Elf on Shelf “Tradition” Brings Good, Bad to Christmas

elf on shelfThe Elf on the Shelf tradition goes all the way back to 2005. That’s right, just 2005. That means parents right now are responsible for anywhere the tradition goes down the family tree. No current parents had an Elf on the Shelf when they were growing up, so our generation is completely and wholly accountable for this custom. And with traditions, you have to take the good with the bad. The minute you purchased that little mythical creature in Pandora’s box and showed it to your kids, you took on a great responsibility. Probably a greater responsibility than you should bare. I mean, the tradition of Santa Claus, or St. Nicholas, has been around for centuries. Rudolph the oddball reindeer has been around for over 70 years. Heck, even the Easter Bunny has been around for over 300 years. So, with these holiday institutions, we just took the handoff, and the coach told us exactly where to run with the ball. But now, with OUR tradition, we are calling the plays. And like any first year coach or quarterback, there are bound to be some rookie mistakes (see Manziel).

From my understanding, the basic reason for the Elf on the Shelf seems to be a way for parents to manipulate their children into good behavior by using Santa and the promise of gifts. If the Elf tells Santa the kids were good, kids get presents. Bad, no presents. For many, this concept has been effective. “I wish there was an Elf on the Shelf year round,” says Stapleton parent Kathy Shelton. “My kids are so buttoned up during December. It’s fantastic.” But there are several potential problems with this. “It doesn’t seem to matter with my kids,” says Stapleton resident Susan Miller. “And what are we going to do? Not give them presents? Now, it just seems like a pain to deal with that thing every night knowing it doesn’t affect them. We are considering just telling them there is no Santa.”

Furthermore, is it a good idea to teach our kids that they should behave well, but only when someone is watching? Do we tell them we have nanny cams throughout the house as they get older? Let them know we have their cell phones and computers bugged? I guess our generation is the best generation at helicopter parenting, so that would be the next logical step.

Probably the biggest concern with the Elf is finding unique hiding spots every night. “I’ll hear my daughter wake up in the morning and I will sprint downstairs to make sure my husband changed the hiding spot,” says Amy Skaggs. “It’s so stressful. Then, I forgot where we have hid the elf before, and we get anxious about doing the same thing again. Yes, we have presents to buy, and cards and packages to send, but we are freaked out about the damn Elf.” Some parents get so creative, they feel they have to constantly outdo themselves. “We do a lot of fun things with the Elf,” Says Steve Owens. “So, when we are tired, or just can’t think of anything good, the kids are kind of disappointed just to see the Elf sitting there on a cupboard.”

If our generation is going to keep this Elf thing going, the first thing we need to do is make sure we keep our story straight. I’m not saying the original Elf on the Shelf story is what we need to stick to, but each owner of an Elf on the Shelf can’t be telling different lies than other parents. Kids talk. We need to keep these lies solid. One thing I think should be done in the future is to have the Elf only show up on certain days. Maybe it comes on Sundays and Wednesdays. This would help alleviate the issue of having to find 30 different creative hiding spots, plus it would give the elf travel time. I mean, even with magical powers the North Pole is a long ass ways away.

In the end, hey, this is ground zero, generation one. I bet the generation who started Santa Claus screwed that thing up pretty bad. But over decades and decades, people figured it out, and now that sled is flying pretty smooth. So, let’s do the best we can with it, understanding that it is not going to be perfect, and hope that in 100 years our great, great grandkids will have either killed this renegade elf, or figured out how to have it effortlessly integrated into our Holiday traditions.

*If you have any Elf mishaps, or comments regarding what you think is positive or negative about this tradition, please send to us at Stapletonion@gmail.com, and we will post on our Facebook page.

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