The holidays are a stressful time. There is so much stuff to do: people to see, presents to buy, donations to drop off. Even before N was born, I was a dash less stressful, but the blood pressure still ran high. With a child, there are more people to shop for, more gifts to wrap and then there are the holiday pictures and Santa trips. So why on earth would I want to add one more thing to the stupid long list of things to do all in the name of ‘believing’?
The Elf is stupid. It is a time waster and if your children’s belief system revolves around it, your Christmas could do with a little less 1984. Every year I see hundreds of pictures of people’s creative moments with the Elf. I see hours of preparation, or mess, followed by “wow, the Elf did that all himself?!” 5 minutes later, the kids are onto something new and guess who is left cleaning everything up? Yup, you. Amidst the normal day to day madness of school bags and scraped knees, adding an extra unnecessary to do is just not going to happen.
And do kids really need it? For all the effort that goes into it, the payoff is minimal. You are trying to reinforce what is, at its core, a lie. I struggle enough trying to decide if I want my child to believe in Santa or spare him the heartbreak of finding out Santa isn’t real because let’s face it, everyone who believed as child remembers learning the truth. It’s traumatic. Yes, there is joy to be found in fiction, etc, but that’s a whole different argument. The point is the Elf already existed for Christmas. For many it was milk and cookies, where you put the cookies out, the next morning all that was left were a few crumbs (or half a cookie if Mom/Dad were watching their waist lines). That was magic! That was thinking Santa was there for just that one moment. 30 days of seeing the magic up close gets boring, stressful, and when the parent inevitably forgets to move it, a little less magical. And when they do finally figure out that the Elf hasn’t moved in the last few days and maybe it isn’t real, then by extension, what about Santa? They will learn that their parents will lie to them. And express glee during that lie. Over presents. Presents don’t really matter, they are nice and generous and show people you care. But Elf isn’t about the presents; Elf is the middleman. He watches you. All the time. And not in a disconnected, you never see God/Santa so you don’t connect that they are watching you in the shower, way. There is a physically there little creep giving you zero privacy in the safety of your own home. These are not low stakes!
Parents know communicating truths is tricky. You want to give your children the tools to understand and handle the world around them while sparing them the disturbing details. The innocence of childhood should not be easily lost. But telling continuous lies and fabricating information just to prolong the belief in Santa is where I draw the line. Because that is what the Elf truly is. It is the gap filler for the first question skeptical kids ask: How does Santa know if we are good or bad?
Before you call me a humbug, I understand it’s there to create a bit of magic for the children in this age of knowing about everything. It is a moment of creativity for parents who may not have the time and fortitude for salt dough ornaments or home made gifts for teachers. As a child, my parents put effort into helping us believe. Christmas Eve we went outside and left grain and carrots for the reindeer. When we awoke, the food was eaten, the buckets overturned, and hoof prints in the grass. And it was all thanks to the herd of sheep brought over. Was that some serious effort put in by my parents? You bet. Was the evidence hard to ignore and prolonged our belief? Yes, it was. But it didn’t involve a creepy doll forever giving you side eye. It was also JUST ONE NIGHT! The Elf is supposed to be a whole month?! I ain’t got no time for that!
So do everyone a favor and don’t give in to the Elf on the Shelf. It is a creepy idea that frankly stresses everyone out, teaches children that they are always under surveillance, and puts off the healthy growing up moment of skepticism.