I didn't really know that the Elf on the Shelf was a thing that lots of people did until this year. I had seen the books at the store and an occasional post on Facebook by my friends who I deem "super-parents" (in a very positive way!). I had seen a few fun ideas on Pinterest of the Elf fishing in the toilet or making snow angels in a pile of powdered sugar. But I honestly had no idea that the Elf was so mainstream. Until this year. The year my youngest started Kindergarten.
This has been my "Elf" journey to date: A few days after Thanksgiving break, Ben came home and said "A lot of my friends have real elves in their houses. They do funny things. If you touch them they lose their magic. But you can talk to them. They make sure you are good for Santa." Huh. Cool, I said. And figured that was the end of it.
Then day after day, Ben came home talking about the "elf" and what it was up to at his friend's houses and that he was sure he was around our home too. Yesterday, while brushing his teeth, Ben said "this toothpaste tastes funny. My friend told his elf to come to our house. I bet he did and the elf messed with my toothpaste." And that is when I caved.
All debates about "lying" to our kids vs. encouraging healthy imaginations and belief in "magic" aside, I do think the Elf on the Shelf is a cute idea. I never outright told my kids that Santa was not real, but I never really worked hard to dupe them either. I asked my older boys this morning (when little guy was out of the room) when they stopped believing in Santa. They both basically said it just crept up on them and they never had a moment when they were traumatized or felt like they had been lied to. Phew. Of course, the older two never believed in the Elf on the Shelf. (a quick note...I tried to tell Ben that the Elf is a toy and that other families pretend to have an elf and it is fun but just using imaginations...he looked at me like I was nuts. "Mom, they are real elves." And I refuse to be the Mom on Miracle on 34th street who forces her child to not believe).
We don't have the 30 dollars to spend on the little elf doll, and I bet there are other families out there who don't either (or who prefer to spend it another way). So the older boys and I put our heads together and came up with some ways to do a little "Elf Magic" without a lot of money or fuss. I made a little list of our ideas - all of which are pretty easy and don't require an actual doll. Plus a couple bonus ideas for those who have the doll and don't feel up to being creative every single day. I mean, "Elf" success in the home is directly related to the creativity and energy of the parent, as well as the imagination and willingness of the child to have fun and go with the flow when needed. I really love seeing the fun things some parents come up with - but this list is for the rest of us.
Lazy and "NO ELF" ideas.
1. Our elf first officially made his debut today, 6 days before Christmas. (Anyone can be creative for 6 days, right?)
2. Our elf will return to the North Pole on the night before Christmas Eve. He will leave a note for Ben to find the morning of the 24th saying "Heading back...great job being good! I had fun spreading Christmas cheer at your house but now it is up to you! And remember the true source of Christmas joy is Jesus - the baby born for all of us, who we celebrate this season."
3. Our elf has help from the 11 and 13 year olds in my home. This makes things MUCH easier for Mom and Dad.
4. He will be toilet papering the tree, drawing a red nose on the kid in the middle of the night, and wrapping the toilet in wrapping paper - but will never be seen.
5. His "grand finale" will be on December 23rd but we have yet to determine what that will be. The 13 year old wants to wrap our entire house in tinsel...
6. If you have an elf but need a few days off, leave a note like this: "Dear (kid), there's been an emergency at the North Pole - be back in a few days! (from your Elf).
7. Another good one: after some high-wire shenanigan like toilet papering the tree or hanging paper snowflakes from the chandelier, set your elf on the shelf with a cast on his/her leg and a note "Doc says I need to stay put for a bit...will be up and around again in a day/week/month! (depending on how ambitious you are/aren't feeling).
8. Two very baaaad ideas that my older boys think are good ideas: Draw a chalk outline of an elf on the ground with some caution tape. Or, have someone say, "I think I just flushed an elf down the toilet..."
9. If you want an elf but can't afford one, use a different elf - one you make or get at the dollar tree and tell your kids "if all the elves looked alike, what fun would that be?" Or borrow an elf while he is on vacation or sick leave from another kid's house. Or be creative and do the "Bear on the Stairs" or the "Doll in the Hall" (although those sound a little creepy to me..).
10. Don't overthink if you don't want to. Go crazy overboard if you want to. A friend wrote on my FB post where I was debating "To Elf or Not to Elf" that 'the world gets harsh soon enough, let him enjoy the wonder!'