I blame America.
They bred the Elf on the Shelf. And they infected us. And now we face Elf segregation, Elf division, ELF WARS!
First there is the deep and deepening divide between parents who ELF and parents who, for the sake of their ‘elf, don’t ELF.
The first group hate the second group because a large number of them secretly sincerely regret making such a foolish month-long annual commitment of unsustainable creativity, but can’t say so, because the ‘magic of Christmas’.
The second group hate the first group because they have to explain to their children why their home DOESN’T have an Elf, while simultaneously maintaining the ‘magic of Christmas’, which essentially after infinity cyclical conversations with Smalls boils down to BECAUSE MUMMY HAS A BLOODY JOB.
Some within this group will secretly feel guilty: others militant: still more generally aggrieved, which is the British Way. The militant will talk at length to the generally aggrieved about the moral, ethical and consistency issues with telling one’s children a creepy toy-spy is watching them for good behaviour while simultaneously moving about the house at night and performing ‘hilariously’ naughty deeds. A few extreme crunchy outliers may even debate whether or not we should by lying to our offspring at ALL, about Santa, magic, Christmas, etc.
Within group 1 there will be the hardcore Pinterest Parents, who become evangelical about their cause and Competitive (big C) about it, often utilising the classic humblebrag and the medium of Facebook – or worse – the class WhatsApp group. “Oh Little Martin loves the Elf! This morning he made a hammock out of Mummy’s bra and put shaving foam all over the cat!” ENDLESS EMOJIS.
Somewhere a funny-man Dad will have put the Elf into a compromising position with Barbie, Oh the LOLS, What are we like? Monkey covering eyes, When Daddy’s left on Elf Duty, Etc.
Other Elfers will then be spurred to share their own Comedy Genius Elf Antics, thus putting up the backs of the Non-Elfers still further and inciting Non-Elf Extremism,
AND THE WHOLE OF PARENT SOCIETY CRUMBLES AND DESCENDS TO WAR.
I have an Elf.
I try not to get competitive with it, or indeed particularly creative, or traumatise my children through it, or even judge/admire the non-Elfers.
I have an Elf for a very specific reason.
Two Octobers ago, my husband moved out. I had two very upset little girls (well okay, one pretty oblivious baby and one very upset little girl) and the days were dark with more than Daylight Saving Hours. I was desperate to do something for us, to bond our new smaller family, and to create a bit of light and sparkle for the Smalls. So my lovely sister suggested and then sent us an Elf.
We called it Elfie, like approximately 75% of all Elf on the Shelfs the country over, we put a Barbie skirt on her, and the Smalls were smitten.
Ours is not a naughty Elf, or a Santa-Espionage-Elf. She is a Kindness Elf. And through December she reminds the Smalls to be kind, to give to others, and to basically not be selfish greedy little boohoostards. This often isn’t inventive, because I’m tired. It can be simple as smiling at a stranger one day or giving someone a hug. There are definitely year-to-year repeats (I keep the notes). She also writes the girls a hello poem, with a poetry treasure hunt around the house to find her, simply because rhyming makes me happy and making them happy makes me happy.
Last year the Smalls found the Elf book in the summer, and missed Elfie so much she had to turn up to visit in August. IN AUGUST.
Elfing, you see, takes commitment, and energy, and frankly – desperation. That’s what Elfie was really born of. Desperation.
This year, there has been a new twist in our Elf journey.
The ex has now got an Elf.
It is called Snowy. It wrote them a poem. It introduced itself as being best friends with Elfie.
And I have Feelings.
I am now in my own internalised Elf-War.
One half of me thinks that it’s great he’s showing this level of interest in Christmas (he literally never even helped me decorate a tree). It’s great the kids get that at his end, and they love Snowy! And that should make me happy, right? I mean, I don’t own the Elf on the Shelf concept.
This was… my thing. It was special. It was a bit of magic I created, that I carved out for us when there didn’t look like there would ever be magic again. I wanted to make my own Christmas tradition, and if feels like it’s been nicked. Or at least piggy-backed.
And now I’m dreading them coming back and telling me all the SO FUNNY things Snowy did, because he and she have a team and time and they’re not on their own at 11 o’ clock trying to think of something for it to do, and they’re not two years into Elf-fatigue, and I have to smile and say how lovely and keep up the pretence my Elf is best buds with theirs when really, really what my Elf wants to do is STUFF A CANDY CANE UP SNOWY’S TIGHT RED ARSE.
And that, my friends, is the Spirit of Christmas!
I hate myself. Although I think I’m having a pretty human response…
And I hate him, too. Which is also human.
And Elves. Who aren’t human. Or a sub-species. Look, no one really knows.
Particularly though, I hate having been dragged into the competitive Elfing world of the ELF WARS, which I never really wanted to be a part of.
Luckily, it’s nearly over.
In January all parents can negotiate a peace treaty and find other reasons to judge and compete with each other, and rouse ourselves to arbitrary indignation!
I can’t wait.
(PS. Now you know EXACTLY what Barbie is thinking about where the candy cane is going to end up in this picture. I like to think she’s taking revenge for all Barbies used and abused by Elves and Comedy Dads).
EDIT: For the last 2 years me and the Smalls have also done matching Xmas pjs. If even a hint of a picture of the four of them in matching pjs crosses my consciousness that candy cane will be REPURPOSED. Also I’ve had mulled wine. 😉