“Elf on the Shelf” Ideas for Passive-Agressive Parents
The mother/daughter writing team made up by Carol Aebersold and Chanda Bell intended for their elves to serve as proctors for young children – to monitor their charges’ behavior and give report to Santa Claus. These scout elves were meant to inspire goodness and obedience, but if you have school-age children and a Facebook account, you know that these yule tide dolls have morphed, over the course of a very short period of time, into mess-making, sugar-high Christmas gremlins.
When this jolly tattletale was new to our family, we read the book to our daughter and followed the rules to the letter. We got the elf out on Thanksgiving. We gave him a name. Fernando. We discussed his back story, and then night after night, between loading the dishwasher and feeding the dog, we moved that festive little bastard to a new hiding spot: yesterday the mantel, today the coffee pot, tomorrow the music stand on the piano.
If the kids were short with us, if they back-talked, we reminded them that Fernando was watching. “Be respectful. You want Fernando to have only good things to say when he gets back to Santa tonight.”
That was the intent of the game, right? Isn’t that what the book says?
Christmas of 2009, the year our oldest was in 1st grade, the rules changed. Our daughter started getting off the bus every afternoon with a chip on her shoulder, a furrowed brow, and a new story to tell about the antics in which her classmates’ elves had engaged during the previous night.
“Kaitlyn’s elf dumped powdered sugar on the kitchen counter and made snow angels in it, and Trey’s elf crashed a toy dump truck full of gum drops into the door of the dishwasher. Fernando is suppose to be getting into trouble, but he just sits there. He is boring.”
There it was. Fernando was boring. Todd and I, the parents responsible for Fernando’s art directing and set design, were boring.
We have tried to step it up a notch, and I admit it is lots of fun to see how excited the kids get when you’ve created for your elf a particularly amusing tableau, but I find I am somewhat conflicted on the inside. I’m not sure I want to set up for my children the expectation that every single day of the year between Thanksgiving and December 25th will be chock-full of Christmas ecstasy.
When the kids wake to find Fernando is doing something lack-luster, and when they sigh at his failure to be inventive, I feel inadequate as a mother in the strangest way and for two contrary reasons: half of me hates that I have disappointed them, and the other half of me is worried that I am grooming my children to be so spoiled and entitled that even daily visits from a magical elf aren’t enough to keep them happy.
There are lots of great elf-hiding guides like this online: https://www.pinterest.com/lauriehorne/elf-on-the-shelf-ideas-for-hiding/. Todd and I will probably do a couple of these. I hope our children enjoy the fruits of our labor. If they don’t, though, if they give even a hint that they are disappointed, even a sigh of discontentment at Fernando’s spot du jour, I am going to try out some more passive-aggressive hiding places. Fernando will be the perfect pawn in my game of motherly manipulation. You see, I’m not the only one in the house with inadequacies, and if I am to go down feeling like a disappointment for the next five weeks, I’m taking these kids down with me.
1) Looks like Fernando thinks it is time you learned to eat apples with peel, kids. They’re more nutritious this way, will give you a rosey Santa-style glow, and are less trouble to prepare for mom and dad.
2) Sweet children, this may have escaped your attention, but Your father has done nothing for the past three weekends but try to get control of these leaves. Why don’t you man a rake Saturday so your dad can watch football for a few hours?
3) Fernando is hanging out in the box where we keep the remote controls, but where are the remotes? He has hidden them! That scamp. I guess he thinks you have been spending too much time binge-watching Glee. Oh well. Mind your ps and qs, and maybe he will bring them back from Santa’s workshop tomorrow.
8) After sifting through change with his little fingerless, sewn-togther hands, Fernando can confirm that there are no quarters in this wallet. Don’t bother asking for them next time you’re at a store or restaurant with a trinket vending machine. The answer is no.
Feel free to use a few of these elf ideas if you have a snarky point to make, and Happy Thanksgiving from my precious-but-flawed family to yours.