Tuesday, December 11, 2012

In defense of the elf.

Our elf hangs out with Willie Nelson, doesn't yours?

 Last night after a particularly long day, I settled in on the sofa with my laptop and a dog curled at my side. I was ready to end the day with bad tv and some social networking. And as I persued facebookery I discovered that our family was at the center of not one, not two, but three separate posts bemoaning a certain holiday "tradition".


The "tradition", of course, is the nightly antics of our elf, Happy Sam. Antics which amaze and delight my kids and which pepper their playground conversations.

Pinterest is awash in ideas of what to do with your Elf on a Shelf should you wish to engage. With the rise of pinterest and the ever-escalating adorability of elven tricks therein, there comes a number of articles/blog posts/status updates shaming those of us who participate in the ruse.

(click above for link)

And friends: I get it.
I totally, totally do.

I get that the concept of an elf spying on your kids can be creepy and not in keeping with child-centered parenting. I get that the original Elf on a Shelf contributes to the further commercializtion of the holiday season. I *know* that when some kids have elves that get into mischief it can make the kids without elves, or with more sedentary elves, feel bad.

I know that this a practice that can seem forced; that can seem worthy of derision and scorn.

But here's the thing: My kids have had a rough year. They have had to deal with a lot of very grown-up, very real issues. Addiction. Cancer. Surgery. Change in economic circumstances. Leaving friends behind in order to feel challenged and engaged at school. Starting at a new school where you don't know anybody. Adding a new sibling to the family, one who has lifelong special needs and who doesn't always *want* to be part of the family.

To be frank, a whole lot of this year sucked. It was painful. I would give anything to spare my kids the really, really rough stuff. I would.

And so now, if I have the chance to delight them with some suspended reality? Yes. Yes a million times.

If it makes them happy to discover that a stuffed elf has decorated the Christmas tree with their underwear, I'm going to do it.

***                     ***

Last year at this time we were all in a funk. We were demoralized by the seemingly never-ending adoption process. The big kids caught wind of some friends' elves hijinks and repeated the stories to us in reverent tones. I asked the kids to draw a picture of what *their* elf might look like. Miss A's was named "Sam" and Sweet Bub's was named "Happy".

The next day the big kids woke up to a plush elf sitting on the dining room table, bearing a letter of introduction from Santa.

His name is Happy Sam and he is not so much a punitive elf (no tattling for Happy Sam) as he is a merry-making elf. He stays with us for the month of December and plays little tricks and jokes every night right up to Christmas Eve. Then he leaves us until the following year when he returns on December 1.

Yeah, some nights Sean and I are really freakin' tired. Yeah, it is work to do this and yeah, it's wholly unnecessary.

But before you roll your eyes at the lot of us who do this please remember that for some of us *manufacturing* joy for our kids is our effort to tip the scales for them. To provide counterbalance to the gross grown-up issues clouding their childhood and to let them, and us, believe in a little elf magic.

Does it really take away from your joy if for three weeks my kids gleefully recount Happy Sam's antics at lunch? If they talk about it with a smile because it's easier than talking about how hard it was to see their little brother in pain after his surgery? Or how stressed over money mom and dad are? Or how some their very favorite people suffer from illness?

It is not my intention to make things harder for you. I'm only doing my best to make things *better* for my kids.

I hope you understand.


  1. I love it. Our elf Jasper just might be Happy Sam's twin. Nothing wrong with a little magic and joy in our world - even manufactured. And your right its not easy but oh the look on their faces each AM makes is worth it.

  2. As usual, I love you more after having read your post. Enjoy your merry-making. Smiles are priceless. :)