No sooner than our Thanksgiving leftovers had been tucked away in the fridge, did my seven year old daughter tell me, “I’m SO excited, Nutcracker arrives tonight!” I could feel the anxiety start to grow in my stomach. Nutcracker is our Elf on the Shelf. And he is the reason for the next 30 days of hell.
Well, it’s not entirely his fault. We gave into the Elf madness. I never had an elf as a child. We were good because, well, we were good just knowing Santa was making his naughty and nice list. There was no creepy elf with disturbing eyes that seem to follow you around the house watching on behalf of Santa. The Head Elf seemed to do his job just fine.
I’m sure I could research the origins of the Elf on the Shelf, but at this point, it’s not necessary. We’ve already succumbed to the madness. Where do we put him every day? What if we forget to move him? There are actually lists of reasons floating around social media helping parents with both, um, problems.
And then there are the other parents. Sorry creative moms and dads – you are stressing the rest of us out. I’ve seen multiple posts on social media the past few days about elves bringing gifts (gifts!!), and staging full-on theatrical performances complete with props.
And I can’t even remember to move the damn thing every night.
So, back to Thanksgiving. That night, I reluctantly dragged myself to where I packed Nutcracker last year. I opened the Elf on the Shelf box, and . . . Nutcracker was MISSING! There, behind the plastic window, were empty twist ties where his felt body used to be pinned to the back of the box like some Medieval torture device. I let out a loud gasp that woke my husband. Where the hell could he have gone?
No time to figure it out. It was 1:00 am, and I was in a panic. About an elf. My husband was incredulous. I suggested running out to the store (Black Friday could save me!), but my husband was not having it. The elf will come tomorrow, he reasoned. No, no, no!! How could I disappoint me sweet seven year old? And my 11 year old who still believed in Santa and the elves (that’s a subject for another blog, I’m well aware).
How could I kill the magic? And therein lies the problem.
We are so desperate to create the “perfect” holiday, complete with magical elves who somehow dive into the marshmallows overnight, that we are sort of ruining the Season for ourselves.
I know there has been much ink spilled about the pros and cons of perpetuating the idea of Santa – but for those of us who do subscribe to lying to our kids for years in order to create magic, well, we are making it harder and harder every year.
Why? Can’t we all just agree to dial it down a notch? Can’t we parents make some silent pact that we won’t have our elves bring gifts or stage battles with the Stormtroopers? I know some of you out there are super-creative – and I admire that – but you are making it really hard on the rest of us who are just trying to remember to move the damn thing.
That Thanksgiving night, I had Nutcracker write a note to my kids explaining that he had to stay at Santa’s workshop one more day to help out. My daughter cried all day. Overwhelmed with guilt (typical, right?), I ran out to buy another elf, and of course could not find one that exactly looked like Nutcracker. The next day, when “Nutcracker” finally arrived, both my kids asked where his tags had gone and why his face changed a little. I lied and said he was promoted by Santa and just looked more official. (Yeah, I know, pathetic.)
That day, no less than three of my friends posted on social media that their elves had also vanished. Maybe there was an elf mutiny. Maybe the elves were trying to save us parents from one more season of insanity. No matter, we all replaced them, with similar questionable results. We all continued the madness, er, I mean magic.
Yes, there’s a lot of real magic during this Season – so much kindness and giving and hope – things far more important than Santa and his elves. I know it’s fun for us parents to create magic for our little ones, but maybe (please!) we can all agree to create a little less of it where the Elf is concerned? That would surely be a Christmas miracle.