How I Came To Love The Elf on the Shelf


Learning to love the Elf.

My daughter is a true believer.

She is almost 8 years old, but with her entire heart and soul she knows that the world is filled with magic of all kinds. She sees daily miracles in the form of the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny, the brownie fairies that visit at night to do good deeds, and, of course, Santa Claus.

I cannot fault her for this. I wish my heart was as unguarded as hers. I wish I could see these myriad, minute kindnesses.

Alas, I cannot. The Christmas season makes me twitchy, for reasons too numerous to list here. But my children start to get that holiday sparkle in their eyes the second we clear the Thanksgiving table. Me, I want to hide under the bed and come out on January 2.

But that isn’t how it works when you have kids, at least, that’s how I feel. I know there are many of you who “don’t do Santa” or wait with baited breath for the Tooth Fairy to leave town. In our house, we are full-on Santa, even when it pains me.

This year, Emmie came home asking about the Elf on the Shelf.

I did my best to ignore the Elf on the Shelf, thinking it was a silly game for moms who had extra time on their hands, which, frankly, I do not. And he’s a wee bit on the creepy side, with that sideways smirk. He reminds me of a guy who used to do birthday parties in my hometown who later turned out to be a pedophile (true story).

There was no love for the Elf in my house. Until this week.

I bought an Elf on the Shelf. I shelled out $30 (well, less than that, I had a coupon) for this strange little doll and I hung him from a wreath on my back door Wednesday afternoon. When we got home from school, my kids began to shriek. Emmie nearly had a stroke she was so excited.


Her eyes told me the truth: She knew that our Elf on the Shelf showed up, went into the basement, dug out our wreath, hung it, wrote her and her brother a note, and waited for them to get home from school.

I’m OK with that.

There’s a lot of hate out there for the Elf. And I get it, I really do. I have a job (or three), I have two small kids who need to be fed and bathed on a regular basis, I have 50 people on my holiday shopping list, I have a dirty house…I get it.

Who has time to think about funny things for a creepy looking doll that reminds you of a sexual predator to do every night?

I do, now, because I love that light in my child’s eye. She believes, as my cousin so beautifully put it, in a world of infinite possibilities. I know I didn’t put that belief inside her, I was born with a scowl on my face and the surety that the universe was here to kick my ass. But she has it and I want to keep that light burning as long as I possibly can.

That light brought some of the joy of Christmas back to my heart, and that is a true holiday miracle.

So go ahead and hate on the Elf on the Shelf. Ours is named Chris, and I love him.

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  1. This is our first year for Elf on the Shelf, too. Our oldest isn’t quite the age of yours — Jack isn’t quite yet four. I didn’t really realize what I was getting us into until I read him the accompanying book that night. While I love Christmas in a converted Scroogian kind of way, I came downstairs and said to my wife two things:
    Holy God, we are effed, We have to find a place to hide him EVERY NIGHT. And there’s a whole backstory.
    It is totally worth it, because the look on Jack’s face was amazing. So much excitement and belief and wonder, the kind of thing that is almost hard to remember ever feeling once you grow up.
    I try not to think of him as in-house survelliance, Santa’s Homeland operation. I like to think of him as proof that there is still magic that can happen every day. The same way Jack does.
    Happy holidays.

    • Amy L. Hatch says:

      I don’t use him as a behavior management tool at all. I just introduced him as a holiday spirit. And it is magic, isn’t it, to be able to put that look on a child’s face? Happy holidays to you, as well.

  2. Awwww. Beautiful column, Amy. I’ve resisted the Elf because it just seemed so darn commercial, like something that Hallmark dreamed up along with Sweetest Day. (I recently heard, though, that maybe the Elf was a grassroots product sold from the back of someone’s car? In the beginning, that is. Before he had a Hallmark movie.) Secondly, I’m trying to stay away from the “you better be good, Santa is watching you” speech because while my daughter’s behavior issues are very typical for a 4-year-old girl, I gotta figure out a way to calmly deal with them *after* Christmas, too! (That said, I’ve uttered the ‘naughty or nice’ bit at least twice already and it’s not even Dec. 1.)
    After reading your column, though, I might just have to rethink the Elf on the Shelf … it does seem fun to think up new mischief for him to get into each night .. and one more mess in my house really won’t make a difference.

  3. I love the elf on the shelf too. We have only had ours a few days but we love him, I have a 14 year old a 12 year old and a 1 year old and we all love it, harmless family fun. Our elf Eric has already been riding around in the zhu zhu pet limousine and last night he paper chained the whole front room. It is competitive between parents but who cares, December and elves just go together like Santa and presents.
    I am posting my daily pic on my forum it’s such fun and I do believe.

  4. Don’t worry, she can keep that belief for the rest of her life! Some of us never outgrow it. When I was in college, living alone in an efficiency apartment over in Urbana, I hung up a Christmas stocking. I woke up on Christmas morning and checked it. Of course it was empty, but I had to check, you just never know. 😉
    Now that I’m married Santa never misses my house anymore (apparently he discriminates a little bit). I also get visits from the Birthday Beagle for 12 days out of the year. (The Tooth Fairy, however, did not feel a need to visit when I got all four wisdom teeth taken out at once…I blame the nurse who didn’t save the teeth for me to put under my pillow.)
    I was a little miffed a couple years ago at my oldest nephew when he told me that he “knew” Santa wasn’t real. “I believe in Santa. He comes to MY house” I said. (The look on his face was priceless.) I don’t think there’s anything wrong with “believing” in the ridiculous just a little more than most people think one should. If you aren’t looking for magic, you might miss it when it shows up. Sounds like you have a special little girl who’s lucky to have a fun mom, too!
    (But, I’ll agree, the elf has a creepy smile!)