Elf on a Shelf

Santa has spies.

Stunning, I know. I was in the dark until last year, when a family member enlightened me about the Elf on a Shelf, which has been on the market for a long time and has made a resurgence in recent years. It's a plastic elf that comes with an elaborate, ready-made story about how he sits in your house and watches you. He reports back to Santa, on a regular basis, on whether your behavior has been naughty or nice. Don't touch him, or his magic will wear off. Every morning, you'll find him in a different spot. He might be getting into the Christmas candy or committing some other act of mischief. But from what my friends all say, it's a sure-fire way to make your kid behave, that is, if you want to go one step farther than the old "Santa's always watching" bit, which comes with its own set of doubts and questions as children get older…

"Can Santa read our minds?" my first-grader asked today. She's starting to understand that the whole omniscient-Santa thing does not make a lot of sense.

The Shelf Elf (given a special name by the child who awakens him from hibernation in his box) seems to satisfactorily bridge that gap for some kids...except for my daughter, who saw her cousin's shelf elf and, to my surprise, reported back to me that he was fake. At least Santa is, ostensibly, a real person. You can talk to him at the mall. Talking to an inanimate object is a stretch, even for a first-grader. Still, I could see in her eyes that she was not a hundred percent sure about her position on the matter.

Little bitty tikes, on the other hand, are completely snowed. They suspiciously eye that stuffed elf, perched atop the mantle, or wherever he lands after flying around the house at night, and they wonder if he's really going to tattle on them to the big man himself. Creepy, right? No more creepy, I suppose, than a fat man in a red suit who breaks into your house one night a year.

Some of my dear friends reading this right now love their elves. They get attached to them, and talk to them, and above all, are quite pleased with the changes in their children's behavior patterns upon the annual arrival of Mr. Foofoo (or whoever). And I sincerely wish them all the best in their secret-agent elfin adventures.

So there is a part of me would like to get on the shelf elf train. Really, I would. It's a fun idea. But I know my kids. I know they would be absolutely destroyed if they thought that Mr. Foofoo was going to jeopardize all their hopes for Christmas morning. I think they would resent him. I know I would, if I were in their shoes. And even as an adult, I can't associate a doll that comes to life at night with anything other than Chucky. So in that sense, I would be suspicious of Mr. Foofoo, too. I would have to sleep with one eye open and a baseball bat by the bed. And inevitably, one of my kids would touch it, and the other would despair that all the magic had disappeared. (I know exactly which child would do what in that particular situation, and so do you, if you know my kids.)

So all things considered, no sneaky-spy elves will be flying around my house this Christmas season. If I see one, I will take him out with the bat and wish him a Merry Christmas before he can tattle on me.


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