It’s funny that such a simple, rather benign thing as an elf doll has become such a phenomenon.
I remember when I first heard about Elf on the Shelf, before I had my own children, and I knew nothing about parenthood. Some of the parents at the daycare where I worked were talking about buying their elves at The Paper Store, and how it was so hard to find them for sale anywhere. I remember thinking it was a little bit silly, and that the craze would soon pass. Little did I know how big Elf on the Shelf would really get, or how much I would enjoy doing it!
My mom sent us our elf a few years ago, the Christmas when we lived with my in-laws. Our daughter was three at the time, so she “got” it, but the boys were too little to pay much attention and I didn’t get super creative with it. The following year, though, I went all out. I planned out what Hermey would do from day to day, and woke up in a sweat in the middle of the night once when I forgot to move him. Sometimes it felt like more of a chore than it was worth, I will admit that. But last year, with our daughter being five and the boys at ages three and two, it really just seemed like fun. It was so exciting to see them wake up in the morning and instantly look for Hermey. They were delighted when he did things that were a little mischievous, like “stealing” my van in the night for a Dunkin’ Donuts run. My husband even got involved at times, which is quite a feat since he’s a bit of a Grinch about Christmas stuff.
Pinterest is littered with Elf on the Shelf ideas, many of them incredibly elaborate and well thought-out. From post-Thanksgiving to Christmas Eve, my Facebook feed is filled with photos of people’s elves and their shenanigans. I see many comments, from the encouraging and positive comments to the comments about how “creepy” the elf is and the “why put so much effort into such a silly thing” kind of comments. It’s not a holiday activity for everyone, I get that. But to see how my children have associated our elf with the simple delight of the season is enough to make me want to do it year after year. It doesn’t take much – I could simply have Hermey hang upside down from our kitchen chandelier and the children would think that was hilarious. At times, I put a bit more thought and planning into the nightly elf-moving ritual, but only because I want to.
Some have said that the elves doing naughty things isn’t a good thing to teach kids, and I get that too. But the few times that Hermey has done anything even slightly erring on the naughty-list side, it always opens up a conversation about why you shouldn’t do such a thing (like spilling sugar all over the counter), and also seems to teach a message of forgiveness. We can clean up the mess, give Hermey a good talking-to, and call Santa to give him a report. Most of the time, though, Hermey’s antics are just silly or even sweet – much like children themselves.