We have an elf on the shelf–but not for the reason you might think. This elf belonged to my grandmother, who passed away during the holidays last year. My boys played with it whenever we visited Nana at Christmastime, so BB#1 asked to keep it as a memento. The little guy has been on the shelf in our living room ever since.
The elf is older than I am, possibly older than my dad, and was familiar part of the festive decorations in my grandparents’ apartment when I was a kid. He puts me in mind of Perry Como and real Scottish shortbread. So it’s funny to me that in the last few years a similar style of elf has become popular as Santa’s spy – if that’s what this one was originally, I don’t know. For us, he’s just a decoration, a reminder of Christmases past, and of Nana.
I understand that a lot of parents have fun with their own elves, moving them around from place to place each night. I hear kids enjoy it too. Hey, your elf, your shelf, your rules! But we’ve never done the whole “you better be good or Santa won’t bring you presents” thing here, so Santa doesn’t need a spy in our house. I don’t do empty threats any time of the year, and that’s exactly what this would be; I would never actually follow through on giving my boys a lump of coal for some random “misbehavior” leading up to the holidays. And I don’t think I know any parent who would. What would a child have to do to deserve that anyway?
We also talk a lot with our boys about how fortunate we are, and we donate gifts to make sure other children have a happy holiday too. While I know my children already question why Santa can’t just give a gift to every child, rich or poor, I certainly don’t want them to think he doesn’t visit children in poor families because they are “bad”. Or that their own friends who don’t celebrate Christmas don’t deserve presents. Or that the reason for “good” behavior is to get stuff.
I get that the whole Santa story usually includes a naughty or nice list (it’s in the songs, after all). It’s so accepted that other parents have no problem telling my children they “better be good” because “Santa is watching”. And I may well be a humbug, but that’s not cool with me. In our house, Santa doesn’t hold grudges.