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To Elf or Not to Elf, That is the Question

Every winter, as Thanksgiving ends, a war starts to wage on social media. It is brutal, and polarizing, and can tear a friendship apart. No, not the war on Christmas…that’s not a thing. I’m talking about the battle between the pro and anti elf on shelfers.

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If you’ve somehow stayed away from blogs, social media, and Etsy for the past 10+ years and still managed to stumble upon this post, let me fill you in. In 2004, a book appeared called “Elf on the Shelf: A Christmas Tradition”. It’s a story of a ‘scout’ elf that Santa sends along to your house to keep an eye on the children and reports back to Santa. It’s a cute story about Santa’s trust issues and elves as stalkers. The book is accompanied by an overly cheerful looking stuffed elf that is about the size of a Barbie doll. Your family names the elf and this elf then is supposed to keep an eye on the family all Christmas season. It’s simple, it’s silly, and it’s also one of the most controversial topics of Christmas. As a self-proclaimed born again pro-elfer, let me explain why all of your issues with Elf on the Shelf are unwarranted. Let’s begin.

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1. The elf is creepy.

Obviously. Nothing about it is actually cute. But if you find the elf creepy and you are okay with an old childless man who lives in a secluded community surrounded by enslaved small people who do all his work that sneaks into your house expecting cookies from your family…then you are a hypocrite.

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2. It wasn't around when I was a kid.

True. But neither was the internet. And I’m not against that.

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3. It's a lot of work.

Let’s rephrase that. It COULD be a lot of work. Like a child’s birthday party or craft time or family vacation, it COULD be elaborate. Or – if you’re a basic mom like me – it could be super easy. Yes, you can make Pinterest boards of creative ideas, you can buy a calendar and accessories off Etsy, you can invest a small fortune in wardrobe, pets, and various other nonsensical things for a stuffed doll. Or, and hear me out, you could just not. Here’s how Elf on the Shelf goes at our house. Wake up at 6am and realize I forgot to move the elf, distract my kids upstairs asking them to do some menial task, run downstairs, grab the elf and THROW it across the room. Wherever it lands….that’s where it is for the day. Effort level: 0. On the off chance I remember the night before, I might put it in a creative position or riding on a toy or whatever, but as long as I keep my kids’ expectations low, the effort I need to put into it is trivial.

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4. I'm not creative.

Then lower your kid’s expectations or outsource the work. See #3 above.

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5. I don't want the elf teaching my kids to do naughty things.

Then don’t have your elf do ‘naughty’ things. It’s not like the elf does it himself.

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6. I'm not a fan of teaching my kids to only be well behaved when someone is looking.

Okay….so then my guess is you don’t do “Santa” either, right? I mean, he sees you when you’re sleeping. The song says so. Also, the beauty of parenting is that you get to create your own narrative. Don’t want your kid to feel like he’s living in a police state? Then don’t tell your kid that the elf is watching his every move determining if an acceptable level of good has occurred. Problem solved.

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7. I don't have time for it.

Oh, okay. I didn’t realize that this was the limit. I mean, spending hours in stores or online trying to find the PERFECT gift, meticulously wrapping said gift, hanging lights all over the house, cutting down a perfectly good tree and dragging it into the house and filling it with fragile heirlooms while screaming at your kids and pets for trying to touch the new shiny display isn’t time consuming. Moving a doll from mantle to the windowsill as you walk past it after bedtime is. Got it.

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8. I just don't enjoy it.

WHAT? YOU DON’T? I just assumed everything you did for your kids you enjoyed. Don’t we all love watching Little Einstein's, Paw Patrol, and *shudders* Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood on repeat? Don’t we all love singing songs about how to do basic hygiene? Don’t we love wiping our kid’s butt? Yea. We don’t. But we enjoy seeing our kids happy, so as parents, we do plenty of stuff we don’t enjoy.

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9. The holidays are already too hectic and materialized.

Yeah. Great observation. Welcome to America.

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10. I swore I never would as a parent.

Cool, me too. I also swore I’d never co-sleep, dress my kids in matching outfits, feed them copious amounts of sugar, let them watch hours of tv, cut their food into shapes just to get them to eat more, or let them eat in my car. As we grow, we adapt. Pick your battles.

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11. I'm not Christian.

Neither is Santa. But if you don’t celebrate Christmas, totally fair. This entire article doesn’t really pertain to you so I’m not sure why you’re reading it in the first place unless you just really enjoy arguing with strangers on the internet.

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12. I just hate it. Seriously.

Yeah, me too. But now that I’m embracing it, I get to love hating it with my husband as we call it expletives and put it in precarious situations when our kids aren't nearby to entertain each other. I hate our elf. I hate her with a fiery passion. But boy do my kids love her.

There you have it; suck it up and get the stupid elf. But only if your kid asks for it. Because if they’re not interested, don’t put yourself through it. Unless self-torture is your thing, then by all means go for it. No judgements.