I’ve said plenty of times that when it comes to parenting, one should never say never. In fact, even before I became a parent, I found myself eating my words.
When I was in college, I remember saying, with the arrogance of a 20-year-old college kid, “I just don’t understand people who jump through all these hoops to have a baby! There are so many babies who need homes, and what, like, I’m going to give myself injections and put my body through all of that just to have a kid that has my eyes or something?! That is just so self-absorbed!”
So of course, six years and a second trimester miscarriage later, I was hiding in a bathroom stall at my friend’s wedding reception and pinching my stomach fat to self-administer an injection in hopes of having a healthy pregnancy and a baby that would, yes, go on to have my eyes. (It’s about all she has that looks like me.)
When Ruby was a newborn, I was not going to feed her fast food or let her watch too much TV, and now of course she has a definite ranking system of McNuggets vs. Popeyes vs. Cane’s and strong opinions on every Disney show ever produced.
I was never going to give into tantrums or let my kids talk back; we were going to have sit-down dinners and strict bedtimes.
And listen, all of the above things are still goals of mine, OK? It’s just that when you have a blended family with three kids at three very different stages in life, sit-down dinners and bedtimes get complicated, and yeah, sometimes I have caved at the grocery store and let my kid get unicorn Pop-Tarts so she doesn’t cause a scene (see also: I am sure I would have said I’d never let unicorn Pop-Tarts pass my children’s lips way back when I was a perfect parent with no children).
Anyway, my latest retraction is the Elf on the Shelf. I said we would never do one, and – well, just look at the picture. I will be honest and say that I still don’t like the elf. I don’t like lying to my kids, and the elf feels a lot like lying. I don’t like going to insane lengths to perpetuate the Santa story, and this is definitely that. I don’t like using Santa as leverage to inspire good behavior, and again, that’s the whole freaking point of the elf. Finally, I don’t need one more thing to do – I work full-time with a handful of freelance gigs, I’m room mom, I’m VP of the PTA, I have some semblance of a social life, and I also need some time for restorative sloth.
Making the elf fish for Cheerios or write cheeky messages in sugar on our countertop is just not my thing. In fact, I actually said, right in this very blog five years ago almost to the day: “No Elf on a Shelf. He creeps me right the hell out, plus I fall into an immediate drooling stupor once my kids are asleep. More power to parents who make marshmallow elf beds or stacks of tiny elf pancakes or who throw raucous late-night elf-Barbie parties – and I mean that seriously; if it gives you joy, do it! – but if I have energy left once my kids are asleep, I am going to use it to watch an episode of ‘Law & Order’ or read a trashy novel in the tub.”
But then Georgia was the only kid in her class without an elf, and she asked me, with her huge blue eyes locked on mine, if Santa was mad at her because he wouldn’t send her an elf … and so, dammit, now we have an elf.
His name is Joy Candy Cane Sugar Buttons, and so far he has ridden our cow-shaped butter dish and made himself at home among our vast collection of various types of vinegar, and I’m pretty much already over the whole thing.
Send me low-maintenance elf ideas, please; I’ll just be over here eating Christmas candy (along with my words) to try to stay awake long enough to move the damn thing.
P.S. Bah, humbug.