Bad Elf (on the Shelf)

Santa's Little Helper Better Keep Out of Trouble in Her House
Scott Holstein

I don’t get Elf on the Shelf.

Don’t get me wrong — I’m all about family fun and making memories and yada-yada, but I am not about to let some 10-inch, red felt ninja with a plastic smirk become my worst nightmare. Apparently, I’m in the minority.

I’m your average working mom with an average job making an average wage. I have, on average, no time to myself without “help” from one of my two kids (three, if you count their father). On an average day, it’s all I can do to go even an average of 10 minutes without cleaning up a mess, refereeing a fight or “reminding” somebody — make that everybody — in my house about picking up, hushing up and putting up. Why in the heck would I voluntarily add to the drama by dreaming up shenanigans for the Elf on the Shelf?

For the uninitiated, Elf on the Shelf is a Christmas “tradition” dating all the way back to 2005 when the eponymous book told the story of a “scout elf” deployed between Thanksgiving and Christmas who serves as the “eyes and ears of Santa,” checking out the daily activities of children and then whizzing off to the North Pole every night to give a naughty-or-nice report to The Big Man. Being mischievous, said Elf finds a different spot to sit in each day; so every morning, the kids play a little hide-and-seek to find out where the little stool pigeon might be.

Now, I have an Elf on the Shelf. And I do love the sweet month between Thanksgiving and Christmas when all I have to do is say, “Ummmm … Elf!” and watch my kids snap out of whatever foulness has befallen them. It’s magical when the Elf appears one fine fall day, and suddenly I have one more (albeit tiny) set of hands to help manage the miniature dictators ruling my house.

I diligently — OK, weekly — move our Elf from tree to mantle to stocking and back to tree. And he (or she, when I can remember to unearth the much-too-expensive-yet-awesome Elf Skirt) does come in handy when dealing the under-4 set. But a certain subset of uber-moms with way too much time on their hands have decided to one-up each other by creating 30 or so elaborate scenarios of shenanigans caused by their Elf throughout the holiday season.

Sorry; I draw the line at creating mayhem and chaos for “fun.” Because, really, it’s fun for whom?

With the advent of Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram, I am delightedly subject to yet another demerit: Failure to Harness the Cutesy Power of the Elf on the Shelf. All my friends and family — which, I surmise, must not be my real family because where does the gene for cutesy self-torture come from? — post photo after photo and blog post after (annoying) post about what their Elf did last night.

My Elf knows what your Elf did last night. And he secretly wants to change gigs. 

Sorry, Elf. In my house you will always be relegated to vicariously enjoying the raucous fun. Because … 

My elf will never make a snow angel out of flour. Because who wants to clean up that mess? Flour is like chalk dust, people. I don’t even want to dump it on my counter to roll out a biscuit, for God’s sake. And, don’t even think about using sugar instead. I’d say you’re out of your mind. Ants? Yes, please!

My elf will never be caught “fishing” in the toilet. I mean, you put that stuff out in the evening and by morning the goldfish crackers look like bloated leftovers from a cheese puff binge. That’s just disgusting. And, now you have about 20 steps between the Elf and your first-thing-in-the-morning potty break. I don’t know about you, but I have to go way too bad to: 1. Go get the kids out of bed, 2. Get the camera, 3. Drag their sleepy behinds into the bathroom, and 4. Wait for them to notice and then (hopefully) shriek with delight at what the Elf did last night. Heck, my kids would prefer to take the Elf swimming in the bowl instead or — and this actually happened to a relative of mine — eat the crackers out of the toilet.

Which brings me to an important aside: Why do parents do this with their Elf when their child is only a year (or less) old? Unless the kids I’ve known are just complete idiots, yearling children are only interested in what they can put in their mouth. Admit it — and you know who you are — this is strictly an effort at one-upmomship.

Additional unlikely scenarios for my Elf include:

  • Toilet papering the stairs (WHY would you roll your own house — on the INSIDE???); 
  • Dangling by a string of Christmas lights from the ceiling (I’m not getting the ladder out for that nonsense); 
  • Writing a letter to my kids (I can’t even bring myself to write that uber-sentimental annual birthday letter); 
  • Making messages with M&M candies (again, ants); 
  • Shaping a heart out of pocket change on the counter (my husband would never give up his soda money); 
  • Coloring (messily) in a coloring book with crayons strewn about (I can do without cleaning up crayon pieces); 
  • “Brushing” his teeth and leaving a trail of Colgate along the counter (wasteful, sticky and I don’t enjoy wiping my kids’ toothpaste off the sink — why would I enjoy this?)
  • Playing in a “snowdrift” made of shaving cream (He’s made of FELT! — ewwww)
  • Lounging in a container of mini marshmallows (sink, bowl, whatever. Now you have tiny spherical pieces of SUGAR rolling about your floors and counters and every, single crevice in between)
  • Tinting an entire gallon of milk green with food coloring. Who wants to drink that crap for an entire week?
  • And, inexplicably, writing on the wall. That naughty, silly Elf. He’s getting Time Out, iDevice restriction and Art Supply Vacation for a week, just like my kids do. 

Call me a party pooper, but I’m busy. I don’t have time for this needless mess making. It’s too much already to keep my kids fed, dressed, brushed and on time on any given day. Adding Elf Drama to the holidays seems to me like a very specific kind of self-loathing. And, I’m not believing that it’s “for the kids,” anyway. Come on now, they don’t follow you on Pinterest or Instagram. And if your elementary-age child is on Facebook, I have another rant for you.

So, own up and put down the toilet paper. Because wrapping your Christmas tree in Charmin only creates more work for you. If my Elf did any of these things, he would surely be included in one little diorama idea I just love: Elf tied up to a board with twine, surrounded by my kids’ Lego people and Weebles, one of them holding a sign that reads, “Go home, Elf. We don’t want you here.”

And that, folks, would be on display until New Year’s Day.



Mom-nonymous is, as she beat you about the head and shoulders with at the top of this rant, an average working mom who remains nameless in order to remain on good terms with the friends and relatives she outed in this story.

Categories: – Parenting, Family