Lesson 28: Elf on the Shelf -- Innocent Holiday Whimsy or Dangerous Informant?

Being a Mom 64

A few years ago I went to visit my sister around Christmas and her kids told me that they had to be very good because "the elf on the shelf is watching us." It sounded like the beginning of a bad Stephen King novel, but turns out it was just a tiny stuffed elf that parents hide around the house so that the elf can report back to Santa. Because nothing says “Merry Christmas” like intentionally bringing in a spy to hide in your house, eavesdrop on your family, and then report all questionable activity back to the authorities. 

I told my sister that I thought the whole thing smacked of McCarthyism and she pointed out that it was more accurately a manifestation of Freud’s Super-ego in elf form.

I countered that most of Freud’s theories have been disproved. She argued that it was a stuffed elf that made her children brush their teeth more often. I carefully considered that and then asked where I could buy one.

I didn’t buy one though. Mostly because I couldn’t find one. And also because I don’t really want a tiny elf judging me whenever I make a booze slushie at midnight or purposely avoid flossing. I face enough judgment in this world without paying for some soulless-eyed elf to question me when I have to make my kid sandwiches made out of waffles because I forgot to buy bread. I get that enough from my husband, thankyouverymuch.   

Plus, the cats love to disembowel Hailey’s stuffed toys so I’m fairly sure that having my kid wake up to a mutilated elf spy who is expected back at Santa’s Workshop would be traumatic at best.

Frankly, if I’m going to stoop to using stuffed animals to force my kid to be good, I’d just skip the elf and buy a teddy bear nanny cam. And then I’d sit down at Christmas to run a holiday reel of all the injustices done in this house. Except that most of the injustices would just be videos of the cats purposely knocking things into the toilet and me screaming at them about how they don’t deserve plumbing. So really it would just be a highlight reel of why the cats and I don’t get along.

And that’s why I’m against bringing in stuffed-animal-espionage during the holidays.   


PS.  This post was originally about the true meaning of Christmas, but then I got distracted with McCarthyism and cats. I’m not entirely sure how that happened. 

I blame communism.   

christmas, behavior


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Ember... Emberbaby

Hilarious article!

aneela aneela

funny stuff...but no elves here lol

Kritika Kritika


colin... colins_mom

I'm dying!! That was priceless!

nonmember avatar Laura

I'm kind of disappointed that the elf isn't an actual nanny cam.

nonmember avatar Laura B

I think the McCarthyism/espionage is what appealed to the housemate when he bought one for the kid. He and the nanny were trying to get the kid to name him "007" and that's how we ended up with an elf spy named "48".

nonmember avatar Ha

An adult trying hard to still be the 'cool kid' in school.

nonmember avatar Suebob

This is just another attempt to make the Elven lifestyle acceptable to average Americans. Quite frankly, I'm worried.

nonmember avatar TwoWishes Tara

In DC, there is a trendy European storefront restaurant that makes sandwiches out of waffles. You are clearly on the cutting edge.

3badm... 3badmonkeys

That elf has thwarted at least 3 melt-downs thankyouverymuch.  He also brought donuts this week.  Buddy the Elf for the win.

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