If you have a kid or some child that visits your home frequently and is over the age of 3, you have an Elf on the Shelf, so you can skip the following debriefing. If you do not know of this phenomenon, let me illuminate you. It is a poorly formed stuffed elf with a hard plastic head that you can barely pose, yet you are expected to contort the thing in all kinds of anthropomorphic ways. The idea is that once you name the elf, it gets its magic and every night flies back to the North Pole to report the child’s behavior to Santa. It returns by the first flicker of the kiddo’s eyes in the morning, but it is always in a new spot. You can’t touch the elf or it will lose its powers. There you have it.
With a child of 3, this is our first year having an elf. Our daughter named the elf Jingle and every night since Thanksgiving, my husband and I have been positioning Jingle in every room of the house doing every conceivable rated-G activity. A few nights in, it was clear to me that Jingle was sent to us as more than just a way to bribe our child into behaving; she was sent here to be our marriage counselor.
1. She demands teamwork and partnership: “Did you remember to move Jingle?” “Oh! Thanks! I almost forgot. Boy, that would have been bad!” “Asshole.”
2. She fosters our creative thinking: We literally have a typed list of possible places Jingle can go so we always have something to draw from if we get stuck. We brainstormed, that’s right… together, to compile a fairly comprehensive list, if I do say so myself.
3. She forces us to communicate: We disagree on tonight’s placement of Jingle. We see the little gleam in her eye. She’s prompting us; “Tell each other how you really feel.” And so we do… “Why do you think your ideas are soooo much better than mine? You’re never supportive of me and you act so superior!” “No, you are twisting my words! I said there MIGHT be a better place to hide the elf than with its head in the oven…”
4. She helps us prioritize family values: Our child’s happiness is our number one priority so if it means that one of us can’t brush our teeth for an entire 24 hours because Jingle is “practicing good dental hygiene” with our toothbrush, then so be it. It’s all about sacrifice.
5. She encourages intimacy: After you have spent four hours coming up with an idea, creating the perfect backdrop, sewing custom-fitted elf clothes to match the scenario, placing the entire elf diorama somewhere that your kid can’t knock it over thus taking away all the elf magic, cleaning up any evidence and then discussing the answers to any possible questions your child might ask that would render you speechless and give away the whole darn plot… Well, after all that, there is nothing left to do but hold each other close while you shake and whimper, “What have our lives become?”
The Elf on the Shelf is a marriage saver, I tell you. It really brings you closer than you ever thought you could be. So my friends, I leave you with this advice: Once December 25th arrives and your elf returns back to the North Pole for the next 11 months, don’t be too quick to fall back into the old routines. Try to carry all the lessons your wise elf has imparted with you throughout the year. Either that or pack that elf away in a box that will never get opened again, because DAMN! Hiding that little shapeless shit night after night gets exhausting and who the hell wants to stumble around acting happy to search for the thing at 6 am? We sure as shit don’t…