We also didn't have The Elf on the Shelf.
If you haven't heard of The Elf on the Shelf, you are not alone: There are at least three other people in America who haven't and one of them is probably this guy. The Elf is supposed to help encourage your kids to be good during the Christmas season. Let me briefly explain how it works: Elf sits on shelf. After kids are in bed, Elf flies to the North Pole (presumably on Delta) and delivers behavioral reports to Santa. Elf flies back and sits in a different spot, unequivocally proving to your kids he left your house and visited Santa.
There are only two other important notes to The Elf on the Shelf: 1. Your family is in charge of naming the Elf and 2. Kids are not, under any circumstances, allowed to touch the Elf. If they do, his "magic might go and he won't be able to fly to the North Pole, and thus Santa won't hear all he's seen or what he knows."
In other words, if you're a bad kid, you better touch that Elf. Several times. (Of course, if you're a bad kid, you probably touched it anyway.)
This is our first year to have The Elf on the Shelf. My wife's lovely Aunt Lisa bought our girls one assuming it would get her out of buying me a Nintendo Wii U.1 After discussing the story of The Elf on the Shelf with our kids, we let him out of his box.
"What should we name him?" my wife asked the girls.
An assortment of names were offered up. Buddy. Skippy. Bob. Simon James Alexander Ragsdale the 4th. Little Tony. Fart (Thank you Ella). Twizzler. Jeff.
But throughout the naming process, my daughter Anna—who's generally a very opinionated 3-year-old—remained surprisingly silent. Her eyebrows were arched high above her overly opened eyes. She gripped tightly onto the arm of my wife.
"Anna, what's wrong?" I asked.
"Does he really come to life at night?" She tripped over her words and shook with fear. The excitement of the Elf on the Shelf was gone and had been replaced by anxiety. It's as if we had opened something super scary, like a box labeled "Monster in the Closet" or a box labeled "Two and a Half Men, Season 7."
Attempting to change the mood, I spoke up.
"Anna, what do you think we should name him?" I asked.
"Uh … um … Snowflake."
"I like the name Snowflake." I had hoped this personal connection would help calm her worries. So I tried again. "What if we try Snowflake out for a night?"
There was a pause. Then she shook her head "no" so hard that I wasn't convinced I'd ever be able to get her to stop.
Ever the compassionate sister, my 5-year-old turned to Anna and said, "Don't worry, Anna. It's not really real. He's just plastic. See?" Then she poked him with her finger. "I bet he doesn't go to the North Pole and parents just move him around at night."2
"Don't touch it!" screamed Anna and she burst into tears.
My wife and I were suddenly caught between a rock and a stinky diaper. We could argue with our eldest daughter that the Elf was, in fact, real, but at a price: Anna would be scared further. Or we could admit that the Elf is just a toy, thus calming her fears, but completely defeating the purpose of the Elf and taking away all the fun. (This thought was super depressing because I had big plans for that Elf. BIG. PLANS. Like this.)
My wife tried her best to calm Anna and I attempted to crack Ella's skepticism, but neither worked. All we did was upset both of them even more. So, as Dad of the house, I made an executive decision that would alter the course of the evening.
"Who wants marshmallows?"
"MARSHMALLOWS!" cheered the girls. And with that, they all rushed into the kitchen, including my 18-month-old Mia who had no idea what a marshmallow was but, based on her response, definitely wanted a piece of that action.
So, with a heavy heart, I packed Snowflake back in his box. I gave him the, "It's not you, it's me" speech but he would have none of it. He just gave me the silent treatment. He also gave me the finger for naming him Snowflake.
Christmas is intended to be a fun, happy holiday, and it didn't make sense to me to introduce this controversial character into our home when one daughter is scared of him, one doesn't believe in him and one would only care about him if she could eat him. He may have a future at Klems Manor, but not this year. This year he's headed back to the basement to live with our other unused Christmas decorations, dirty laundry and 1,500 rolls of toilet paper I've stockpiled from Sam's Club.3
It's back to simpler times at Klems Manor, where the colorful lights and a decorated tree are all we need to celebrate this fine Christmas season. Well, that and a Nintendo Wii U. (I'm looking at you Aunt Lisa).
1 It doesn't.2 My 5-year-old Ella is cut from the same skeptical mold as her father. I bet in her free time she also disproves e-mail forwards.3 I'm prepared for the Zombie Apocalypse. Are you?
ORDER NOW (GREAT GIFT FOR DADS):
Oh Boy, You're Having a Girl
(A Dad's Survival Guide to Raising Daughters)
* Subscribe to The Life of Dad via email or RSS feed!
* Also, follow me on Twitter @BrianKlems. I promise to occasionally say funny things.