Now that is the million dollar question, isn’t it? Why do they sell Elf on the Shelf in EVERY single store you go into? My guess is that this phenom wasn’t well thought out. Well maybe it was, but not through the lens of the moms and dads who will be using the elf.
Elf on the Shelf hit the streets in 2005. Here’s the concept via Wikipedia:
The story dictates that the elf’s main priority around the family’s household is to keep watch over the children’s behavior during the day and return to the North Pole overnight to report their behavior to Santa Claus, detailing any acts of obedience or misdeeds performed by a child during that particular day, returning home by the following morning. Starting from the day following Thanksgiving to Christmas Eve, the elf remains with its family to ensure that they behave properly throughout the holidays. However, the top policy regarding the Elf on the Shelf is to refrain from touching the creature, as doing so could permanently erase any Christmas magic with which the elf had been bestowed upon being named by the family. It is no longer capable of fulfilling its duties of recounting the events of the day to Santa Claus, cautioning that he may or may not learn about a child’s behavior should the Elf on the Shelf be stripped of its holiday enchantment. Every day, the elf’s position changes, providing the family with the responsibility of locating its current perch before its departure for the year on Christmas Eve.
I became a mom in 2001, my oldest was four when Elf on the Shelf first came into my life at Alphabet Soup Gifts. Let me tell ya, Smarties, I was HOOK.LINE.AND SINKER. You see our generation of parents will do anything for our kids. We are chomping at the bit to do more fun, creative things for them than we had growing up. We’ll one-up our parents in a skinny minute if a better concept comes along. I remember the first few years of the Elf and they went down something like this: we had SOOOO much fun moving the elf in the next precarious position during the week. But on the weekends after our holiday parties, we may have been remiss with the move. As the kids got older, they were onto us like white on rice. “Mommy, why didn’t Leta move (more on how I chose the name in a sec)?” “Was I bad?” “Do you think she’ll tell Santa?” As the years went by and the children’s behavior got worse (enter terrible two’s three times over and a set of identical twin boys in the mix), Leta was our ally. She was Santa’s Wing Man and ANY and EVERY time there was an offense, Santa was in the know. It was genius, me and hubby high-fived on occasion and marveled as to why we never thought of the Elf on the Shelf concept.
But then the kids got to the age where they were questioning Santa. Really questioning Santa. “Mommy, how is it possible that Santa go to EVERY house on this earth in one single night?” And then they remembered seeing “Leta” in the stores. I’m pretty sure that was the game-changer for my oldest. That first generation Elf looked like a needlepoint stick pin, it couldn’t have been less believable. She then saw the Elf in every store in town – gift shops, Barnes & Noble, Hallmark, Target, Wal-Mart, pretty much everywhere. So where is the magic in that? When they start asking you “Mommy, why do they sell Elf on the Shelf in stores?”, you better have your A-game answer ready, or your little one’s magic will be gone in a poof.
Even though I cuss the elf on occasion because I can’t remember the tooth fairy half the time, much less a nightly elf move, the kids love it. Period. And we’re stuck in it for the long haul, so we need to just own it. Plus, every family seems to have an elf, even most classrooms have elves. Chances are as a new mommy, you’re going to buy into this concept.
Here are a few Smarty tips to keep your A-game on when you first introduce the elf to your family:
1) Name it something simple like “Jingle” or “Holly”. We named ours “Leta” after many glasses of wine the first year. We were going for unique. We couldn’t remember it for the life of us the second year, I think an angel from heaven came down and reminded us at the last second what her name was.
2) Do not ever let your elf communicate via letters. This will ruin the “magic” for you and your hubby. Once your elf makes contact (but not touching), your child will expect it every night and that’s just not possible.
3) Do not stage your elf making a mess. YOU will be the one cleaning it up. Duh. And don’t even look at Pinterest. It will be too tempting in your young years of elf-hood.
4) Don’t take the Santa Wing Man theory too far. It’s almost Grinchy and messes with the magic and ends up sounding kinda like Mom & Dad. It’s easy to do, I know but hold back as best you can.
5) Pack your elf away in a special spot away from your Christmas decorations since your kids will eventually help unpack the Christmas decorations. Also, make a note in your iCalendar for Thanksgiving the next year as to where you put it. You might think that you’ll remember, but 365 days is a really long time. Take it a step further after 4 years of elfing – go ahead and set your iCalendar alarm EVERY.SINGLE.NIGHT. I’ve already forgotten to move that thing twice since Leta arrived this year, and that was just LAST WEEK!
6) Don’t buy more than one elf. You’ll hate yourself and that just opens up Pandora’s box.
7) Do let your oldest take over the reigns of the elf duty once she converts from believer to Santa’s helper. She won’t ever forget the nightly elf move. It’s kinda like that transition from paying a babysitter, to having your very own at your beck and call.
8) When they ask you “Mommy, why do they sell Elf on the Shelf in stores?”, give them this answer. That packaged elf is a book. It’s not the real deal. And then offer them a cookie. They’ll forget they ever asked.
Or better yet, why don’t all of you elf veterans share your answers below. We’re all in this together and we need to help a Smarty sister out! We need to collectively come up with the best answer to that question. Mommy, why do they sell Elf on the Shelf in stores?? Tag, you’re it!