The Elf on the Shelf
Dealing with the Holiday Mommy Wars
So, who knew the Elf on the Shelf was such a controversial fellow? If you’re like me, your Facebook and Pinterest pages have begun to fill up with clever and adorable photos of the Elf himself, a jolly-looking little fellow clad in red with alarmingly rosy cheeks. The point of this Elf, by the way, is to pose him somewhere different every morning until Christmas for your child to find and enjoy. And of course, like so many aspects of parenting these days, out-Elfing everyone else has become quite the competitive sport. (By the way, my Jewish friends are not exempt: for you, we have Maccabees on the Mantel. I did not make that up.)
So there are elves reading books to Barbies, elves baking cookies (and leaving a mess on the kitchen counter), elves feeding cereal to toy dinosaurs in the toy box. It’s all harmless holiday fun, right? So why are there so many moms these days who are bowing out of the whole Elf on the Shelf marathon? And many of them are, explaining that they feel pressured to do yet one more thing to make the holidays “perfect”—and it’s one thing too many.
For all of you out there who enjoy the Elf’s antics, good for you. But I think there is a message hidden in here that’s worth taking a look at. However you celebrate in December—Christmas, Hanukkah, or Kwanzaa—parents inevitably feel pressure to do everything they can to make the holidays special for their children. They spend money they can’t afford and time they don’t have on…what? Toys that may well be forgotten by March? Lights and decorations on every available surface? Cards and wrappings and bows and stocking stuffers, and all the other items we believe are “necessary” to celebrate a meaningful family holiday. Far too often, parents arrive at the special day exhausted and worried about the bills that will arrive in January. And children—what are they learning? Is it necessary, or even possible, to make each holiday season more glorious than the one before it?
Just so you know, I am not a Grinch. I love Christmas and all its traditions and have always made an effort to make it a warm and beautiful day for my family over the years. But I remember one holiday, as I juggled shopping and mailing and decorating and baking, when I asked my family which parts of the holiday meant the most to them. As it turned out, they loved the stockings, taking our time on Christmas morning, the wonderful dinner, and taking a walk together afterwards. That was pretty much it. The hand-made ornaments and cards I crafted every year, the stacks of cookies and fudge, the lights everywhere—not so much.
It might be an interesting conversation to have with your family as December spins past. What makes your family holidays special? What do you remember most about the holidays when you were growing up? What matters most to everyone you love? What do they honestly not care about? The Elf on the Shelf may be a lot of fun, but your child might prefer to spend the time it takes you to figure out and set up a new pose every night with you, watching a favorite holiday movie and drinking hot chocolate, or making those special frosted cookies together. Invite your children to help you create a magical holiday, instead of feeling the pressure to provide it for them. Better yet, ask yourselves what you have that you can share with others; it’s probably more than you think. The Elf on the Shelf mommy wars will continue one way or the other, but you can decide whether or not they’ll include you.
| Posted by cheryl | Tuesday, December 9, 2014|