This post may contain affiliate links. Read full disclosure policy here.
When you suck at Elf on the Shelf…
I feel like I’m doing this whole Elf thing wrong.
I bought my Elf on the Shelf a few years ago, before the time when it actually meant anything to my kids (if it even means anything now).
I think my oldest was maybe two years old. I read about this cool new tradition and decided we should try it. I put the Elf out where she could see it and she stared at it (and me) with a blank expression.
“He’s here to watch you and report back to Santa!” I told her. More blank stares.
The Elf moved a few times that December, but no one noticed and I was happy that I didn’t have to go crazy like the moms on Facebook with their elaborate funny/naughty/cute elf tableaus.
Last year we unpacked the Elf when we took out the Christmas decorations and again, he was just kind of hanging out at our house.
Sometimes my kids would play with him, but usually he just ended up abandoned on the floor. They were unaware of the Cardinal Rule of the Elf on the Shelf— that children mustn’t touch the elf.
I halfheartedly threatened them with the Elf a few times that year, but it didn’t really work. Calling the North Pole via an app on my phone worked much better.
But this year I think I’m in trouble.
We now live in a neighborhood filled with kids, many of whom are in and out of my house on a daily basis. And ALL OF THEM have an Elf on the Shelf at home…which would be fine, except these kids know the freaking Elf Rules.
They know that the Elf is supposed to move every night.
They know that no one is supposed to touch the Elf.
They know that the Elf is supposed to have an actual name, rather than “Elf on the Shelf.”
And they know that the Elf certainly shouldn’t be living in a box in the basement during the rest of the year.
So I’m kind of screwed.
The other day, a neighborhood boy who was playing at our house asked me why our Elf on the Shelf was laying face down on the hamper.
“Oh, right,” I said. “Well, one of the kids put him there, I guess.”
“But you can’t touch him!” the boy exclaimed.
“Umm I know, so I guess he’s sick? That’s why he’s laying down. Or he might actually be dead. Do they die when kids touch them?” I asked him.
“No, they don’t die,” he said, giving me a look like he thought I was insane. “They just lose their magic.”
“Ahh okay, I knew that,” I responded. “I was just kidding. Elves don’t die.”
A few days later, my five-year-old actually took notice of the Elf.
“Mommy! I think our Elf is real…she moved! On her own!” she said excitedly to me.
(Sidenote: Despite the fact that we clearly have a male, my daughter is convinced that our Elf is a female. Because of her “pretty eyes” and hairstyle. This was a daily argument until I finally decided that it’s not my place to impose gender on this creature, so I’ll just let her call it whatever she wants.)
“He did? He moved?” I turned to look and sure enough, the Elf had fallen from his perch in our charging station (where he had been for the past three days) onto the kitchen counter…again, face down like he’s hungover or something.
I didn’t have the heart to tell my daughter that I think he had just fallen over from lack of strength in his non-existent leg muscles.
“Oh boy!” I said. “I guess he is real!”
“Mmhmm, and we didn’t kill it!” my daughter exclaimed.
Later that afternoon, a different bunch of kids were over my house.
Sure enough, five minutes after their arrival:
“WHY’S YOUR ELF ON THE FLOOR?”
“HOW DID HE GET THERE?”
“IS HE DEAD?!”
I feigned surprise this time. “Gee, I don’t know, maybe one of the kids touched him and he fell onto the floor,” I said.
“Yeah, someone definitely moved him,” the little girl agreed, “because Turner found him in the microwave when we got here.”
“Wait, what?! The microwave?!” I mean, even though I know I’m terrible at this Elf on the Shelf thing, I would like to believe that I can protect the Elf from being nuked in the microwave…at the very least.
“No, no, the toy microwave,” the girl reassured me.
I picked the Elf up and put him back in the charging station safely.
(Adults can touch the Elf, right? I’m pretty sure that’s an actual rule, but feel free to correct me if I’m wrong.)
It was at this point that I realized I have been found out, and I can no longer half-ass this Elf on the Shelf thing.
The neighborhood kids are on to me, my own kids are quite possibly on to me, and most likely the other moms are on to me and how my household’s lack of both rule-following and general Elf enthusiasm are going to end up ruining it for everyone else.
So no more touching the Elf or leaving him in the same spot for days.
I may not create whole scenes where he is, like, decorating elf-sized cookies or pooping in a mini elf toilet, but I think I can handle moving him from one place to another each night.
Hopefully he’ll even be face up sometimes.