A Christmas Tradition A Seasonal Battle
It was around September that ’25 new and different Elf on the Shelf ideas’ started filtering into my Pinterest feed. The same ‘new and different’ ideas I have seen circulating for the last few years usually involving throwing flour on the floor and chucking your undies into the Christmas tree. Three years ago I thought this was a great fun idea to entertain my small children and get into the Christmas spirit but there were many aspects that never sat comfortably with me.
The Elf on the Shelf – A Christmas Tradition was written and self published by in 2004 by Carol Aebersold and daughter Chanda Bell (Wikipedia) and it comes as no surprise that it never really took off until 4 years later when the book won an award as this ‘tradition’ relies on parents engaging in some kind of social media competition, a bit like an ice bucket challenge or no make-up selfie. To market this book as ‘A Christmas Tradition’ intrigued me. I instantly thought thst there must be an American tradition whereby a decorative elf sits on his or her shelf keeping a watchful eye on the goings on. I can’t find any information on this ‘tradition’ (please correct me if I’m wrong). A tradition implies that something has been done before. My family always said something only had to be repeated for it to become tradition. ie. If we had a curry banquet for Christmas dinner 2 years in a row the following year it would be our traditional Christmas dinner although a tradition is usually considered a custom or belief that is passed from generation to generation (Oxford Dictionaries). If we go by the latter definition then ‘The Elf on the Shelf’ can’t be a Christmas tradition can it?
The first thing that doesn’t sit easy with me is the idea of the use of a self righteous inanimate object watching children be children and winging their way back to the North Pole to report back on good or bad behaviour. I dislike the empty threats upon children that if they don’t tidy their Lego/put their coat on/stop hitting their brother then Father Christmas will not be visiting this year. Has anyone in the history of Christmas threats ever actually carried out the punishment? I doubt it as it would be a punishment on the entire family not just the child who won’t eat his or her dinner or slides on their knees down the supermarket aisle. I can’t think of anything worse than Jedi waking up Christmas morning with nothing whilst his little brother tucks into his chocolate coins (I say Jedi as he’s more trouble than Meow-Cat). In any case should we not be encouraging good behaviour all year-long and I am progressively finding this time of year harder to control them. Kicks in the face, rough and tumble play gone wrong, arguments on whether they watch DanTDM or Hobby Kids TV on YouTube have become more frequent as the weather restricts pavement play, the pressure of school as we reach the end of term and the Christmas hype is driving them up the wall.
A few weeks ago I posted on Facebook, ‘Is it just me who is dreading the return of their Elf on the Shelf?’ Turns out I wasn’t alone and I was replied to with many comments of elf trauma. I wasn’t the only one who had found themselves settled into bed, turned out the light, was snug as a bug only to sit bolt up right with the impending sense of doom, I FOROT TO MOVE THE ELVES! Or worse wake up in the morning to the sound of the boys excitedly running down the stairs, ‘I wonder what the elves have done today?!’ Only to hear a disappointed ‘oh’. Mummy fail. If there’s anything I have learned over the last few years is that I am rubbish at this game. Which brings me to my second thing that doesn’t sit easy. I don’t like bad behaviour. Introducing a badly behaved mythological creature into the house just seems insane. Do I have time to clean up a mess that I created? I share my home with three boys, two who leave their shoes in the middle of the kitchen, drop their dinner on the floor and tread mud through the living room just after I’ve vacuumed. The third should know better, better known as The Husband and the one who treads sock fluff into the bedroom carpet and uses door corners as coat hangers. I do NOT need to sweep up flour that I purposely scattered, replace miniature boxer shorts into the drawer, I can’t create zip wires out of dental floss and smearing toothpaste on the mirror is so wasteful. Don’t get me started on chocolate drop poo and fishing in the toilet, that can’t be hygienic.
I’ve always tried to centre our Elf on the Shelf antics around good deeds and family time creating good behaviour with good behaviour. In November the elves wrote to the boys with instructions on how to complete the reverse advent calendar which has been trending on social media, they wrote again to congratulate them on their good work and sent tickets to see the Christmas lights at Thursford Christmas Spectacular. They were excited to see the letters and I felt excited for them even though I was secretly dreading the return of our elves.
Last night our elves descended from the North Pole (which is situated in the top of our wardrobe) and I lovingly set them up with the new Lego Star Wars advent calendar which I had bought weeks in advance as they tend to sell out so quickly and was carefully stashed away under our bed. I heard Meow-Cat ask Jedi, ‘Have you seen our other advent calendar?’ followed by a gruff ‘yeah…’ in reply from Jedi. And this response has made me want to pack those elves up and send them straight back to the North Pole or the wardrobe or maybe even better get Boba Fett to banish them to the loft.