from spot to spot every night.
Well, as long as my kids aren't screaming, I'm doing Elf on the Shelf for one reason: it makes my kids smile.
Here are a few reasons others aren't...
I can't be busy-splained any longer.
If you're a parent, you're busy. I guess the more kids you have, the busier you are. I may still be too new at parenting to know for sure, but I do not think there's a prize awarded at the end of every year to the parents who most successfully convinces people they have -14 hours in every day.
I get it if you don't have one minute at night to throw your Elf on the Shelf onto a Christmas tree or to hang him from a ceiling. A lot of people don't have six minutes. What's crazy is that parents who write pieces based on not having time for Elf on the Shelf think kids give any more than 0.01 shits about where the elf ends up the next day. If they give that many shits, it's because you've set the wrong expectations.
If you don't have one minute at night to throw Elf into the fridge, make up your own rules about how often Elf moves. Move him once a week, once every two weeks. Move him once and make that one time end up with him being encased in cement. Use this as an opportunity to teach your kids that cement is heavy and that Elf will be able to stay with them, but he can't move. Hilarious story, and kids will love it.
You may not have time to knit a jumper that Elf will be delivering to your child one day or the time to set up that elaborate water slide that you saw on Pinterest, but who gives three craps? It's not your kids, I can promise you that. Kids are happy if Elf appears in a paper bag or if he rides in on a broom you used the night before to clean up supper.
I know so many people are upset that they have to clean up after the mess their Elf leaves. How annoying is doing that, right? But here's one little thing: YOU DON'T CLEAN UP AFTER ELF ON THE SHELF, YOU CLEAN UP AFTER WHAT YOU'VE MADE HIM OR HER DO. THE ELF ISN'T GODDAMN REAL SO IF YOU DON'T WANT TO CLEAN UP AFTER HIM DON'T HAVE HIM MAKE A MESS.
The Elf can take hours to set up every night if you're interested in that. Or it can take 30 seconds.
The hours-long one might garner 18 more Instagram likes, but it will give you the exact same amount of kid smiles as a paper bag does. Most of the time, I aim for the paper bag and I'm proud of it.
2. He's creepy
No, he's a fucking stuffed toy. If you have a real elf in your house, you win, that's creepy as hell.
Hilariously enough, people who complain about him being creepy tend to do it this way: "That Elf is creepy as hell and he'll never be in my house. But if we was, I'd do it like this (links to gallery of elf throwing up in toilet)."
And the Elf is the creepy one?
3. But I couldn't lie to my kids
Like Santa, the Easter Bunny, leprechauns at the end of rainbows and a doctor's visit that is actually fun, the Elf on the Shelf is a complete fabrication. He or she is but another lie we keep juggling as parents.
But we have way worse lies on the go at all times that are way more damaging to a child's future than whether or not Elf on the Shelf is real. We tell our kids that everything is fine when we're struggling financially. We tell our kids that everything will be OK when daddy is crying because something went bad at work or at home. We tell our kids everything will be OK when someone we love very much is sick. We do that because we don't want our kids to worry about us. Who knows whether or not that's the right decision but we often make it in the moment to protect them.
Why do we feel so fine with assuring our kids everything will be fine when things aren't going well, but balk at the idea of lying to them whenever the circumstances aren't dire? When at the worst, a child will call us on lying to them about an being in the same spot one night as it was the night before.
For better or worse, I have the ability to lie to my kids at the highest level when it comes to bringing smiles to their faces. If one day, someone at school calls my bluff and we get yelled at because for six years we've carried on a lie about an Elf that visits our house at Christmas, I'll take the hate they dole out.
There are also people who don't like the rules that surround the Elf. You can't touch him, you can't feed him after midnight (although isn't everything after midnight), he gets healed with hot chocolate or candy canes or whatever. But keep this in mind when thinking about the rules of Elf on the Shelf: he's a toy.
We didn't want to deal with the horrors that come with a child thinking they've killed Elf because they touched him, so we said this to our kids: "You can touch him and he'll be fine."
And you know what? Every time they touch him, he doesn't die. Because he was never alive in the first place.
4. Nothing good comes of bribery
I'd agree to this if every parent wasn't guilty of it at some point. The parent who can come to me and sat they've never offered their child anything as a reward for good behavior can show me their Parent of the Year certificate and I'll kiss it. I'll kiss it in my Santa boxers and my ugly Christmas sweater.
Bribery, in some for or another, is the lifeblood of parenting. This isn't a condemnation of parents; it's a statement of the human spirit. We need sleep, we need food, we need to go to the bathroom once or twice on our own every year. We need to bribe our kids to do these things. Not only do we need to do them, we do do them. And yes, I did just say do do. Bribing your kids isn't horrible. Your parent card isn't revoked because you've told your kids that if they don't behave, they won't get xx. The Elf is for people celebrating Christmas and if you're giving your kids gifts for Christmas, you're participating in a reward system that is inherently bribery-based.
Santa is a bribery tool, birthdays are bribery tools. Ice cream, hamburgers, poutine; all bribery items.
If you're counting on Elf on the Shelf to alter the behavior of your kids throughout they year, you're well past screwed and this little guy is the least of your problems.
5. Your kid is terrified of Elf on the Shelf
By all means, scrap that freaky elf. He doesn't deserve to be around if your kid is terrified of him. Burn him. Throw him in front of a bus. Do what you have to do to make your kid comfortable again.
If my child was confronted by a real Tyrannosaurus Rex, I'd try and get that dinosaur out of my house. I'd do the same with an Elf my kids have identified as creepy. That you, an adult, thinks he's creepy, counts for precisely zero craps.
You aren't better than me because you've taken a stand against Elf on the Shelf. You aren't raising less gullible kids. The fact that you don't like it when other parents post pictures on Facebook of an elf who has painted snowmen on their child's face doesn't make me admire you more.
I'm just an average guy doing average things with a toy. My kid smiles when Elf has fallen down on the floor. I don't care how many page views you get by writing about how Elf on the Shelf will never be in your house because xx. I don't care that in your strange logic, my kids are being spoiled by having yet another make-believe character giving them crap.
Every time my kids smile because they've seen Elf doing something stupid, I feel victorious. I'll do it until I'm 135 if the smiles keep coming, because there are too many points in their life when smiles won't be there.
And if they end up hating him, I'll burn him.