Friday, December 23, 2011
It has only been in the past couple of years that I learned about the elf on the shelf and how effective he could be. While I can certainly understand the appeal of having my kids behave just because they think a fake elf reports their every move to Santa Claus, I have not felt particularly compelled to employ elf powers at my house. First of all, I know I would consistently forget to move the darn thing, disappointing the kids every morning. Sometimes I'm not good with the small details. Just tonight, Sky and Pink P had to put twenty-one tiny ornaments on our advent tree. That's right. I only remembered to have them do this on December 1st, and for the twenty-one days since then, the tree has gone undecorated. Until today. Now they are super excited about Christmas because they had no idea it was so close.
Second, I have serious doubts the elf would produce better behavior at our house. I think it would only produce bad behavior in rooms without judgmental elves in them. I find the go-pick-out-which-present-under-the-tree-you-want-me-to-return-to-the-store approach to be exceedingly effective. Plus, if we have an elf, I will feel compelled, no obligated, to explain Foucault and panopticism to the kids, and nobody wants that!
Besides the hassle that shelf elf represents to me, I am also leery of lying to the kids on a daily basis. Sure I have to evade the truth on occasion when discussing Christmas with the kids. Sky is dubious. Last year, he expressed his skepticism about Santa on a number of occasions, and I was very, very close to spilling the beans (if you don't know what I mean by this, for the love of God, stop reading now!!). Very rarely does one of them ask me directly whether Santa exists or not. If they do, I say perfectly noncommittal things like, "People say Santa has helpers that work as mall elves." Or "I've heard he flies at the speed of sound, but I am not sure I believe it." Actively promoting the elf myth would make it harder for me to keep my conscience clear.
Lest you think I've always been this concerned with promoting trust and honesty in the relationship I have with my children, I feel I should confess a few things about Christmases past. In the spirit of Christmas, don't judge me too much!
1. I've used The Bumble to scare small children.
The year Sky was three, we let him watch Rudolph by himself while we struggled to get the tree up and the lights on. He'd seen the movie the previous year, and we knew he liked it. We hadn't taken into consideration the developmental changes of the intervening twelve months. During the movie, we didn't hear so much as a peep from Sky. He wandered into the room just as we put the final touches on the tree and I pulled out our animated plush Bumble and pushed the button. After a growl and some blizzard sounds, it launched into a rendition of "Holly Jolly Chirstmas," perhaps one of the cheeriest Christmas songs ever. The cute Bumble with its cheery song completely freaked Sky out. It freaked him out so much, we thought he was pretending. He wasn't. So, the Bumble went into the closet, and whenever Sky got out of line, all we had to do was go crack the door to the closet. We didn't have to say a word or, gasp, push the button to trigger the awesome song. I'm not proud, but it sure did work!
2. I believe in manipulating the Christmas wish list.
Sky and Pink P have birthdays between Thanksgiving and Christmas, so I start shopping early. As a hopeless bargain shopper, I buy things on sale and then begin the delicate process of making sure they ask Santa for the toy I already purchased. So in early November, I say, for example, "Sky, wouldn't it be awesome if Santa brought you X? Let's write a letter to him and ask for it." After Sky and Pink P write the letters, I occasionally mention the toys and talk about how exciting it would be if Santa brought them. When we go to visit Santa, I remind them of what they wrote in their letters, so they can remember to ask for it.
In short, I completely brainwash my children. Every year, I think it will no longer work, but it always does. I feel kinda bad, but it sure is nice to have control over what toys become part of our lives and how they impact our wallet.
3. I've bought Christmas presents from Santa while my kids were in the cart and then lied about it (of course).
Sometimes when I am shopping with the kids, I find a deal that can't be passed up! So I say, "Look, Sky, this is the exact present your cousin wants for Christmas! We'd better get it for him!" This is followed by, "Wow! This is a great toy! Maybe you should ask Santa for one, too." And after that, I employ the tactics described in number 2. Since Pink P doesn't have a cousin her age, and since Sky and his cousin are interested in totally different things, it rarely works anymore, but it sure was nice when it did.
So, no, I don't use that cunning little elf, but I'm no angel. Shhh... don't tell my kids!