“You can’t touch it or it will lose its magic,” my daughter’s friend exclaimed to her as they looked at our Christmas tree last year. In the branches, the now ubiquitous Elf on the Shelf was nestled in, just like any other Christmas ornament.
I groaned. I knew it was only a matter of time until someone mentioned Elf on the Shelf to my daughter, who was in kindergarten at the time. But despite that I just couldn’t get on board with the modern obsession.
When someone gifted us an elf, the package sat unopened in our basement for a year, while I hoped to find someone to pass it along it. When my daughter spotted it, we opened the box and placed the figurine on the tree, but I didn’t hint at anything other than a cute ornament. Now, I’d been found out.
“Why did Lucy say the elf was magic?” my daughter asked soon after her friend left.
Opting Out Of An Elf
The decision to pass on having an Elf on the Shelf wasn’t some grand gesture. Really, there were a couple of elements to the story that didn’t sit right with me.
For starters, I find the whole concept of an elf watching creepy. I dislike the idea of tattling on other people, or generally not minding your own business. I remember when I was a teen, listening to my mom talk about how she had never used Santa as a threat or warned us that we might be given coal — she thought that the beauty in the tradition was with giving, not with control, and I have to agree.
Then, of course, there’s the fact that, like most moms, I don’t want to commit to one more Must Do during the holiday season. Life is already full of the traditions that bring me lots of joy to share with my family, like listening to the old radio serial “The Cinnamon Bear,” attending cookie swaps and looking at lights. I didn’t want to add in another tradition that I wasn’t fully interested in participating in.
Ultimately, though, it came down to the fact that Elf on the Shelf just wasn’t right for our family. I wasn’t interested, and I didn’t want to get sucked into a tradition that wasn’t meaningful to my family just because Pinterest told me I should.
Talking About Different Holiday Traditions
All of that is easy to explain to other moms, but it’s trickier to reason with a child who now knows that her friends have magical creatures living in their house for the holidays. When my daughter asked why her friend said the elf was magic, I tried to keep it vague.
“Some families believe that their elf is magic,” I said, hoping she wouldn’t have too many questions.
That got trickier this year, when my sister got an Elf on the Shelf for my nephew. Since my kids practically live at their house, this brought the whole tradition even closer to home. Luckily, we’re a step removed, since we’re traveling in an RV right now. My girls still like hearing about my nephew’s elf, but so far haven’t asked for their own.
When they inevitably do, I’m just going to double down. The ways that we all celebrate the holidays differ, and it’s up to every family to decide what works for them. I hope that my daughters learn to accept that, and also to respect and honor other people’s beliefs, without interjecting their own. After all, there’s no harm in letting your friends and family believe in magic.