I love Christmas. It’s my favorite holiday; always has been. I love the music, the decorations, the festive feeling in the air, the snow – all of it. My eight-year-old loves Christmas, too. We have been watching White Christmas, It’s a Wonderful Life, Christmas Vacation and all the other holiday classics since my daughter was old enough to sit up by herself. We listen to Christmas music at home and in the car. We attend Christmas pageants at church and school. We have an Advent calendar. We put up trees, decorate the house and wait with anticipation for our big Christmas Eve celebration. We do everything Christmasy, except The Elf on the Shelf – until now.
Somehow, by the grace of God, we have managed to escape visits from any type of mischievous elf until just a couple weeks ago. Unbeknownst to me, my boyfriend’s teenage daughter passed her beloved Elf on the Shelf to my daughter sometime after Thanksgiving. Since this acquisition, the Christmas Season at our home has taken an unexpected turn toward insanity.
Morning, December 4th:
Antonia tells me that her elf hasn’t moved even though December is in full swing.
“Mom!” she exclaims at breakfast. “Olivia’s elf has been all over the house already and my elf hasn’t even moved!”
“You have an elf?” I ask in horror. “When did you get an elf? How did you get an elf?”
“Emma gave her to me. Her name is Jingles. She’s a girl elf and she isn’t moving. Olivia’s elf left her a note on the bathroom mirror yesterday.”
“Umm…wow. OK. Huh. Maybe your elf is slow?” I offer, pathetically. “Maybe she’s new at this and doesn’t know what to do, yet.”
“Mom! She knows what to do! She was Emma’s elf before,” says my logical child.
“OK, well, go to school. Maybe she’ll move tonight,” I instruct her, panic-stricken.
I drive Antonia to school and immediately text my boyfriend: Did you know that Emma gave Antonia her Elf on the Shelf and now she hasn’t moved in four days?
Albie: No. Haha! That will be fun.
Me: What?! Fun? Are you kidding? I have managed to avoid this whole racket for the last eight years. Seriously? Emma is grounded.
Albie: You’re cute. I’ll help you with it. It’s fun!
Me: Like a sharp stick in the eye.
Evening, December 4th:
I tuck Antonia into bed and she informs me that she has had a serious talk with Jingles the Elf.
“I talked to her, Mom. I asked her to move. I figured maybe she wouldn’t start moving until I asked her nicely, so I did. I am sure she will move tonight.”
“Good idea,” I say to my daughter, and kiss her goodnight. The elf is nestled on a shelf in Antonia’s closet. Couldn’t she just stay there? I wonder. I mean – she’s an Elf on the Shelf so, she should be comfortable, right? Albie thinks differently.
“When she’s asleep, go back and get the elf and we’ll figure out something clever,” he tells me.
Around midnight, I walk into Antonia’s dark bedroom. I trip over Friedrich, my 99-pound Belgian Shepherd, who is sleeping on the floor by the bed. He blends into the darkness. He jumps up and runs out of the room as I catch myself on Antonia’s bed. Antonia wakes up.
“What are you doing?” she asks.
“Nothing. Go back to sleep,” I tell her. “I just came to cover you up.”
“I don’t want covers!” She is nasty when you wake her from peaceful slumber.
I tiptoe back out the room without the damn elf. Albie is waiting in the hallway.
“Where’s the elf?” he whispers, staring at me in the darkness.
“I tripped over the dog!” I whisper back. He laughs. This pisses me off.
“Now what do I do? Set the alarm for 2:00 am so I can go back in there when Antonia is asleep again?”
2:13 am, December 4th:
I tiptoe into my daughter’s dark bedroom making sure to avoid any sleeping dogs, and rustle around on the shelf where I remember the elf is sitting. I feel paper, a book, a backpack and finally something that feels like a stuffed animal. I grab it, hold it to my chest and scurry out of the room without looking back. I wander into the dining room and stick the elf on the fireplace mantle. The dogs look up at me, on alert.
“Go back to sleep,” I say. “It’s just the elf.”
7:38 am, December 5th:
“MOM!” Antonia yells loudly enough to wake up the neighbors. “JINGLES MOVED! She’s not in my bedroom, but I can’t find her! SHE MOVED!!”
“That’s great, Antonia. See? I told you she would,” I tell her as I sleepily pour coffee into my “I Heart NY” mug.
“I can’t wait to go to school and tell Olivia that Jingles moved. Now…where is she?”
“I have no idea,” I feign surprise as best I can before 8:00 am.
Eventually, Antonia finds the elf on the mantle, goes to school, and I move on with my day.
What does that crazy elf do next? Find out here: Elf on the Shelf Chronicles: Diary of a Victimized Parent, Part 2