But then my kid started coming home from school in early December, eyes alight with stories about all of his classmates’ elves, and I began to feel a raging case of Mom Guilt. Especially when he looked at me, all serious, and said, “Do you think we’re not getting an elf because Bubba and I are bad?”
Holy shit. Goddamn kids at school. I reminded myself to write a note to school asking them to handle kids who discuss elves in the same way that some schools handle kids who discuss guns: Suspend them.
But first, I had to reassure my son. “Of course not, honey. You and your bubba are very good boys. In fact, that’s probably why you don’t have an elf. Aren’t they sent to houses so that they can fly back to Santa at night and tattle on all the bad things kids have done?” A lightbulb went off in my head, and I went for it. “Yeah…that’s what it is. The bad kids get the elves because they need someone to watch them and make them behave.”
I thought I was brilliant until my son kept coming home, day after day, excitedly telling stories about what Zippy the Elf had done at Brighton’s house or what Crusty the Elf had done at Ellie’s house. The Brat Theory was forgotten in all of the excitement over the elves’ amazing feats. One afternoon, I sighed and called my husband.
“Hey, do you think you can order an Elf on the Shelf on Amazon?”
“What?” he asked, annoyed. “What about all of that…’I’m not doing that stupid elf this year; I forgot about it every night last year and had to haul my ass out of bed at 4 AM to toss it around the house’…What about all of that?”
“Well,” I explained, “it’s going to be easier this year because you’re going to help me. We’ll take elf shifts.”
My husband sighed, knowing he was fighting a losing battle. “Fine.”
The elf arrived in the mail around December 12, and I was prepared. That night, I set the book and the elf out on the stove, which is where my boys gravitate every single morning in hopes that I’ll finally let them have a piece of candy out of our candy basket—on the counter right next to the stove—for breakfast.
They yelped in joy when they saw it, jumping up and down and grabbing the book. “MOM!” my kindergartener said. “Brighton said you’re not supposed to touch your elf or it’ll lose its magic. So make sure you DON’T TOUCH HIM!”
“Okay,” I replied, smiling and warming up to the whole thing. I mean, my kids are only going to be young once, and my kindergartener is so damned logical that I don’t know how long he’ll believe.
I felt like the Grinch on Christmas Day in that moment, my heart growing to three times its normal size. Their dad walked into the kitchen just as we were taking the book into the living room.
The four of us settled onto the couch and cracked the spine of the book. Suddenly, my older son grew quiet, which was disconcerting because, well, he’s never quiet.
I looked down at him to see that his face had completely fallen.
“What is it, buddy? What’s wrong?”
My kindergartener looked up at me with his huge brown eyes as his younger brother watched him with concern. “Mom,” he said, “did we get the elf because we’re bad and Santa needed someone to tattle on us?”
I saw my husband shoot me one of his holier-than-thou, raised eyebrow looks of consternation. As if he handles kid questions any better than I do. As if his explanation for our lack of an elf for the first two weeks of December would have been so much more effective than mine was.
I sighed. “Why the hell do you listen to me, buddy? Mommy has no idea what she’s talking about. Usually I just make things up as I go along. My guess is that the elves are just randomly assigned by Santa. That’s why some years some kids get elves and other kids don’t. It’s just a random thing.”
That explanation seemed to suit him just fine, even though I had in almost the same sentence told him that I don’t know shit about anything. But you know what? When an explanation that you pull out of our ass works with your kids, you quickly learn to count your blessings and go with it.
Of course, the next week at work, I had to try to rain on an elf-loving co-worker’s parade by complaining about the elf.
“Wait,” she said, eyes narrowed. “Isn’t it a little late for an elf arrival? When does your elf show up?”
Really? Was that a real question that she had just asked me?
“It arrives whenever the hell I want it to,” I responded. “It showed up this year on the 12th, which suits me just fine. I’m not creative enough for an entire 25 days—hell, I’m not even creative enough for 10. Last night I forgot—just like I knew I would—and had to scramble out of bed at 4:30 AM. I figured I wouldn’t be able to get back to sleep, so I put that bastard to work. He made me a cup of coffee.”
I will admit that the kids had found it hilarious that our elf was as into coffee as Mom is.
The other morning, my kids found our elf, Albert, at the dinner table, where we keep our chocolate Advent calendar. He had opened the door for that day and was getting ready to eat the miniature chocolate wreath that he had apparently pulled out of it.
My boys jumped up and down, squealing with delight…until one of them bumped into the table, causing Albert to come crashing to the floor.
My 6-year-old was horror-stricken, and he jumped back, arms raised, and yelled, “I didn’t touch him! He still has his magic!”
He looked toward the floor, where Albert was lying, limbs all askew. I could see those wheels a-turnin’ in the logical way that my little boy’s mind thinks.
“MOM,” he announced solemnly, “I’m going to need some gloves.”
We were, as usual, running short on time, so I didn’t want to go rooting through the closet for a pair of gloves so that my boy could move our elf. Sensing my hesitation, my son shook his head. “No, don’t worry about it, Mom. I have another idea.”
I watched as he walked to the kitchen drawer which holds our bigger utensils and pulled something out. This is how he moved our elf:
Because seriously…how cute.