It’s that time of year again. You know what I mean. The time when the Internets make parents of young children feel like it is our sacred duty to make every single second of the four weeks that precede Christmas Magical, with a capital M and a Disney-esque flourish.
We have the old standbys to get through, the breakfasts with Santa, the viewings of holiday movie classics, the parties, the socials, the cookie baking, the awkward gift swaps. And then we have the Pinterest traditions, which technically aren’t traditions, but the Martha Stewart perfection that we see all over social media makes us think that they are, or at least that they SHOULD be. And if we aren’t doing these things, we are, at best, Christmastime failures, and at worst we are irrevocably harming our children and, instead of college funds, we should be starting therapy funds. Which we probably should be doing anyway, because if we can’t get Christmas right, then we most likely aren’t getting anything else right, either. At least, that’s what Pinterest is telling me.
Chief among these non-traditional traditions is the Elf on the Shelf. You know who I mean. That blue-eyed imp who gets up to all kinds of yuletide shenanigans, while watching and reporting on our children.
We joined the Elfin fray two years ago, inspired by the ever more creative Elf exploits that my Facebook friends were posting. There were prayerful Elves in Nativity scenes, adventurous Elves in airplanes, silly Elves hanging from fans, addict Elves mainlining sugar, and naughty Elves doing naughty things with Barbie dolls.
I knew that getting an Elf meant committing myself to him and his nightly activities for a full month, every year, for as many years as I had kids who believed in Santa. I knew the costs, but I had to take the risk. It was for the children, after all.
The first year was a moderate success. My younger daughter was still an infant, but my older daughter was three, and, although she didn’t fully get the Elf concept, she enjoyed looking for him every morning. We named him Santa, and he was mostly tame.
Our second year was more exciting. Our girls were four and 18 months old, and the little one had a blast following her big sister around as she searched for Santa. He joined us on a trip to Disney World, which was quite the event, and he started to get more creative in his hiding places.
And now we are into our third year. Santa has been with us for a full week now, and, oh, what a week it has been. My older daughter is now five, and if there is a child who has been drawn deeper into the Elfin lore than she has, I would like to meet him.
She LOVES the Elf. She regularly offers to tell me “nonfiction” stories, as she calls them (because they relate true events, she says), about Santa the Elf, his family, his history, his adventures, and his aspirations. When I ask her how she thinks Santa has gotten into his various hiding places, she acts out every move she thinks he made, hopping gleefully around the house. The Elf on the Shelf was made for children like her.
And then there is the little one. Now two, she seemed to be as excited as her sister when Santa made his first appearance. But then, things changed.
On Monday, she told me that Santa the Elf was “scawy.” On Monday night, she woke up screaming and told me the Elf was watching her. On Tuesday, she refused to be in the same room as the Elf and by Wednesday, she had become so fearful in our house (but only in our house) that I had to take her to the local mall before she would let me put her down without crying.
Her fearfulness and clinginess continued until I became convinced that this was no longer about the Elf, that she probably had some sort of cancer and that OMIGOD, she needed to see the doctor and/or be taken to the ER. And yes, I tend to overreact, but seriously, this kid was acting WEIRD. I had never, ever seen her behave the way she has been behaving the last few days.
So this morning, I took her to the pediatrician. He checked her out. It’s not cancer. It’s not even a cold. Apparently, it’s just a fearful age. In my doctor’s words, she probably experienced a traumatic nightmare, possibly involving the g-ddam Elf, and that her daytime fearfulness is a perfectly natural effect of an extremely upsetting dream.
And no, he said, it really isn’t odd that this fearfulness has lasted a full week. In fact, he would be more surprised if it ended in just two days, as I thought it should have done. Actually, it would be more likely for it to last a full month. That’s just how things go with kids in this developmental phase.
So let’s hear it for Pinterest, and Facebook, and the everloving Elf on the everloving shelf.
There’s nothing scary about ME!
Yep, I’m just watching you. All day. All night, too. Juuust watching.
You better close those bedroom doors, Christmas lovers, because I will stab you in your sleep.