Let’s talk about the Elf On the Shelf phenomenon.
I first heard about the little guy last year when the guys on the 95X morning show were talking about how creepy the concept was of telling your kids that a doll was watching their every move and that they better be good or the doll would tell Santa not to bring them any gifts for Christmas. Since I had never heard of EOtS before, I wholeheartedly agreed with the Deejays.
But then I joined pinterest.com and saw all of the creative things people were doing to put their elves in different places for their kids to find and I realized that it’s only weird or creepy if you make it that way. It could be a fun, magical Christmas tradition that your child could look forward to yearly. And for some people, this tradition has been going on for years. It seems like with the invention of pinterest, though, the whole thing took off to a whole new level because now there’s tons of moms (and dads) stumbling over themselves in the early morning hours to come up with an clever place to put the doll.
This year, Zoey and I saw the EOtS balloon in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade and she started screaming, “Elf Shelf! Elf Shelf!” She had never seen it before in her life, but something about it must have appealed to her. Thus, I became determined to get our own elf for Miss Zoey. I knew they came in a little kit–a nice hardbound story book with the doll. You could buy either a boy elf or a girl elf, but you had to buy the girl elf’s skirt separately. I did a little price shopping online and found that Target had the boy one the cheapest; thankfully, shortly after that, my parents happened to be shopping in Target and picked one up for me. They were going fast; Mom and Dad said there were only a few left on the shelf.
So we got one and it stayed in the bag on top of the washing machine in the bathroom for a couple of days because we didn’t want Zoey to see it until it was time–December 1st, to be exact. For those who aren’t familiar with the concept, there isn’t a right or wrong time to start the elf; some people start it right after Thanksgiving and others wait until twelve days before Christmas. We decided on our date pretty much because after a couple days of it on top of the washing machine, I was getting excited about starting it and December 1st seemed like a pretty good day to do it.
We told Zoey the elf was coming to visit us for a while and she seemed genuinely interested, which just got me more excited about trying it. Then, a couple days before we started it, I got the book out of the box and read it to get a feel for what the whole elf concept was about. And everything kind of came to a screeching halt.
Two things I didn’t like about the story book:
1. It was made clear that the elf would tell Santa if the child had done bad things and then they wouldn’t get any presents for Christmas. I don’t know. I wanted the EOtS to be something fun for Zoey, something that she could look forward to every year–not something that she dreaded because she was afraid the elf was going to tattle on her. Parents online said that they tell their kids that ‘he’s watching you’ to keep the kids in line, which, to me, makes the elf thing really, really creepy. A doll is watching us? I don’t think so.
2. This whole don’t touch him thing. For those of you not familiar with the story, the book says that if the child touches the elf, he will lose his magic and then he won’t be able to fly back to Santa to tell him about the kid. Greg and I agreed that this seems like way, way, WAY too much pressure to put on a little kid. People online talked about how they kept their elf up on counters and whatnot out of their child’s reach, but I wanted the freedom to put our elf all over the place, so it was always a total surprise where he showed up. One mom online had a good point: she didn’t want her child to have bad dreams about accidentally touching the elf and totally screwing up Christmas.
Here’s my take on it–I really don’t get why the kid can’t touch the elf unless it’s in an effort to keep the doll in good shape over time. But we have a toddler. Telling her NOT to touch something is basically like issuing her a challenge because when she thinks your back is turned, she’s going to go for it. And WHY can’t she touch the elf? To keep him out of her reach puts the whole concept of the elf back on the creepy level, as far as I’m concerned.
So, in order to make this whole thing work, we put the book away and Greg and I had to come up with our own story of the elf. We told Zoey that the elf lived with Santa for most of the year and that starting on December 1st until Christmas, he was going to visit us every day. She was allowed to touch him and play with him because, we reasoned, the elf needed to ‘experience’ Zoey time in order to go back each night to the North Pole and tell Santa about Zoey’s day and all of the nice things she did like giving Mommy a hug or saying ‘thank you’ when Daddy gave her a cookie (see? No mention of tattling to Santa about her being bad–only encouraging the good). We added that he would come back from the North Pole every morning and because he was a sneaky elf, we had to find him every morning and see what he was up to in order to make sure he wasn’t getting into trouble.
It isn’t that far from what the book talked about, but we just made the idea our own. This is what works for us.
So, the night before our elf came to visit us, we decided to come up with a name for him. I suggested ‘Sam’, but Zoey didn’t like it. She suggested ‘Mama’, which I said no to, and then she suggested ‘Cocoa Cups’ (her version of Cocoa Puffs, her favorite cereal EVER). But when Greg and I asked her if she had any other ideas, she suggested, ‘Finn’, which just happens to be the name of one of her Aunt Cristy’s puppies. So our elf became Finn.
We started the whole Elf On the Shelf thing yesterday. Because it was the first day, Greg and I kind of made a big deal out of it. I had seen online that some people make the first day a huge thing–decorating and fixing a huge breakfast that is supposed to be completely made by the elf to introduce himself to the child. We did things a little different. Our elf made (read: a bleary-eyed Greg because it was 6:30 in the morning) made Zoey mini elf pancakes, banana slices and mini m&ms. When she came downstairs in the morning, she found the elf sitting next to the plate on a TV tray in the living room.
I got the idea from pinterest.com and then made it our own by adding the banana and m&ms.
Right off the bat, the whole thing was almost ruined because Zoey woke up when Greg was just getting the pancake mix out of the cupboard to make. I was able to coax her into going into our bedroom to snuggle in our big bed and watch cartoons while, unbeknownst to her, Greg was downstairs getting everything set up.
Zoey was still a little sleepy when we brought her downstairs and when she saw Finn for the first time, she sort of looked at him like she was thinking, ‘What. The heck. Is. That.’ Then she turned to Greg and I and asked us if she could watch The Fresh Beat Band.
Not exactly the reaction I was hoping for.
She hopped up in Greg’s chair and started munching on the banana slices and m&ms. She tried a mini pancake, but wasn’t impressed. But slowly, as she woke up more, she started getting a little bit more into Finn. She kept touching him with one finger and eventually, he was recruited into her pile of ‘friends’–a bunch of stuffed animals that we have to take with us EVERYWHERE.
So, Finn is officially our house guest until Christmas Eve. I’m thinking Zoey might get more into looking for him every morning after a couple of days when she starts to realize what it’s all about. In the meantime, he’s her new friend and who knows what kind of mischief he’ll get into next.