November 28, 2012

The Elf on The Shelf

When I was growing up, we didn't have a lot of things that kids have today. We didn't have iPads or iPods or TVs the size of Texas. We didn't have text messaging. We didn't have Twitter. We didn't have Stefon. We didn't even have the 100-plus flavors of Doritos that kids have today—we only had three: Nacho Cheese, Cool Ranch and Found Under the Couch.

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 The excitement of the Elf on the Shelf was gone and had been replaced by anxiety.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?

Oh Boy, You're Having a Girl
(A Dad's Survival Guide to Raising Daughters)

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Hallie Sawyer (@Hallie_Sawyer) said...

Hilarious! We can't do Elf at my house because between my forgetfulness (the Tooth Fairy has totally dissed my kids...a few times) and our dog who thinks every stuffed toy is his, we would be in trouble.

Better luck next year!

:Donna said...

Brian, I have to tell you...several years ago, when the "Elf" made its first appearance at Barnes & Noble (I am a "regular" in the Children's Dept. since I write for children), I was told by one of the booksellers that it was expected to be a HUGE hit. Of course I was compelled to check it out. I'm not one to pull punches, so I'll say it straight: I thought the story wasn't executed all that well, and honestly...I found the whole idea not only lame, but CREEPY! The bookstore chain was right---it was a big hit! I'll NEVER understand it! At least the Pet Rock I understood! lol

Anonymous said...

Love this story!! Thanks Brian. Jackie

Mart Ramirez said...

LOL!! Love it, Brian! I have to admit I'm a little freaked out about the little guy too. Just looking at him gives me the heebie jeebies.

LOVED this! LOL!!!

"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.

Melissa Brogan said...

Klems, you crack me up! I too have big plans for our new Elf on the Shelf. Several pins on Pinterest full!

"She" will make her debut (complete with skirt) when St. Nick arrives next week. Charlotte might be too little come up with the variety of options your girls had to name her and I fear her name, like most other toys in our house will be named, "Doggy" or "Puppy."

Hope your family has a great Christmas. I enjoy reading about your daddy adventures!

The Triplett Family said...

I'm siding with your kids. That thing freaks me out too. Cute story.

SoMo Mom said...

Wow, this is unlike any elf story I've heard so far. Actually, I'm totally jealous. I'd give anything to pack him back up in his box ... instead I'm rock-paper-scissoring w/my husband everything night that we forget to move it!!

Karen A. Chase said...

Very, very funny. My brother had one of these years and years ago, but it was Canada and one of the rare times that we got something before the US did. (Finally we were cool.) I bet Pauly Shore has one of these though, and I'm certain he is deathly afraid of it.

Woz said...

i can't wait to introduce the elf on the shelf into mr. pickles world in a year or two. i have a feeling he'll be a cross between ella and mia. he'll wanna poke his eyes out and see if candy falls out of him all pinata style for him to eat.

Cindy Dwyer said...

We hadn't heard of Elf on a Shelf until my kids were older. I think I'm ok with that. ;)

Better luck next year.

Cindy Dwyer said...

We hadn't heard of Elf on a Shelf until my kids were older. I think I'm ok with that. ;)

Better luck next year.

Anonymous said...

You should check out The Pajama Elves by Hayden Edwards. It is the story of elves at the North Pole who sew magical pajamas that help children sleep on Christmas Eve, so Santa can visit unnoticed. Another fun Christmas tradition for families! And a lot less labor intensive!

Anonymous said...

Too funny! We brought our elf back this year. Last year our daughter was 2 and too little to really "get" that he left every night. Our 5 year old son, loved it. This year, it freaks our daughter out. She is more scared of it than enjoying it. He may get lost one evening on his way back. I don't want it to freak her out. I'll just go back to the method of bribing them for good behavior.

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