The Elf on the Shelf is Always Watching
As far as the holiday characters go, Santa Clause is easily the most labor intensive.
First you have to sell the idea to your children: “So he’s this fat guy with a beard who lives in the northern Antarctic and once a year he commits a class 3 felony and enters our house without asking, except instead of taking all of our Apple devices and heading to the pawn shop, he leaves us new stuff for some reason.”
Then you have to prove it: “Wow, looks like Santa drank half a glass of milk and took some convincing bites of those cookies, but left some gigantic crumbs because uh, uh…WOW! Did you see the convincing crumbs kids?”
Then you have to keep the lie up for many years, even if it becomes a bit exhausting (although hopefully not longer than a decade): “So you’re turning 10 this year, are you sure you still believe in this guy? I mean, you’ve thought about all this right? You’ve compared your notion of reality to this big story we’ve told you about a magic fat guy? It’s quite incredible right? Any tough questions for me this year?”
But for those parents who feel there should be a whole extra layer of red smoke and green mirrors added on to this whole charade, in 2005 a popular book called ‘The Elf on the Shelf: A Christmas Tradition,’ changed the way modern parents maintain the vice like threat of withdrawing Christmas gifts in exchange for good behavior.
The idea is that you put this stuffed elf with big, mocking, snickering eyes, and strange elbow and knee joints, somewhere in your house and tell your children that he’s one of Santa’s magic “helpers” assigned to watch them every day and report back to the fat-man, our kids named our elf “Shiny”. Every night when the kids go to bed, it’s best practice to move him somewhere different so that it appears he is leaving for the North Pole and coming back (I typically like to choose places that aren’t close to kitchen knives). In spite of the simplicity of this rule we’ve still forgotten to move the elf many times and when the kids notice, it’s easiest to just lie some more because, why not at this point? “Oh, didn’t the elf move last night? Oh, well it must be because of something you did.” Kids recover from guilt implication right?
Look, the elf is a cute idea, he just gets to be a bit draining after a couple weeks, not to mention a little creepy. I was told when I was a kid that being a grown up was full of responsibilities but when I heard that phrase I imagined myself at the kitchen table with reading glasses and an adding machine, not moving a creepy little castrated elf around my house. I mean, I already have to partake in the social scam of bathing every day (like a little bacteria and parasites ever killed anyone). On more than one occasion I’ve snuck into the kitchen for a late night pie or cookie binge session only to see Shiny judging me from the top of the coffee machine or behind the cookie jar with his little snickering eyes and shit-eating grin. It’s never deterred me from proceeding to stuff my face, I usually just count all the knives in the kitchen (to make sure none are missing) and move my binge session into the living room.
This year we’ve decided to significantly reduce Shiny’s role in our festivities, we’re not taking him away, just reducing his role. Like instead of bringing him out right after thanksgiving we’re going to bring him in around December 20th. We figure 5 days of moving shiny around is just as convincing and exciting for young grade school children as 30 full days and the kids haven’t asked about him yet so ignorance is bliss for everyone at this point.
We currently have Shiny sitting in the back of our kitchen cabinet where the kids can’t see him. It’s a particularly deep cabinet, so deep that it’s easy to forget little Shiny way back there. Sometimes when I get home late at night I will rummage through the cabinets for a snack with all the lights really low in the house and everyone asleep. The other night I was engaged in this very scenario, the wind was howling a little and the trees were rocking back and forth and it was in the middle of all this that I caught Shiny’s gaze from the back of the cupboard. Well, it’s not really a gaze as it’s highly specific look that says, “I was just looking at you and now I’m looking away, but when you turn your head I’m going to look again.”
“Also, you forgot to count one of the knifes.”