I decided that this year Christmas would be extra magical. There would be decorating of cookies, our annual Nutcracker trip, tree trimming, present wrapping…and now there would be a stealthy elf who would hide in a different spot every night. Jackson would wake up, find him (maybe even with a little note or an advent present), and be the happiest kid ever.
That didn’t happen.
It all started this Thursday. I put Darcy down for her afternoon nap and Jackson and I went and played on his iPad on my bed. (Disclosure: I dozed while he played on his iPad. It happens.) But before we retreated to the master bedroom, a package arrived. I spied inside and saw the box set, complete with cheaply made toy elf and the classic book that explained his mythology. While Jackson was getting out his iPad, I snuck over to the tree and put it in plain sight.
When Darcy woke an hour later, I walked out in the livingroom and the act was on. “Jackson! Something came from the North Pole.” He ran out, little socks trying in vain to grip our parquet wood floors. “What is it?,” he said, eyes filled with wonderment and glee as he held up the box. I grabbed Darcy from her crib and sat down to read him the book.
“I bet some of your friends already have one,” I smiled. But then I realized that he might ask why we only just got a scout elf . Think fast. “I knew we would get our elf when Darcy came along.” (If you’re keeping score, that’s friendly fib number two.)
I read the book with such feeling. I highlighted all the parts about how the elf is magical and comes alive at night. For those of you who don’t know the Elf’s mythology, here’s a quick run down…
He’s from the North Pole. (or Amazon.com)
You have to give him a name. (Saves money on personalized box printing.)
He comes alive every night and visits his friends in the North Pole then goes all inanimate during the day. He’ll always be in the different place though. (Think Toy Story when humans are around.)
He reports on his child’s behavior to Santa.
He comes every year on Thanksgiving night and leaves after Christmas.
You cannot touch him. His magic will fade if you do.
So I made sure to highlight the magical-little-elf-who-comes-alive-at-night part. I knew Jackson would have a blast looking for him each morning. I downplayed the whole Foucault–panopticon part. We won’t have any Big-Brother-is-watching-you crap in this house. Besides, Jackson is good–and not because he’s afraid of some fictional portly man who lives up north. Jackson behaves because he has a healthy fear of me and C.K. Duh. Like when I say I’m going to vacuum up his legos if he doesn’t pick them up…NOW. And then I walk to the hall closet. Jackson gets his little butt on the floor and scoops all those precious legos into their bin. Why? Because I actually will vacuum up those little legos. Anyone who has stepped on a lego with bare feet will know how insanely gratifiying vacuuming up legos might be. Eff those legos.
But I digress. We read the story. His face was so precious, so full of awe. He took the directive about not touching the elf very seriuosly, using it as an excuse to boss around his 10-month-old sister. “Don’t touch Mr. Elf, Baby Darcy. No presents for you!”
We read the book a second time. Jackson was still completely plugged in. Then I suggested we call his grandmother to tell her about this most magical event that has transpired. “Yes! Call Meema.”
And that’s when it happened. Not five minutes into that fateful Facetime call, Jackson’s mood changed. “I don’t like him,” he whispered, a grim expression on his face.
Jackson realized it–something we all know about the Elf on the Shelf. That shit is creepy. He’s small. He grins all the time. He wears a ridiculous hat. He watches your every move. And then, the worst of it, he comes alive when you sleep. Now, supposedly the Elf just goes to the North Pole. But Jackson doesn’t know that. Maybe the Elf breaks your toys, vacuums your legos, climbs into bed with you, takes your soul. Who knows?
“I don’t like him. I don’t like his magic,” he cried. Now there were tears. I told my mom I’d call her right back. And then the lies just poured out of me. “He’s a good elf. He’s not a bad elf.” (Shit. Now he thinks there are bad elves.) “The elf is just Santa’s helper.” “The elves are making your Skylanders.”
“I don’t want him!” Jackson screamed, really terrified now. I called my mom back thinking she would help. He adores his Meema. Surely, she would play along with this amazing little fib.
But she was no help. We’ll leave it at that. No, we won’t. Not only did my mom yell at me to get rid of the elf, she could barely contain her laughter that this had gone so horribly wrong for me.
All the while, Jackson is now hollering at the top of his lungs, “Get his magic out of the house!” And my favorite line: “Give the elf to the poor kids.” This was a clear sign that another advent activity was going wrong. I want Jackson to pick some toys to give to Salvation Army or Any Baby Can. I’ve been prepping him slowly for this painful decision. I want him to know that others don’t have as much and so it’s important to make some efforts to take care of others. Evidently, he’s not absorbing these values.
And that was all it took. Now “Knob” the elf is a happy addition to our home. And every few hours, Jackson asks me to hide him again. He shouts, “Let’s play Elf on the Shelf!”
Jackson did agree, however, that we should keep the magic part for Baby Darcy. And for Daddy.