In the category of “reasons why I’m sometimes actually glad I’m not a parent,” you can file The Elf on the Shelf. ; ) I first heard of the Elf about two Christmases ago and, since then, he’s been popping up with growing (alarming??) frequency in my Facebook feed every December, as increasing numbers of my mommy friends with young children join the crowd, buy an Elf for their family and begin posting photos of his (are there any female Elfs??) daily antics.
Mary Elizabeth Williams posted a great article on Salon last year – recently revived in my Facebook feed – about her loathing for the Elf (headline: "Santa's evil Orwellian spy"). Creepy surveillance aspects totally aside, the very idea of having to constantly come up with new & ever-more creative ideas on where to put the damned thing every single day during December (and then every December to come) stresses me out. (The Salon article mentions how one Elf apparently covered the family toilet in giftwrap; I had a friend who actually did that last year -- maybe she got the idea from the same place?)
My hat is off to those moms who have the time, energy & creativity to do this kind of thing (and keep it up...) for their kids. But even if I WAS a mom, I don't think I'd be one of them. Between year end at work and doing what I can to get ready for a reasonably merry Christmas – albeit one without children -- December is already stressful enough for me as it is. ( I'm sure I'd forget at least one night.)
There was a great blog post circulating earlier this year by Rage Against the Minivan, pleading “Let’s bring the holidays down a notch.” Reading it confirmed for me that it's probably a good thing I never got to be a mom -- because if this is what it takes to be a parent these days, I’d never make the cut.
The post was triggered by St. Patrick’s Day (anyone ever heard of a visiting leprechaun leaving gold-wrapped chocolate coins for kids?? -- me either...) and includes mention of the Elf as one example among many of Holidays (or perhaps that should be Parenting??) Gone Wild.
Now, I’m all for having fun & making the holidays special – even on what my husband likes to refer to as “Hallmark Holidays” (with accompanying eye roll). My mom has always made holidays like Christmas & Easter special for our family. I fondly remember coming downstairs for breakfast on Valentine's Day to find a little heart-shaped box of chocolates from her, sitting beside my cereal bowl -- I planned to do something similar for my kids.
But these days, it seems the pressure to do more, buy more, give more gifts -- on top of all the other pressures of modern life and parenting -- just keep ratcheting upward. And who is benefiting here? The kids, maybe... but I daresay there are commercial interests at work here that have a vested interest in keeping us all celebrating more and more holidays (that you may never have heard of or barely noticed 20 years ago...), buying their products, doing their marketing for them by spreading the word (I.e., Facebook photos) -- and molding the next generation of parents & consumers to follow likewise. (And yes, I realize the irony that, by writing this post, I am spreading the word too.)
What do you think of the Elf on a Shelf phenomenon and the whole trend to more and more elaborate holidays? If you're a parent, do you have an Elf for your kids?