“I’m never allowing an elf on my shelf – or anywhere else in my house for that matter,” I proclaimed at my firstborn’s baby shower. I was a new mom and full of ideals, philosophies, and many other “I’ll never” statements. I hadn’t read the popular book, and I really didn’t want to read it. I didn’t like the idea of having something else to monitor during a season that is already so hectic.
For about eight years, things went as I planned. We enjoyed Christmas with our son, Evan, and eventually with our daughter, Delaney. We wrote letters to Santa, visited him at the mall, and enjoyed Santa-themed pancake breakfasts. None of us mentioned the elf, and we still didn’t have one in the house. I laughed at images my friends posted on social media of their elves getting into mischief and making whipped cream and sprinkle messes on kitchen countertops. It still wasn’t enough to make me want one.
Kids have a way of learning about things, though. Elf stories circulated around my kids’ elementary school and at dance class.
“Why don’t we have an elf?” my children asked.
“We don’t need one,” I said. “We know that Santa is watching your behavior.”
“Well, my friends have an elf,” Evan said. “He does fun things around the house and leaves notes for them.”
“Yeah! And he moves to a different spot every day!” Delaney echoed.
I didn’t budge, and we enjoyed another “elfless” Christmas season.
Two years ago, we went shopping a couple of days after Christmas. I wanted to buy some discounted wrapping paper, bows, and decorations. My children were enjoying rummaging through a holiday toy bin. They resurfaced with several small, plushy creatures including a fox, a reindeer, and an elf. I didn’t think much about it at the time. My arms were full of gift wrap; I was distracted, and I had no rebuttal for my kids’ best argument: “Everything is seventy-five percent off!”
They got me.
On the way home, they chatted incessantly about their new friends and how excited they were to finally have an elf. I cut my eyes at Evan in the rearview mirror. He saw me and quickly said, “Don’t worry, Mom. I’ve got this.”
For almost a year, the elf and his cohorts hid out in Evan’s room. When the following Christmas season came around, Evan stayed up a little later than his sister each night to help the elves find a new spot around the house. He helped them hide behind canned food in the pantry, set up a carnival on the living room floor, and write notes about being good and eating vegetables.
Delaney was in love with the elf. She couldn’t wait to get up each morning to find out where he was and what kind of message he had left for her. In fact, she got up so early some mornings that I had to tell her to go back to bed – even the elves were still asleep.
One morning I was exceptionally grumpy when Delaney came into my room at five a.m. and stood by my bed, waiting for me to notice her arrival.
“Mom, can I go check on my elf?”
“No!” I shouted. “Go back to bed. And if you wake me up again, the elf is leaving for good!”
Delaney returned to her room without much complaining, but a few minutes later I heard Evan quietly crying in his room. I got up to check on him and asked him what was wrong.
“I’m just sad about the elf,” he said. “I’m really having fun surprising Delaney each day. I don’t want him to go away.”
I told him I understood, and I promised not to ban the elf. While I didn’t exactly appreciate being woken up at five in the morning, it was a small price to pay for the joy that my children were experiencing. Delaney loved the excitement of finding her elf each morning, and Evan loved creating that magic for his sister.
I still haven’t read the popular book, but I have accepted the elf as part of our Christmas tradition. I’ve also allowed a few other items into our home that I said I never would, years ago, before I was a mom, and before I really understood the wonder of creating magic for little ones.
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