Friday, December 21, 2012

Elf on the Shelf

 There is a phenomenon that has being going on for a while that I essentially knew nothing about.  And I feel so ashamed.  How can a woman who guessed correctly months ago that Channing Tatum would be named this year’s People magazine’s “Sexiest Man Alive” be so behind the times?

I dunno; maybe I’m getting old.  But I didn’t know anything about this whole Elf on the Shelf phenomenon.  I just noticed it last year; perhaps because people started taking photos of their Elves and posting them on Facebook. 

Some of them were cute. Pictures of little elves drinking hot chocolate.  Or sitting in front of a half-eaten Christmas cookie.  Or peeking out from behind a book on a bookshelf.

But I’ve also seen some X-rated Elves. Bad Elves doing inappropriate things to Barbie. Or Drunk Elves who had too much egg nog kneeling over dollhouse-sized toilet bowls. 

Bad Elf  cleaning the toilet with your toothbrush?
Methinks this was not the original intent of the makers of Elf on the Shelf.

So I had to Google Elf on the Shelf to find out the back story.  Ah, I thought, it’s a form of parenting – a way to keep the kids in line.  

During the month of December, anyway.

How else would Santa know if a kid was naughty or nice?  He sends his tiny Elves to spy on little boys and girls and then the Elf flies back to the North Pole every night to report to Santa.  Man, that little guy must get awfully tired – he’s putting in a whole lot of frequent flyer miles.

When I pause to examine the whole concept, I find it rather creepy and I'm not sure I would've liked Elf on the Shelf  when I was a kid.  It's the sort of thing that nightmares are made of.  I mean, didn’t everyone have to peek under their bed to make sure there were no scary monsters hiding under there?  Or if we were too chicken to actually look under the bed, we’d take a flying leap onto the bed so our feet wouldn’t come within a foot of the dust ruffle and, thus, no hand could reach out to grab our ankle.

Yeah, what can I say? When I was young, I read way too many scary books and watched way too many scary movies.

But back to the Elf on the Shelf thing.  If it had been around back in the day, I cannot remotely imagine my mother participating in any such activity.  Taking the time to move an inanimate doll from spot to spot around our house in those precious few moments she had to herself after she’d finally managed to get all four kids in bed? 

Not a chance.

Besides, we didn’t need a “Santa spy” to keep us in line.  Our parents were all the spies Santa needed.  And it wasn’t even just for the month of December that we toed the line.  Back then our parents weren’t our buddies or our friends; they were our parents. We knew who was boss – and it sure wasn’t us! 

Not only that, but Santa just knew if we were on the Naughty or the Nice list because, after all, he was Santa.

Not that it stopped all of us from misbehaving.  When I was five and my brother was six, he was so concerned that Santa had gotten a bad report on him that he wrote in marker all over his stocking.  Part of it was that he wanted to assure Santa that he was a good boy. But the other part was that he didn’t want Santa mixing us up or making any goofs.  John didn’t want to find some stupid gift in his stocking like a girly hair ribbon or something.  So he wrote on his stocking, “John. Boy. Good.”  And he wrote on my stocking, “Jane. Girl.” 

You notice he didn’t add the word "Good” to my stocking. Either I was good and he didn’t want Santa examining our behaviors any too closely – or John was simply trying to fool the big guy into thinking the kid who had “Good” on his stocking MUST be good and the kid who didn’t, well, not so much. 

On the other hand, it’s probably better that I don’t overanalyze the mysterious workings of the mind of that long ago six-year-old boy.

I don’t recall how my parents reacted when they saw black marker all over the stockings that our cousin had so painstakingly crafted for us, but I don’t imagine they were calling him a “good” boy that day.

So I don’t know.  I don’t think a little Elf would’ve influenced my brother one way or the other.  He was gonna do what he was gonna do – bad reports to Santa notwithstanding. 

But, hey, who am I to knock what works for some folks.  And the Elf on the Shelf is kind of cute.  You get to name him and everything. 

But, people, please. Stop making your Elf do inappropriate things to Barbie and posting the photos on Facebook. You AND the Elf are going to wind up on Santa’s Naughty List. And it’s not easy to get back on his good side. Just ask my brother. John. Boy. Bad.

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