Elf on the Shelf: Friend? Or jailhouse snitch?

The Elf on the Shelf might be your child's best holiday friend. Or he's a jailhouse snitch who tattles on kids. Photo: Courtesy of The Elf on the Shelf

KENSINGTON, MD, December 7, 2011 - So here’s the thing: I hate the Elf on the Shelf.

I know this statement does not make me wildly popular at parties because lots of people love the Elf on the Shelf and have a wonderful time staging Elf antics to the delight of their children. But I’m not a fan.

First of all, I find the elf (at least the mass market version I’ve been seeing on the shelves at stores) creepy looking.  That elf looks like the kind of toy a wildly misguided old man with questionable intentions might use to lure children to his park bench. That elf might pluck individual hairs from the head of a pet. That elf might be the creature the Tooth Fairy enlists to loosen teeth when business needs to pick up. Put a little greasepaint on him, and that elf is an evil clown.

Elf on the Shelf

Elf on the Shelf

That elf is scary.

I also don’t really like the premise behind the elf’s purpose in your home. The idea is that this elf is Santa’s emissary in your home and he watches your kids. You can prove this by putting him in one place when your kids go to bed and move him during the night so your kids thinks he’s an autonomous being, moving about while they sleep.

The elf then reports back to Santa on the kids’ behavior, presumably telling the Big Guy if your kids belong on the naughty or nice list. A kid who’s acting wrong could find his elf buddy turning rat on him and getting him blacklisted with Santa.

In other words, the elf is a nasty snitch who is not your friend.

The basic freaky appearance of this elf aside, I am totally put off by the whole Jailhouse Informant nature of the relationship he’s supposed to have with kids. In fact, I’m put off by the whole “naughty or nice” racket that Santa is supposedly up to. What’s wrong with letting kids just enjoy the lead-up to Christmas, secure in the knowledge that the day will be special and they’ll get to be part of it just by virtue of being part of a family that engages in celebration?

Why does it have to be a quid pro quo where they spend December trying to rack up “good” so they can get rewarded for it?

Because, let’s face it, none of us are going to withhold Christmas from them. The threat of Santa’s sleigh skipping our house is an idle one.

The idea that kids will get gifts in exchange for something, i.e. good behavior, is so…capitalistic. And the holiday season is supposed to be about giving of yourself without expecting anything but goodwill in exchange. I don’t donate toys to Children’s National Medical Center every year to show how good I am: I do it because I want to make sure sick children have a special moment. In the same vein, I don’t want my child to focus all of his energy on trying to earn a present: I want him to be part of  the giving, the sharing, the decorating, the singing, and the general festivity of the season without wondering if he’s “good enough” to deserve it.

The thing is: a frolicsome elf could be a fun addition to a Christmas celebration.

But an elf that tattles on kids takes something away from the spirit of the holidays and the spirit we try to live by all year ‘round: be good for goodness sake.

Rebekah is a DC-area mom with an over-developed sense of irreverence, socialist tendencies, ADD, and a blog. She recently quit her non-profit sector job to pursue her dream of not working. She now spends her time answering her 3-year-old son’s questions and ranting at her blog Mom-in-a-Million, talking about life as a DC Mom at The DC Moms and sharing her political views at The Broad Side. You can find her on Twitter at MomIn_AMillion.


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Rebekah Kuschmider

Rebekah Kuschmider is a mom with an over-developed sense of irreverence, a cable news addiction, a blog and a stubborn affection for working in the non-profit sector. She blames her parents who told her to go forth and do good in the world instead of telling her to be a glamorous socialite with scads of money and expensive shoes.  This summer, she abruptly decided to try staying at home which is even less lucrative than the non-profit sector.

Rebekah holds and undergraduate degree in theatre (which is more useful than you think) and Master’s in Arts Policy and Administration (which is less useful than you think) and a decade of experience managing arts organizations and advocating in the public health sector. She arrived in the DC area in 1996, left in 2000, and returned in 2003, which by her math, means she's lived in either Northern VA, DC, or Montgomery County for 13 years and has spent far too much time in the different DMVs changing her automobile registration to stay current.

Rebekah also blogs about her life, her thoughts, and her opinions at Mom-In-A-Million.com.

Contact Rebekah Kuschmider

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