Sending the Elf Packing

Just so we’re clear, I pretty much hate that stupid Elf on a Shelf. I know that there are parents who love making unbelievably creative little elf scenes, and God bless ’em. It’s not their fault that posting pictures of their own Parenting Splendor makes me feel crappy about myself. I get it: that’s my issue.  What I really hate about the elf is that it offers up daily opportunities for failure. But it’s parenting, you know, so I guess I should say that it offers additional daily opportunities for dramatic failure. Because any day can be the day that you lose it and yell or accidentally let slip what you really think of that teacher’s homework policy or realize that you packed zero vegetables in your kid’s lunch. But with the elf, you can yawn yourself awake and suddenly, with a start, realize that you’ve already failed for the day without even getting out of bed. That sucks.

But children love the damn elf. And it’s magical childhood fun. I was talking with someone recently about the drama of Santa, how the really awful thing about Santa is that he’s magic and all kids are deserving of magic. You can explain to kids that you’re not willing to let them have a phone yet or that you refuse to spend a huge amount on birthday gifts for children who already have everything, and they may not like it, but they can understand your reasons. Maybe even, someday in the distant future, appreciate your choices as valid (well, maybe not, but a mama can dream). But how do you explain it away when children are ignored by magical, all-knowing, very-conscious-of-which-children-are-deserving, creatures? It’s a conundrum. So we’re dragged into the elf.

And it’s work. Even if you don’t reorganize your days around creating scenes, you’ve gotta remember that elf every damn day. Once or twice a week, our elf would appear with a little gift: candy canes she’d hung on the tree, a few chocolate truffles, maybe a pair of Christmas-themed socks. Holly is a sweet elf.

But this year. Ugh. On Monday I’d gone grocery shopping, and I’d bought a little bag of the special soft candy canes that I buy every year (you know, the ones like Bob’s or King Leo? So as I unloaded groceries, I tossed them into the dirty laundry pile on my washer, because that’s a place that does not interest my children at all. The plan was that they’d be Holly’s gift for the next day.

Except a few hours late, smug little Josie said, “I’m going to eat some candy canes tomorrow.”

“What?” I asked.

“Oh you know,” she nudged, those candy canes in the laundry.” She had a little smirk. She’d nailed me.

I said, “Well, why didn’t you go ahead and eat one? You don’t need to wait until tomorrow.”

“Oh,” she smiled, I figured that I’d eat one tomorrow.”

Pretty freakin’ irritating.

So Holly brought nothing the next day, but on Thursday, I needed to bring some brownies to event. So I baked them secretly, while I was alone in the house, and I hid a few away for Holly to bring the following day. This morning.


There she was, that adorable elf. Delicious, homemade brownies on a little plate. Some brownie crumbs artfully distributed on Holly’s cheeks and her skirt and her little hands.

“Mom,” J said first thing in the morning. The little shit. “When did you bake brownies?”

“Yeah, Mom,” M piled on, “When did you bake brownies?”

I insisted that I had no idea what they were talking about.

“Sure,” said J.

“Right,” said M.

Those little shits.

After J left for school, I was tidying up, and M offered to help. I passed her the recycling container to bring outside. “Why, look what we have here!” M crowed. “A box of brownie mix!”

I am so mad at them. I’m trying to decide what to do next. Does Holly just disappear? Do I act like a good sport and just keep this charade up for the last year? Does Holly disappear and leave a note saying that she’s requested a reassignment to another household after filing a negative report? Do I draw magic marker Xs over her eyes and show her stabbed with an icicle ornament or hanging by the crook of a candy cane? No, of course I’m not going to do that last one, but a little part of me is tempted. I’m bitter. I’m pretty sure that little elf is going to disappear. Tonight.

Sincerely, Scrooge-for-the-Night-Mom.


  1. Emily

    Perhaps being Jewish gives me a little distance from elf angst, so if I may offer one idea: it seems like it’s time to pass the torch (candy cane?). Were I in your shoes, I would tell the girls that the Secret of the Elf is now theirs, and they are henceforward empowered to share the magic with others. Maybe they could arrange the elf every day somewhere in the community, like at a sick or elderly neighbor’s house, a nursing home or in the children’s room of the library, etc.. In other words, your elf gig is over and now it is their turn to spread some holiday joy.

  2. @Emily, I think that that’s a good idea for the future, but J’s not quite ready to let go of the magic for herself yet, either. Will post on that soon.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *