Elf You!

This post originally appeared on December 5, 2013.

elfIt happened again this morning–another reminder of how I am depriving my children, something that I’m sure will leave an emotional scar for decades to come. You see, our house is elfless. You read that right. We do not have an”Elf on the Shelf” (brought to you by Hasbro…batteries not included). Sorry, certain marketing gems bring me back to the commercials of my childhood.

Anyway, there we were, getting ready for school, the boys eating breakfast at the kitchen counter, when a neighbor dropped off her two kids for my wife to put on the bus. “Now, Adam, don’t forget to have a good day at school,”she calls out to him as he bounces through the kitchen. Then, she turns to us and says, “Blinky had to make a special trip to the North Pole to give Santa a report.” The boys and I exchange confused looks. Pam says, “Oh, you have an elf.” “Yep,” she says, smiling, although I can’t tell if her look is one of rejoicing or regret. “He’s helping Santa keep a close eye on them.” We all laugh nervously–my wife and I with the fear that our boys will ask why we don’t have an elf. Thankfully, they don’t. Yet, as we continue with the morning routine, I feel a bit sad for them. They are excluded from this new holiday tradition. We are completely disconnected from the elf craze. This is what it must be like for my Jewish friends who did not grow up with Santa, I think. Lucky them!

I am kind of a curmudgeon when it comes to Christmas. I hate all the hullabaloo about shopping and buying presents, of giving and getting gifts. “We have to get Soandso a gift because they get us one.” “Another pleather wallet! You shouldn’t have, Uncle Marty.” Really, you shouldn’t have. It’s worse with my own kids, who start making preliminary Christmas lists in June! I think they’ve made six this year (so far). I’m such a Grinch that I look forward to the day when they no longer believe in Mr. Claus. Then, I won’t feel bad about shooting down their wish lists. Now, we have to invent stories about why they couldn’t get a thousand dollars worth of Legos from Santa.

I enjoy family get togethers. I like the idea of decorating a tree and eating Christmas cookies, but the whole consumerism thing gives me a headache as thick as Target‘s Christmas catalogue–which arrived before Halloween. And that’s why I was actually glad when we dodged the snowball of Elf on the Shelf. It has gained popularity just as our sons’ belief in Santa is waning. They are seven and nine for Kringle‘s sake. My wife almost caved last year, but I begged her not to give in. Thankfully, she was strong. But it is awkward for us when others mention their elves. Anyone with younger kids, toddlers and such, HAS to have one, like my poor neighbor this morning, whose son is in kindergarten. If our kids were younger, we’d have an elf. And I’d be in HELF–Elf Hell.

I don’t think American culture needs any more encouragement when it comes to celebrating Christmas. As a matter of fact, I wish there was a little more coal handed out. Plus, I’m bothered by the whole “Watching You” concept. It’s bad enough to invent the omnipresent eyes of the invisible Santa, but now to have one of his minions looking in on you, well, in that case why not just call him Big Brother? Sorry to be such a downer, but you can’t convince me of the value of this. Parenting is just one idle threat after another–I don’t need a plastic pixy to do my dirty work. Just as I try to stay away from Black Friday sales–which are still going on a week later, I might add–I try to avoid all things elf.


But I did have fun on my way to work. I fantasized about what I would tell the boys if they do ask why we don’t have an Elf on the Shelf. “Mommy’s allergic.” No. “They cost too much money.” Nope, they know how much they cost because they’re on display in every toy and card store. “They will leave poop in the house.” Definitely not. Knowing my boys, that would make them want one even more. Finally, I fantasize about having a conversation with them where I explain how we can’t get an elf because we have two new dogs under the age of one. Huck and Rosie would attack the elf, and could possibly even kill it, I explain. Next, we would all imagine the elf torn to shreds–its pointy nose and impish smile chewed to bits. Then one of the boys would ask if elves bleed, and I would nod yes. Their eyes would widen, as they hug me and thank me for saving one of Santa’s helpers. Then they would go to their rooms, clean them without asking and see all the toys they already have. “Dad,” they would holler, “come here, quick!” I would run upstairs to find them finishing a note to Santa that reads: Christmas List–Revised (in my fantasy, they know what revised means). “Here,” they would say (in my fantasy, they would speak in unison). Then, they’d hand me the piece of paper, which would state: “All we want for Christmas is peace on Earth.”

My boys…I shake myself from the fantasy just as I am pulling into the parking lot at work. I feel good. I’m oddly proud of my sons for wanting world peace. I remind myself to enjoy Christmas with them this year–it’s probably Owen’s last year “believing”.

And then an image pops into my head that warms my heart: It’s of our two dogs lying by the fire Christmas morning, gnawing on the last remnants of an elf ear . Ahhhh. Don’t you just love the holidays?

Photo credits: Michael Kappel



  1. I’m in the midst of a self-imposed blogging exile for the month of December. I was also going to stop reading other people’s blogs for the month. I’m complying with the former and ignoring the latter. Your blog is a great example of why I can’t stop reading the blogs I follow. Great post. My boys are 16 and 18 so I have absolutely no idea what you’re talking about with Elf on the Shelf. All I can say about what you describe here is “what the hell?” and “Really?”
    I, too, find myself enjoying the season less and less. If we could do away with the entire consumeristic nature of it, as far as I’m concerned, it would be 100 times better. But that aint gonna happen.


  2. Excellent post! We don’t have a dumb ol’ Elf either, because I have officially put my foot down on that particular fad. I completely agree with you about Christmas spiraling out of control with consumerism. And although I cannot stop our friends and family from overloading the kids with toys a-plenty I am really trying to instil in them how important the family time and merriment of the holiday is too.

    Again this was just such a great post!! 🙂


  3. Poor deprived boys! Murray and Felice add magic to christmas at the McAlee house. No threats of watching. They just hang out with us. But its a pain in the ass to move them! Lol Another loved blog entry!! Ya better watch your mailbox i might send an elf to the Trainers! 😉

    Corinne McAlee 610-431-0522 610-864-6152 cell Please use cmcalee1@me.com for future emails



    1. Believe me, you don’t want him over there. And from what I hear, the deterrent doesn’t last very long. One mom commented to me how her girls fight right in front of the elf. Too funny.


  4. Oh how I loved this Mike! Why, oh why, have we let the true meaning of Christmas get away from us? At least I have the memories of growing up in a time when we truly celebrated family and the reason for the season….and we didn’t need elves or Black Friday! 🙂
    You always bring me back to those wonderful memories of growing up in a totally different era….I miss those days! Thank you as always for sharing!


    1. Here, here, Michael. I am childless, but were I with child, I, too, would boycott the elf on the shelf craze. I agree, very Big Brother-ish. Loved your elf hell, helf reference. Hilarious as always!


  5. I didn’t even know elves were a craze (it’s Homestuck, Sherlock, Dr. Who, and Tumblr fandoms in our house now), but our old Christmas box includes three original elves (now heirlooms, eh?) handed down to (that is, dumped on) us by the kids’ grandparents (gee, thanks). They’re faded and worn, but the girls just won’t let them go. Maybe this Christmas, eh?

    Oh, and I just wrote a short piece about losing my belief in Santa Claus when I was five. Owen will weather this particular rite of passage just fine. He comes from hardy stock.

    Happy Christmas!


    1. Funny, I remember those elves from when I was a kid, too. Can’t wait to read your piece. Is it on your blog? Thanks for the twitter retweets by the way. Very kind of you. Happy Christmas.


      1. Yes, I’ve been hiding out and writing a couple of childhood memory pieces. It’s way better than shopping. Plus it saves money (you can’t beat free blogging, well, unless I actually start getting paid to write) and time (I could be writing, right?), not to mention my sanity (for Christmas sake). Did you ever read my Ebeneezer Scrooge piece? I don’t entirely disagree with old Scrooge. WP liked it. Maybe you will too.

        Anyway, I don’t know if the Twits will get our stories read, but they won’t be read if they’re not even out there, right? It’s a lottery of sorts. So many writers, and so few readers. Sometimes I just sit and read my own posts. There’s no sense in letting good writing go unread. Does your family read your posts? Just curious, I am.

        I’m glad to have found your writing, and a Happy Christmas to all!


  6. Thank God those pesky elves haven’t made their way to Australia! Keeping the Santa dream alive makes me nervous. I dread the day my kids look at me with big betrayed eyes and accuse me of lying! But then again I want them to find out, so I can stop sneaking around. Phew, it feels good at admit that! Thanks Michael, your honesty is liberating. 🙂


  7. I remember when I received socks for Christmas it was a good way of putting things in perspective. I only just starting seeing this Elf. I like the close-up photograph of it’s eyes…it reminds me of some of scary toys of my daughter’s Christmases.


      1. Thank you. Merry Christmas to you and your family. I noticed I should not write comments while I’m rushed.


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