A few years ago, I would have said I was neutral on the topic of Elf on the Shelf. Now I hate it with a passion.
A few years ago, Elf on the Shelf wasn’t even on my radar. If it had been, I probably would have thought the idea was cute and then declined to participate anyway, due to my spectacularly bad lying abilities. Now the Elf has exploded in popularity and I can barely get through the fall holidays without being confronted by his creepy little kewpie face as parents gear up for December’s most popular parenting competition: The Elfening — or would that be The Elf on the Shelfening? I don’t know. I just know it sucks.
If you are fortunate enough to have been living under some kind of rock or have otherwise been immune to the constant stream of people doing ever more unspeakable things with their Elf, I’ll explain the concept. You go to a store. You purchase a book and an Elf, about $30, and then you instruct your child that this creepy little nightmare doll will be tracking their every move and reporting back to Santa. You warn your child that if they touch the thing that looks very much like a toy but is definitely not a toy, it will kill the Elf’s magic, like some kind of mystical magical castration. You move the Elf around, to make it believable. Your kid will probably misbehave sometime during the holiday season, and you will give them all of their dumb gifts anyway.
Yes, I hate the Elf. Thoroughly, passionately and unapologetically. I know it’s just supposed to be a cute thing, and as a rule, I try not to be needlessly opposed to things just because they’re popular. But this one particular thing, this dumb little Elf, represents everything I hate about modern parenting.
There are two camps of Elfheads. There are the people who see every evening as an opportunity to stick it to Martha Stewart and craft ever more beautiful Elf hijinks. It is pure, innocent magic. Then there are the people who are way too cool for the Elf and turn it into a frat boy on an eggnog-fueled rager by pairing the Elf with pole dancing Barbies or having him poop Hershey’s Kisses onto various surfaces.
No matter what camp you fall into, you’re the worst. Why? Because you aren’t doing it for your kid. Sorry, but if you can’t do it without taking a gazillion pictures and posting them all over Facebook and Instagram and Pinterest, you aren’t participating to bring a little extra cheer into your kids’ lives. At least, not primarily.
You are doing it to either a) get major ups from the crafty crowd who will swoon at your ingenuity, or b) get major ups from your fellow witty, ironic brethren who think that your recreation of that scene from Dexter where your Elf is wielding a knife over a Saran-wrapped Monster High doll is like, sooo hilarious. You are doing it for you.
If I’m wrong, prove it. I would bet that if you’re faced with the prospect of not taking pictures after you sprinkle Goldfish crackers into a toilet bowl and have your Elf fish for them, you won’t even bother, because then no one will know and you will just be some weirdo putting food into your loo.
Your kids do not need you to print out a list of “100+ Elf on the Shelf Ideas” to make them happy, so stop pretending like they do. You need it, because once your Elf on the Shelf has jumped the candy-striped shark and started zip-lining across the living room on dental floss, you’ll eventually have to face the fact that you are out of ideas and the gold stars from your friends will follow in short order.
Listen, it’s Christmas time. For a lot of kids, even nonreligious ones, it’s already really freaking exciting. You don’t need to add a creepy lie that ultimately only exists to feed your narcissism on top of it.