The Elf On The Shelf pictures are starting.
A few years ago, I wrote a post about my near hatred for the EOTS.
At the time I wrote that, I was knee deep in little kids and chaos, and the thought of adding one more item to my list of things to think about and keep track of put me over the edge.
And then after reading so many Shit, I forgot to hide the f *&$ing elf again posts, I began to feel like moms (because I rarely saw any dads posting about their elf fails — or successes) were doing the whole elf thing not because they really enjoyed it, but because they felt they needed to in order to keep up with all the other moms (who didn’t seem to really be enjoying the whole process either).
I don’t hate the Elf anymore.
Well, that’s not completely accurate.
I still have one problem with him.
But the concept of creating excitement and doing something for your kids that they really enjoy and look forward to during this time of year appeals to me now.
Maybe it’s because the kids are a little bit older and I don’t feel like I’m drowning as badly as I did four or five years ago.
Maybe it’s because Number 7 is six years old and I know we only have a couple years left of this phase where the kids truly believe in these things without questioning them at all.
My problem with the elf lies with attaching this belief that the he is there to watch you. To judge you. To determine whether you are worthy of receiving Christmas presents.
This blackmaily connotation of the EOTS is what really, REALLY bothers me.
The same goes for Santa.
I have made it six years into the seventh kid without ever saying, “Santa is watching” or “I’m going to call Santa.”
It’s been tempting at times. For sure.
I’d love a quick fix for button pushing.
Santa and the Elf are great quick fixes for behavior in the short term.
But I’m not interested in short sighted solutions that will actually make my job as a parent more difficult in the long run.
There is also no kindness in telling a kid, You are bad, and because you are bad, I am going to tell Santa that you don’t deserve to receive any presents.
And I believe kids both deserve and need to be treated with kindness as much as adults do. Even when they do stuff they shouldn’t be doing.
Being treated with kindness isn’t a privilege you earn with age.
But let’s put the absence of kindness aside.
What do you do on December 26th when you have no carrot to dangle in front of your children? What do you say then? How do you “control” their behavior?
Better yet, how do you help them learn how to control and regulate themselves?
I don’t believe in using Santa and the Elf On The Shelf as a means of (very short-lived) behavior modification.
But I do believe in the magic of Christmas. I believe in the spirit of the holidays.
There is no magic in threatening your children.
Even if they are asking for it.
How can we talk about the spirit of the holidays, of performing random acts of kindness, of peace and goodwill, and then turn around and tell our kids that we’re gonna call Santa and tell him that they are being bad?
It just doesn’t make sense to me.
And I don’t want to give my kids the message that they are going to be rewarded with gifts for being “good.” And kind.
Because you are supposed to be good and kind.
Like all the time.
Not just for the month of December.
But I do want to do something for my kids this year that will add to the excitement of the season.
A new tradition.
Will it be the Elf?
Because I also think he’s kinda creepy.
But I’d love to do something.
A year or so ago, my kids started playing a game with my dad when they went to my parents’ house.
They called it Hide The Golf Ball.
And that’s exactly what they did.
They took turns hiding a golf ball, sometimes, inside, sometimes outside, and once you found it, you got to rehide it.
It’s ridiculously simple, but something my kids love to play.
Maybe we’ll do something more along those lines.
Hide the Ornament. Or Hide the Santa.
We have a stuffed animal Santa Snoopy.
Maybe I’ll hide him.
In fact, now that I think about it, that would be a good way to get the kids outside on the weekends during the winter pretty easily…
Anyway, I don’t know what it is we will do.
Maybe we won’t add anything new this year.
Maybe I’ll just enjoy seeing other people’s Elf On The Shelf pictures with this elf paradigm shift I’m experiencing.
All the while I’ll hope they are posting them not to outdo another picture they saw on Facebook, not out of some self-imposed obligation to participate in another thing that makes them resentful, and not in an effort to regulate their children’s behavior.
But just as a way to spread the excitement of the Christmas season, enjoy the magic of this special time of year with their families, and participate in a tradition that brings both them and their children (unconditional) joy.