It all started last December 24. My then 5-year-old suddenly realized that Pixel, our beloved Elf on the Shelf®, was going to be hitching a ride on Santa's Sleigh and heading back to the North Pole. For reasons that probably involved the fact that it was her first Christmas since her parents split up, little sister lost her damn mind over the imminent departure of our pointy-hatted little friend.

Not even the notion that Santa was coming could calm her down at 11 p.m. on Christmas Eve. Not even her big sister saying she could sleep in her room with her that night could stop the flow of tears, so you know she was having a very serious case of the sads.

Side note: That was the first time I've ever cursed that elf. I'm generally a huge fan of the tradition, even if he does sometimes forget to check in at Santa's workshop overnight.

Anyway, the girl was not ready to see Pixel disappear for the next 11 months and, in a whimper that I latched onto immediately, asked if Pixel could maybe come visit her on her birthday?

Done. Done and DONE. Of course Santa wouldn't mind if Pixel visited for her birthday!

She's been talking about Pixel's return ever since.

A few weeks ago, my mom was shopping for her granddaughters (her favorite pastime) and she found an Elf on the Shelf® birthday kit. She texted me to ask if I had it, and I think my response was something along the lines of, "ZOMG noooo!!!! How PERFECT is that?? She's gonna loooooove it!!!" Because I was super excited and apparently also text like a 12-year-old.

But you know how time just slips by when you're not paying attention sometimes? Well, I forgot to add "read The Elf on the Shelf® a Birthday Tradition book to Cordelia at some point before she turns 6" to my to-do list. Then last Wednesday rolled around, and it occurred to me that I was about to send her packing to her dad's until Monday -- her birthday.

"We have to read Pixel's birthday book!" I exclaimed.

"Oh, I already read it to her," replied my 10-year-old, whom I loved so much in that moment since it was already past bedtime and meltdowns were brewing.

I really should have read the book at some point over the weekend. On Monday I wrapped the Barbie safari toys I'd gotten her with Barbie wrapping paper. I even curled ribbon, people, just in case you were wondering about how seriously I was taking this birthday thing, despite the fact that I hadn't actually read the book. I also discovered that it's impossible to wrap presents and curl ribbon with a cat around, but that's another story.

Everything was all staged in her room. I whistled for Pixel to come from the North Pole, and he magically showed up. I helped him into his little cupcake outfit and complimented him on his adorableness. I thought he might like to sit on top of the little pile of pink presents and ribbon, so I helped him get comfortable. I closed the door to her room (damn cat) and went to pick them up from school.

My brand new 6-year-old was wearing a gold crown and a "Happy Birthday" star sticker. Daddy had been in charge of classroom treats, and apparently the cupcakes were a success (co-parenting for the win!). Little girl was mega happy, and she screamed with about 90,000 decibels when I casually mentioned that someone from the North Pole may or may not be waiting for her at home.

Once she stopped screaming, she asked in a rush, "WHICH CHAIR DID HE DECORATE??"

Ah-humma-whata-now?

"Which chair did he decorate?" my elder daughter clarified. Thanks, Sweetie, that was really helpful. "The book says that when he comes back from the North Pole for birthdays, he chooses a chair and decorates it for the birthday kid!"

Really should have read that book.

"Um, I don't think he knew he was supposed to decorate a chair," I offered lamely.

"But Mommy," the birthday girl said with emotional tears in her eyes, "the book said. The book said, and why would he come all the way here for my birthday and not decorate a chair for me?"

Great. Now I have not only spoiled her birthday, but quite possibly ruined Christmas too.

"You see, I had a pile of presents, and I think he got way too distracted by them to decorate a chair, because that's where I last saw him hanging out. Besides, Santa only had Christmas decorations, so he told Pixel to use what he could find at our house, but I haven't bought any yet because your party isn't until next Saturday."

That's what they call parenting on the fly, just in case you were wondering.

Thankfully, everything ended up being totally joyous. The chair was forgotten, Barbie safari tents and jeeps were assembled, and a very happy little girl got to show her Christmas friend her new dolls. 

There may also be a rumor floating around that Pixel is waiting until the day of her birthday party to decorate a chair. Someone please remind me him of this rumor on Friday night.

Have you ever almost messed up an important part of your kid's big day?

 

Image via Jenny Erikson