Can we talk about the ELF??


Can we talk about the damn elf? I mean, really. I feel like elf vs. no elf has the stress and weight of stay-at-home vs. working moms! For some, the elf represents fun, tradition, mischief, surprise and a little help to get kids to behave. For others, it’s stressful, elicits guilt, forgetfulness and overwhelm. 

I’ll never forget the year our elf arrived, circa 2008: Norman Pizza Owen, he was quickly named. Norman represented a mom’s helper at first – someone else watching for Santa to bribe my kids into behaving appropriately as he flew up to Santa each night to report back on naughty vs. nice behavior. Until the dog ate his head one night and it looked like Normal had a craniotomy. My kids were horrified when they saw the misshapen head. Or, until I forgot to move him and my young children looked sadly with disappointed faces and wonderment about why he didn’t move. Me: “I guess your behavior was questionable yesterday, we’ll see what happens tonight….” Then all day, telling myself not to forget, move the darn elf, put him somewhere cute and funny. 

Pinterest searches. Overwhelm settled in – my mommy counterparts had this dude swimming in marshmallows, building snow forts, colluding with GI Joe and Barbie, and making cookies during the night. It was all I could do to move the little elf 6 inches. 

But everyone else was doing it. Everyone else was creating beautiful “elfie” memories and treasured moments of bribery for their children. I was a working mom with two little kids, exhausted by night’s end, but determined to make Christmas magical. Then…a Christmas miracle occurred, or tragedy, depending on your perspective. One year, my kids found the lobotomized elf – I had attempted to replace him so I could stop taping his hat on to prevent holiday trauma. Jack, probably about 6 or so at the time, found Norman in the office, on a shelf, mid-February. ACK. He looked up at me with the sweetest eyes and said, “It’s ok mom, we know Norman is you. He never moves. Let’s just focus on Santa. At least he’s real.” I felt…relieved. Guilty. Sad. Inspired. All of the above.

And I realized holidays are what we make of them. Not someone else’s version. We can create our own traditions and eliminate unnecessary stress. Now, I choose to focus on traditions that matter to me and my children, not someone else’s version of the holidays. This year, we had turkey burgers with grilled pineapple for Thanksgiving. My kids LOVED it. This year, we are focusing less on “things” for gifts and more on experiences; because we’ve realized that experiences are what help us through hard times and bring us closer together. 

So, whether you’re an elf family or elfless, please know that the most important part of elf-adoption is whether it brings you joy or stress. 

More joy, less stress this holiday season. That’s my wish for all of you. 

In the meantime, take a cue from my friend Melissa. She made things easy and put her elf in a 14-day COVID quarantine upon his arrival. Bless her. That darn elf can simply sit on his behind for 14 days – so she’s left with only 10 days to remember to move the little guy. 

This month, let’s focus on less perfection and more presence. Holidays are the BEST time to do so. 

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