Editor's note: If you are 8 or younger and reading the Opinion page, kudos, Kid. But I urge you to put this column down before I ruin some Christmas magic. Moms and dads, let's talk Elf on the Shelf.
First of all, I was very slow to this trend. And I'm all for Christmas magic. I love Christmastime. The festive lights everywhere, all the traditions, my kids' faces on Christmas morning ... but my husband always warned me: "Do not get an Elf on the Shelf. You will regret it." He knows I bite off more than I can chew sometimes and wanted to spare us an additional nightly chore.
But this year, I couldn't help it. My youngest daughter, age 8, started to come home every day telling tales of what other kids' elves were doing. They were bringing presents and appearing in hilarious situations each morning. They have cute names like Trixie or Jingles. And she would see the elves lining the store shelves. She explained to me once that moms and dads had to buy them, and once they did, they came alive. So, not only is this magic happening at every other kid's house, but it's very much her parents' fault that she didn't have one.
And being age 8 (with an 11-year-old sister), I feel like time left believing in holiday magic is nearing the end at my house. So I ordered an elf on the shelf.
It got off to a rocky start though. First, Amazon's two-day shipping, turned into six days and a lost package. So six more sad, elfless days later, my husband ran out and bought one.
We excitedly set the elf up with the book right by the tree that night, pretending she had arrived without anyone noticing. But then we could not seem to get either kid to come to the living room. "I'm busy!" "I'm doing homework!" "After this show!"
Finally, Eva, our 8-year-old, showed up. She noticed the elf and lit up. She ran and told her older sister. They decided together her name would be Peppermint Frosting. I immediately was sure we had made the right decision in our elf adoption.
But then it was bedtime and I was so tired. It was occurring to me that now I would have to stay up late every night? I get up very early, so I go to bed around the same time as my kids. Ugh! But then it hit me that I could do it in the morning — I'm up long before anyone else.
During that night, I did hear some noises and wondered who was up. Or perhaps we had a burgler? Either way, I fell back soundly to sleep.
The next morning I awoke to my daughter all dressed and ready for school. And very sad that her elf never moved during the night. Shoot! She was so excited she hardly slept.
I was beginning to really resent all the parents out there who peer pressured me into this new annoying tradition.
I convinced Eva to go back to sleep for a little while, as she still had a lot of time before school. And it turns out, Peppermint is a morning elf — she doesn't do her stuff until the mornings! I can't explain it, people. That's just how she rolls. Can you really explain magic anyway?
But the next night I was on it. Peppermint got herself into quite the situation eating cookies and drinking hot chocolate. She even got a tiny cup from Eva's tea set to make hot chocolate in. I was very proud of Day No. 2's work. However, when Eva saw this situation, she questioned the reality of it. "She learned to make hot chocolate?" Apparently an elf can come alive during the night and fly around our house but making hot chocolate seemed like a line was crossed. Darn it, I really felt like I was failing at the elf business!
She even started to ask her dad some questions. "So do scientists know all about how elves and Santa get around?" she asked.
The next morning, Peppermint made quite a mess making snow angels in some flour on the counter. Eva assured me though that Peppermint would clean it up though — after all she cleaned up her hot cocoa mess. We seemed to be back in the game.
Since then we've fallen into a routine. Recently, Eva even wrote Peppermint a note asking for a letter back — leaving her with paper and a pen to write it. And of course she did! Eva proudly took the note to school, to literally compare elf notes with her best friend.
So, I suppose now I've added to the kids out there talking about their magical elves and some other poor parent is going to feel obligated to buy one and spend part of every night on elf duty.
But rest assured, it's not that bad. Some days, Peppermint doesn't do anything very elaborate. She has been known to scale the Christmas tree and once she appeared in the coat closet with a sock on her head. I'm actually really hoping I have at least one more Christmas with a little girl who believes in the magic of a little Christmas elf. And I'm really hoping I can find her next December.