How I Obtained an Elf on a Shelf Against my Will

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I do not do Elf on a Shelf. I am against them on principle.

First of all, I have enough to do in December:

A. I have to decorate and shop and wrap and make Santa videos at and make dancing family videos at and then delete the dancing family video because one of the children finds it embarrassing.
B. Because we celebrate Christmas and Chanukah, I also have to find eight additional small presents for each child and remember to order the good menorah candles in time because although birthday candles fit, they make a colossal mess.
C. I have to count and recount the number of presents bought for each child because they are still at an age where the number of presents must be equal or the world will end. It doesn’t matter if one toy cost $50 and the other toy cost $2, they cannot have an uneven number of presents. I also have to have at least one back up present on hand for relatives who send one child more gifts than the other, or forget the second child entirely. (Note to Relatives: if you buy 2 books for one kid and one larger book for the other, please have mercy on me and wrap the two books in the same package. )
D. I have to manage the dress code for the winter concert, which for some reason requires different outfits from their existing formal wear. I had foolishly thought that buying each kid a suit would cover all dress-up occasions, but that is not how the universe works in December.
E. Don’t even get me started on all the donations and gifts to random people who are important but not my children and therefore way less fun to buy for. Monetary donations are easy, it’s the running around to purchase specific items for group gift baskets that makes me slightly insane. Add in the school party stuff, and I become a little frantic. I’m not even a room mother. Room mothers have a level of patience and organization I can never aspire to.

Secondly, I don’t think we need an elven spy in our house. I mean, the kids used to cry when I sang “You better watch out, you better not cry…” They rightfully did not like the idea of Santa watching them sleep and keeping tabs on their behavior. Add in an elf and it starts to resemble something out of Orwell’s 1984. Besides, how can I threaten to call Santa to report on their misdeeds if Santa already has a spy embedded in our household? It’s an abdication of authority. The Santa threat is very important to my parental strategy this time of year.


My eight-year-old has developed elf envy. His class has one at school, and he feels left out of the Christmas cheer. I have thoroughly explained my reasoning (minus the spoilers) and still he wants an elf of his own. He has gone so far as to take a stuffed elf that he has owned since he was two and declared that it is our personal elf. Every night he reminds me that he hopes the elf will move while he is asleep.

I tried to tell him that the dang elf is not magic. His older brother thinks making an old elf a magic elf out of sheer willpower is asinine, and expresses his derision daily. Somehow, his brother’s refusal to believe in the fake-elf made me willing to play along. I really am obstinate by nature. So every night I move the elf. He doesn’t get into playful mischief, but I halfheartedly relocate him by a few feet. What can I say? I’m a sucker for Christmas magic.

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