No Elf on the Shelf for Us


Ah, it’s December. It’s time for the good ol’ Elf on the Shelf to come roaring back into social media pics.

Yes, Sally, I see that fun idea you just shared about freezing the Elf with Elsa’s powers. I love it, I really do. And yes, Joe, I think that the Elf eating the kids’ cereal out of the bowl is tremendously sweet. I love the endless ideas for ways the Elf can get into trouble leading up to Christmas. Alas, there will be no Elf on the Shelf for us, Chris.

Elf on the Shelf closeup

GASP. But why?!

Elf on the Shelf, to me, represents the shift of expectations that has happened for parents.

As parents, our expected roles have changed from nurturing and caregiving to becoming entertainers, schedulers, and enjoyment providers. We have become a generation of parents concerned about our kids enjoying the moments and having fun. We also are a generation of parents that when kids say ‘I’m bored’- run through options for fun things their kids can go do. OR, those parents stand up quickly, donning coats and mittens, and run for the door, to go find something for their kids to do. 

I see parents staying up late or waking up early to make sure the Elf is placed. Parents spending detailed amounts of time making sure the Elf is partaking in a carefully-crafted, unique, and hilarious scene every morning for 25 mornings (OR MORE) and I watch curiously and ask- why are we doing things like this? I am barely keeping up with my personal and professional life- why would I want to add on one more thing that adds stress? This is just one of the reasons why there is no Elf on the Shelf for us. 

Parents, we have lost our way.

What happened to letting kids mill around, bored, finding things to entertain themselves with. We may now have endless technology to entertain our kids, but we are losing touch with kids being able to entertain themselves through pretend play, art, or music. Or through engaging with others and making a plan together. I believe that our job as parents is to be nurturers and coaches as our kids figure out the world. We parents have lost track in many ways to a role of crafting the world for our child’s enjoyment. When we do try and step away from the entertainer role, there are countless ways we experience mom shame or parent shame. 

Listen, I know the Elf is holiday magic. It’s a special time of year. But we are all dang tired going into two years of COVID. 

Partaking in the Elf on the Shelf may be a once-a-year event, but it is still another burden on parents. 

If you haven’t noticed- this post is about a lot more than a holiday tradition.

What I’m talking about here really isn’t about an Elf. What I’m really talking about is how we teach our kids to be ok with boredom. How we support our kids to pursue entertaining themselves (in developmentally appropriate ways) and how to figure out how to direct themselves when they’re feeling bored, or sad, or anxious. (Note- boredom is a really good thing!) We also need to learn how to be ok with other families doing something that your family isn’t- and finding the language to talk with your kids about it. Your family can have traditions and rituals unique to you, separate from what others are doing.

This post isn’t meant to divide parents, either. There will be no Elf on the Shelf for us, but I think you’re a great parent if you are, or aren’t, currently hiding an elf somewhere. What I hope it does is open dialogue between parents about how we support and empower our kids to handle conflict, to handle boredom, and to learn to navigate the world around us. I hope it empowers us to release guilt about not doing every little thing for our kids, and instead celebrate the things we do as a family. Together, as parents, we can do amazing things for the humans we are raising.


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