By Erika Rasmusson Janes
December 01, 2014
Elf on the Shelf

An Elf on the Shelf arrived in my office mail the other day, along with a new sidekick: an "Elf Pets" reindeer. An accompanying press release beckoned me to "try a new family tradition."

Now, I'm a sucker for family traditions—especially ones that center around the holidays. My kids get special ornaments for the Christmas tree every year, just as my sister and I did when we were kids. Presents (and not just those from Santa) are opened on Christmas morning, not Christmas Eve, just as they were in my house growing up. And of course, we leave out a plate of cookies for Santa and carrots for the reindeer.

I'm also starting new traditions for my kids, like giving them advent calendars to count down the days, making homemade ornaments to give as gifts, and decorating gingerbread houses.

But so far, I've avoided the Elf. Sure, I see him on my friends' Facebook feeds each holiday season and ALL. OVER. PINTEREST. He's traversing the square footage of their homes and getting into all sorts of merry mischief. There's an elf rolling down the stairs in a tube of toilet paper! There's an elf sharing a sip of maple syrup with Barbie! There's an elf diving stocking cap-first into a bag of holiday M&M's! The ideas are beyond creative and cute—and that's part of the problem: I'm not sure I have the energy to be that creative and cute when it comes to a toy elf, frankly. I know I'd be one of those parents who falls asleep on the couch and forgets to move the little guy. (On the other hand, the Internet is teeming with Elf on the Shelf ideas that take the work out of it for Elf slackers—as well as ideas for what to say when, yes, you fall asleep on the couch and forget to move the little guy). And a quick survey of my colleagues showed that of the ones who do have an Elf, most of them are pretty relaxed about it. "Our Elf doesn't do crazy stunts or make a mess with food or decorations, but we do wake up to find him perched in a different spot every morning," one said. (That's her Elf in the photo, above.)

So what's the problem? Part of it is the additional fibbing (er, storytelling)  involved. To quote one of my non-Elf-having colleagues, it "seems like yet another lie to perpetuate..." My kids are 8 and 3. One is on the cusp of not believing in Santa Claus anymore, while one is just starting to realize the magic of the jolly man in red. Unlike some of my mom friends, who are desperate for their older kids to figure it all out, I'm hoping mine believes a little while longer. So should I really add a new twist to the story at this point?

I vividly remember believing in that Santa magic as a child—being absolutely sure I could hear a sleigh on our snow-covered roof, and waking up to discover presents that hadn't been under the tree when I went to sleep. I want my kids to experience that same sense of magic and wonder. Would adding an Elf on the Shelf and a reindeer sidekick enhance that? Maybe—and there's a part of me that wants to give it a try. But there's another part of me that thinks the Santa story, and all it entails, is enough.

Image courtesy of M. Walker