We have done this tradition for at least three years in our house – maybe more? Basically when it hit the shelves, it hit our house. My kids have latched on to our elf Mina in ways I never expected. One of the worst punishments ever is having to go tell Mina what you did, because just maybe she might pass the information onto Santa who could lower their ranking from good list to bad list.
Our Elf has morphed as our kids have grown – from simply moving around the house and the kids had to find him/her (we haven’t assigned a gender to Mina) to this year being a bit more of a prankster towards Leif and into dressing up – like Skadi. We don’t bend over backwards… some nights the elf is lucky to change shelves and some days she packs the kids’ lunches (soy sauce, mushrooms, nasty stuff they will never eat) or makes breakfast (a bowl of candy for each kid – which, no, they don’t get to eat). Or sets up a science experiment from the kids' science kits.
There is a ton of bashing out there of the Elf on the Shelf tradition and I routinely see citations from friends on Facebook that he is “creepy”. There are two divided camps – the people who have one and whose kids love it and those who proclaim it “creepy”.
Every time I see someone proclaim it “creepy” I want to post back, “so what is your opinion on Toy Story?” Are Woody and Buzz and their friends creepy because they come to life and play around the house and get into mischief? $1.9 BILLION in gross revenue surmises a guess that those of the “creepy” camp bought into a little bit of the Toy Story mania that started in 1995. The difference here? Adults actually playing it out and a story that the Elf reports transgressions to Santa? Is that what makes it creepy? Really, I just don’t get those statements. But whatever.
This year Leif told me that he thinks that the elf is actually just a stuffed animal that parents move around. My response to him was, “but isn’t it more fun to play along and believe?” He nodded and I haven’t heard another word out of him. I expect that when baby #3 is to the age in a couple years of engaging with Mina (3.5 or so?) that I will no longer have to set my phone alarm with a reminder and that Leif at least will embrace the tradition and will relish in coming up with hiding places and pranks.
Skadi is full on into the Elf tradition this year. I have leveraged this to my advantage – she must get dressed before finding the elf. Because, well, we wouldn’t want Mina to see her nakey. So every morning she whips out of bed (sort of) and pulls off her pj’s, finds clothes and goes racing around the house. Then screams an announcement of where Mina is and giggles about what mischief he/she is up to now. The other night, Mina made it to the top of the tree somehow and is hugging our angel. A few days ago Mina graffiti’d Skadi’s gingerbread house a bit with frosting by writing her name and the word “YUM” on the lawn. Hilarious laughter. Leif’s favorite was when we hadn’t yet decorated our tree and Mina decided to help us along – by decorating it with Leif’s underwear. And occasionally there are notes – but not too often because it is really hard to disguise my handwriting and the kids are getting wise to that. Laughter and frivolity from my kids – not creepy.
Honestly, whether or not another family embraces or rejects the Elf has no bearing on my family. We love it, we go with it and have fun. I might leverage it to my advantage in certain cases and maybe that makes my holiday season a touch easier at times (like I don’t have to tell my daughter umpteen times to get out of bed and get dressed) and there are certainly people out there who think that is wrong – just as there are people out there who think that driving an SUV is wrong, or putting my kids in daycare is wrong. Get over it. It works for us.