WRITTEN BY LEIGH RIPLEY
Magical creatures are pretty lame around our house. The Tooth Fairy never, ever comes on the exact day a child loses a tooth – once she was two months late. The Easter Bunny forgets to eat his carrots and never leaves footprints in the snow. Not once has a Leprechaun visited and left behind evidence of Irish trickery (I think someone forgot to give us one). Santa does arrive promptly on the 25th of December, but I sleep restlessly every Christmas Eve, dreaming the same terrible dream each year – that Santa, like the Tooth Fairy, will forget about us. But of all the mythical disappointments my three children have endured, the Elf on the Shelf is by far the worst.
We received the little elf with a freakish red boneless body and hard plastic face six years ago. The kids were thrilled; I was angry. We don’t have good luck with this sort of thing.
In the book that “Elfie” came with, we were informed that he would watch over the kids and make sure they stayed off the naughty list until Christmas. Each night, he would fly back to the North Pole and report the kids’ behavior to Santa Claus and then return to a different spot in the house before they woke up. And the book sternly warned NOT to touch the elf or he would lose his magic power and ability to fly back and forth from Bozeman to the North Pole.
Elfie did what he was supposed to do for all of about a week. Then, one day, we discovered the inevitable: Elfie had remained stationary overnight . . . hadn’t moved an elfish inch in 24 hours. C-rap.
I heard screaming from the bathroom where Elfie had been the day before (and still remained) and where all three children were accusing each other of “killing Elfie.” So I did what any parent would do: I made up an excuse (the first of many, of course) for Elfie.
“Maybe he didn’t move because someone didn’t brush their teeth?”
“Maybe he didn’t move because you girls were fighting last night and he didn’t want to tell Santa.”
“Maybe he didn’t move because you told me dinner was gross?”
To complicate matters, our elf is boring. Have you perused Elf on the Shelf on Pinterest? Some wear little homemade clothes, color, watch TV and eat popcorn; others leave messages in red and green M&M’s, make snow angels in flour, have paper bag races with stuffed animals and sip maple syrup with Barbie. Seriously – Barbie? We’re lucky if Elfie even moves.
I can’t tell you how many times between December 1 and 25 I’ve woken in the middle of the night in a panic that our pathetic excuse for an Elf on the Shelf hasn’t moved a muscle and have jumped from the bed to make sure he’s doing his job (or made my husband do so).
At dinner recently, the elf came up in conversation and the entire family agreed: he’s a loser. So it shouldn’t have come as
a shock when the middle child announced firmly, “Why doesn’t someone just touch him already and get it over with? Then we can get a new Elf of the Shelf, one that actually does something.”
Waves of terror rippled through my husband and me. Admittedly, our elf sucks, but a new one probably wouldn’t be much better (please refer to our track record with our Tooth Fairy). So we explained to the kids that Elfie is a part of our family and although he doesn’t move a lot and has never taken part in Barbie hijinks, he is ours. And what would Santa Claus think if Elfie showed up in his workshop, crying, explaining that the Ripley girls wanted an upgrade because he wasn’t “good enough?” I don’t think he would be very happy with us and our greed.
So was this a good enough excuse for Elfie?
I don’t know. What I do know is that when Elfie surfaces from the North Pole this year, he and I are going to have a sit down. He’s going to move every night, leave witty notes, zip line on garlands and hang out with Barbie. Otherwise, I plan to shake that little man and offer him up as a dog toy.
In all seriousness, everyone knows the spirit of all these fantasy figures is real and manifest in the wide eyes and open mind of a child. And we only have so many years to enjoy it. So Elfie, let’s step up our game this year. Easter Bunny and Tooth Fairy, I’ll deal with you later.