The Dreaded Return of the Elf on the Shelf

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It's time, y'all—time for the elves to show up in my mailbox. Really, they have been shoved in a basket in my laundry room since last December and my 10-year-old has already found them. Damn it. I couldn't decide if that was the perfect time to spill the truth, or try to make the magic of the elves last a bit longer. For the sake of the younger sisters, I decided to try to make it last longer, but I do not like the elves. Not one bit.

I really wish I never would have started the elves. But I did, and I've wracked my brain over what to do with them to turn their existence into something I can handle. Something positive. Something to help deliver the true meaning of Christmas. Nothing that will require that I get up at 2 a.m. to move the darn elves. (And yes, I say elves, because back when I was young and naive, I bought three. Three kids, three elves. Made sense then. Now, not so much.) Nothing that will require me to make a mess that I do not have time to clean up—or make, for that matter. Nothing that I will find on Pinterest.

You know ... there's a big world out there. I want my kids to think outside of the little bubble we live in. It's hard for them to do that when we live in a community where everyone (for the most part) looks the same and lives the same. While I want them sheltered from the craziness and evil in this world, I also want them thinking of others and realizing all that they are blessed with. I don't want them wanting more and more stuff; I want them yearning for more experiences and more information to fill their growing minds and hearts. I want them thinking about and caring for others.

In a world that is so broken and so unpredictable, it's hard for me to spend too much time on these imaginary creatures that destroy my home and distract the thoughts of my kids. They are already disappointed that our elves don't do the crazy things that their friends' elves do. While I really want to tell them that most of their friends' moms have ALL DAY to move those damn things, while I'm at work, I tell them that I ask the elves to stay calm and not make messes. I'd rather my kids rush home excited to work together to spread Christmas cheer than express disappointment in how their elves aren't very fun.

So, here's my plan of attack: The elves will arrive as planned. They will exit the laundry room and move their way to the mailbox or be delivered to our front porch—who knows. The kids will open the package, scream with joy, set them in place, and the fun will begin!

The elves will have missions. They won't be at our house much, because they will be traveling the world looking for kids who aren't as blessed as mine—kids who could use extra cheer—and my kids will be asked to help. For example, the elves will be delivered but will quickly depart on a mission. They will leave notes for my kids. I'm sure some kind co-workers won't mind helping me write those to disguise the handwriting. The elves may stay one night, but then a note will appear in their place and it may read something like this:

Dear kids,
So sorry we had to leave your warm cozy house, but the Christmas countdown is on and there are kids who really need our help! There's a boy who lives near you (or name a city near you, your own city or even overseas in another country—wherever you feel is appropriate to focus on). He loves to go outside to make snowmen, but he doesn't have any boots. We watched him play outside the other day in his old tennis shoes that have holes in the bottom. We could use your help to get him some new shoes and boots! Before we return on Thursday, help your mom and dad with some chores to earn money to put toward new shoes and boots for this boy!

You could take your kids out to buy an inexpensive pair of boots, or ask them to ask friends at school if they have any spare boots they could purchase—or donate, which would be even better! Make it their mission: Give them ownership in how to approach the issue and form a solution. A child needs boots and your children can help! You could drop the boots off to any school and they will find someone who will use them. There may be schools around you that could use the help more than others.

Another note might say:

Dear kids,
Once again we were called away to help make someone happy! Right down the road from you, there's a place where older people live. These people are very kind and loving, yet since they are old and can't get around well, they spend most of their time there. We think they'd be a lot happier if they had some nice artwork for their walls! We've left some blank canvases and paints for you to get creative!

You could either take your kids to the "old folks home" to drop off the artwork or the elves could come back, pick up the artwork and deliver it the next time they leave—which means you will have secretly drop them off.

One last idea:

Dear kids,
We are secretly watching a family that lives near you. It's just a mommy and her four kids. She works all day and sometimes at night. Her kids think a box of macaroni and cheese is a big treat for dinner, as they often eat cereal or bread and peanut butter. Wouldn't it be fantastic if this mom had a nice warm meal to feed her kids when she got home from work? Look through some recipe books (or get on Pinterest) to find two meals you could all make together to give this family. They will think your meal is such a gift! We will be back to see you on Friday!

Again, if you delivered these meals—frozen—to any school, they could find someone to give them to. They may even hang onto them for a couple weeks and send them home to families as needed.

If you choose to go this route with your elves, remember to keep the missions realistic and manageable for you. Your kids could help in super simple ways, such as drawing pictures for the residents at an assisted living facility, helping a neighbor shovel their driveway, et cetera.

We have a sponsor child in Ethiopia, so our elves' missions may become more global to help make a connection to our sponsor child over the holidays. Whatever you choose to do, you'll feel good knowing the elves are bringing more than just chaos and craziness. The elves could come the first day, get into mischief, leave and not come back until a day or two before Christmas, and get into some more mischief! It's totally your call.

It's a win-win situation. I don't have to deal with the elves on a daily basis. When they are "home" I can choose to let them get into some mischief if I feel like it, or keep it simple. Before you know it, they will be whisked off on another mission and while I'm enjoying the elf vacation, my kids are focusing on doing good deeds for the holidays.

Written by Carrie TenBrink, a mom of three, kindergarten teacher by day and mom/chauffeur/cook/housekeeper/blogger by night. Blogging is her therapy. Read more at Mrs Miscellaneous.blogspot.com.

Photo courtesy of Heather Chapp.


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