elf on the shelfI know he's been around for a few years, but it wasn't until last Christmas that I heard about the Elf on the Shelf. Another mom (who shall remain nameless, mostly because I can't remember her name) at my kids' school tipped me off to the phenomenon, and with a borderline disturbing amount of zeal. "It's the best thing ever," she told me, her eyes wide.

"You put this elf doll on a shelf in your house, and tell your kids that he's watching them all the time and he reports back to Santa every single night. So they're scared into being good! Because who wants to be on the naughty list?"

I smiled and nodded, but the concept gave me the creeps, and still does. The idea of Santa-as-Big-Brother is already pretty screwed up, if you ask me (he sees you when you're sleeping? He knows if you're awake?). Now we're supposed to tell our kids some toy is really a member of the jolly fat man's pointy-eared Gestapo? Sweet dreams!

Anyway, I know I'm in the minority -- seems like most moms are pro-Elf on the Shelf. This year, the "Christmas Tradition" even got its own animated special. (Though I must say the cartoon elves aren't nearly as fiendish-looking as the actual toys, which have a sort of scary retro vibe going on. You know, like Howdy Doody.)

I'm not going to say I've never shrieked "Santa's watching!!" at my misbehaving kids in a moment of sheer desperation, but on the whole, I really do try to avoid using the fear of being passed over by a mythical bearer of gifts as motivation. Kids are supposed to be going to sleep and having visions of sugarplums this time of year, not visions of mean-spirited elves spying on their every move.

Do you think The Elf on the Shelf is creepy or cool?


Image via Amazon