Dude 1 was born well before the Elf on the Shelf.
Dude 2 shares the elf’s official birth year, but the thing didn’t really gain momentum in American society until years later and, by then, I imagine that Dude 2 had heard of the elf’s role as Santa’s surveillance system and figured an elf free life is a more present receiving friendly life as far as he’s concerned.
Dude 3, lover of all things magical and perpetuator of wonder in this home, fell deeply into love with the idea of the elf last year in kindergarten.
Sure, I’d noted the stacks on stacks on stacks of red hatted little beings scattered around pretty much every super store I visited, but it wasn’t until he came home one day from school with his sad eyes cast up at me that I realized it was a thing.
Apparently EVERY SINGLE CHILD in his class had an elf. And he was wreaking havoc spreading joy in their homes. They all had wonderful stories of elf shenanigans that sounded labor intensive to me, but amazing and special and wonderful and good to Dude 3.
And he was genuinely hurt that Santa had not thought to also send him an elfin spy.
“But how come Santa didn’t send me an elf, Mommy?”
“Does it mean I’m not gonna get presents?”
“What if he can’t use his magic like he used to though because he got old and he needs the elf to help him see?”
“Wait! They have them at Target! Why don’t you just buy me one from Target?”
“What do you mean you need a special note from Santa? That lady has four and she used her credit card.”
He had all of the questions for my answers.
And I wanted nothing to do with the tradition after witnessing what so many of my fellow parents experienced courtesy of the elf.
Like I need something harder in my life. Like I need to have to remember to be magic. Like I’m sneaky enough for that anyway. Like I didn’t forget to Tooth Fairy for four straight nights until Dude 2 finally said, “I think we are all over that one, Mom, just forget it and give me five bucks already.”
But, then Dude 3 wrote his letter to Santa last year, “Santa I am a very good boy. Please send an elf to me so I can prove it to you,” I ran right down to Target, muscled some grabby handed old lady out of the way and made an elf come home with me.
The joy in his eyes when he saw his elf sitting under the tree Christmas morning is what dreams are made of. And, it really made me rethink the value of the iPad he received (as a wrapped up hand me down from me, because Santa, and by Santa I mean me this time, brought me a new one!).
Last night, our elf made his holiday debut.
We discovered him, clutching a greeting card and horseback riding the Well’s Fargo horse across the Dude’s bedroom floor following Dude 3’s bath time.
The excitement was felt by all and we sat right down, wrapped in nothing but a towel and read the story about the elf.
We named him Sebastian, we call him Seb for short.
We discovered you can’t touch him (dang it, too late), and that he doesn’t talk, but his eyes are the window to his mind.
We left him astride his noble steed while we went downstairs to enjoy our pre-bedtime cookies and milk (a tradition I fully recommend all of you institute immediately).
But as we hustled downstairs, I noted a little awkwardness in Dude 3’s smile, a little less pep in his step, but I let it go because, I wanted to get to my cookie he hadn’t been feeling well and probably he was just tired or desperate for a cookie.
Time for bed was upon us before I knew it and I started my nightly hurry-up-and-hurry-because-we-need-to-be-asleep-in-like-10-minutes-so-as-not-to-ruin-your-morning scream routine.
Dude 3, usually my most zealous tooth brusher shuffled up to me, wrapped his arms around my waist, and said, “Mom, I can not go upstairs unless you go with me.”
Me: “What, no, you always go up alone. Plus you can check on Seb.”
Dude 3: Actually, the elf creeps me out so I’m gonna need you to move it.
Me: What?! Why?
Dude 3: Because it has that smile and those wild eyes and I don’t trust it.
Me: In my mind: clicking my heels together in joy. Because, um, yeah with that big freaky grin. He’s like a skinny version of Chucky in festive holiday clothing. Don’t let the pointy hat and lower BMI fool you. He could easily be a stone cold killer under there.
Me: Gosh bud, I’m so sorry.
Dude 3: You know I don’t like dolls at all. They creep me out with their faces. But, I thought the elf would be different because he comes from Santa. He’s the same though and I can’t sleep with him anywhere near me.
Me: No problem. I get it. I can burn him in the fireplace move him.
Dude 3: NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! You can’t touch him remember?! You will take away his magic and Santa won’t know I’m good. Maybe I will just sleep downstairs on the couch?
Me: Nope. That won’t do. Let me get my special elf relocation tools out.
He’s decided that a magical elf with wild eyes and a fake smile isn’t really his idea of Christmas joy and that if Santa needs Seb here to help him monitor his behavior, that’s cool, but Seb is going to need to do it from a box in the family room. Where he will use his magical X-Ray vision to see through the box. So we don’t have to look at his demented, untrustworthy face.
He is officially an Elf on a Shelf in a Box.
And really, Santa already knows how good he is.