The Tyranny of the Elf
His seasonal reign of terror is almost over.
Christmas is a lot, folks. The shopping, the wrapping, the baking, the parties, the decorating … and throughout it all, the relentless pressure on parents – and these are typically moms – to make everything extra-magical.
From minute to minute, I’m worried that I haven’t bought enough presents for my kids and simultaneously worried that I’ve bought them too much and they will be spoiled little monsters.
I’ve made “Grinch fudge” and hot chocolate cookies and blondies. I’ve bought socks for the sock exchange and books for the book exchange – plus extras for anyone who forgot just to ensure no one felt excluded. I’ve coordinated the second grade class party and collected money for the second grade class gift. (At one point, when I was making festive bubble letters in alternating green and red on envelopes for every kid in Georgia’s class, I wailed to my husband, “I have a master’s degree – how is this my life?!” which I know is snobbish and awful, but that’s just where I am right now.) I bought Secret Santa gifts for Ruby’s assigned friends, and I made cookies with personalized labels for all of my coworkers. I supplied gingerbread men class favors for Georgia and fancy sparking lemonade for Ruby’s end-of-the-year party. I made sure everyone (including the dog) had matching pajamas for the traditional photo for the family calendar. I made sure Georgia had the appropriate attire for her school Christmas performance. I even made sure it would “snow” on the last day of school – with the help of all the other parents, we mixed and spread 120 gallons of synthetic snow all over a tarp in the schoolyard so these South Louisiana kids could know the joy and chaos of a snowball fight.
Of course, Ruby is my Christmas baby, so in the middle of all of this, I baked two dozen cupcakes to her exacting specifications, designed personalized toppers for same, bought three dozen donuts for her school celebration, wrapped her birthday presents in birthday paper, and hosted her friends for a sleepover.
Meanwhile, real life was going on in the background, so I took my dog to be neutered, stayed on top of his post-surgery meds, and tried to keep the house from falling into complete squalor while my microwave and dryer both decided to break and Georgia battled a stomach bug.
On top of all of this, I’m supposed to make everything magic – and it all starts with the damn Elf on a Shelf. I resisted as long as I could. I hated the idea of bringing something into my house that:
A.) is a narc at its core
B.) creates extra work for me
But when Georgia was the only kid in her class without an elf and asked me earnestly if Santa hadn’t sent her an elf because he was mad at her, I broke down and relented. (I wish I had been as fast-thinking as my elf-averse friend who, when asked the same question by her daughter, said, “No, my love, it’s the exact opposite! Santa only sends the elves to the children he can’t trust!”) But alas, I am not so quick-witted, and I am completely useless when my kids are sad, and so anyway, like I said, now we have an elf, and I hate it.
Georgia is a terrible sleeper, and so I fall asleep before she does half the time. This means that I either move the elf once she is in bed but not asleep and pray she doesn’t walk out and catch me in the act OR that I move the elf in the morning, pre-coffee, and usually end up just stashing him in the Instant Pot or something. I’m not going to tie the elf up with dental floss or make him donuts out of Cheerios, chocolate frosting, and sprinkles. I’m not going to make him write on the mirror. I’m not going to do anything that takes any kind of effort, to be perfectly frank. When I complained on Facebook, my friends sent me Pinterest links. I know how to look up stuff on Pinterest. Where I’m falling down is the motivation to actually do it.
Georgia isn’t satisfied. “My elf is boring,” she told me. “He just moves. Other elves get into mischief. Other elves bring presents. My elf is a dud.”
“Sorry, kid,” I told her. “Sometimes you get a lemon. It’s just how life is.”
I love that the elf brings joy to so many other families, but it’s not my scene. I’m all about doing what makes you happy and not judging what makes other people happy. I like working outside the home. I like making elaborate cupcakes. I like being room mom and PTA president. I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t like it. But other moms like staying at home or buying cupcakes at Rouses. Other moms work even longer hours than I do and can’t volunteer as much – or they just don’t want to. And that’s fine. Whatever works for you: I love that!
But I do not love the elf. He doesn’t work for me, and I am only doing it under duress, and I cannot wait until he is gone back to whence he came.
That day … IS TODAY! Tonight, the elf will finish his informant duties and go back to the North Pole to do whatever it is elves do in the off-season, and I will stay up until the wee hours frantically wrapping presents and crumbling Santa’s cookies to make it look like he ate them and writing a note from “Santa” detailing the highs and lows of past year while trying to disguise my handwriting.
But when I finally collapse into bed, I will sleep the sleep of someone who has another 11 months before the elf returns.
May all of your holidays be every bit as joyous!