To the Mama Who Is Doing Elf on the Shelf Even Though She Doesn’t Want To

I never wanted to deal with the whole Elf on the Shelf thing.

Before the creative and crafty parents that truly enjoy posing little Tinklebert Humperdinck in the Barbie dream house bash me for being a horrible parent and a poor sport, allow me to explain myself.

It’s not that I’m some evil Ebenezerette that wishes to rob my children of Christmas magic. It’s not solely because I have no desire to play travel agent and send the thing jet setting all over the house. It’s because the magic of Christmas has successfully existed for centuries without an overpriced marketing ploy that throws a candy cane colored monkey wrench into my long-standing elf beliefs!

When I was a child, Santa’s elves were a mysterious and unseen little people who I imagined resembled Danny DeVito in minky pants. I never knew where they were hiding, and I spent the Christmas season wondering if Peeping Tomawiggles was lurking in the bushes outside my bedroom window. The unknown whereabouts of Santa’s helpers helped keep me on the straight and narrow.

Since the introduction of Elf on the Shelf, the mystery associated with the magical little beings has been diminished. The kids clearly see him hanging from the dining room chandelier and believe they have the freedom to raise nine kinds of hell with toothpaste and toilet paper in the unseen bathroom. That’s a fa-la-la-la-fail on the elf’s part.

When we were given an Elf on the Shelf as a present last year, I reluctantly placed it on the mantle and left it undisturbed for days. My children came home from school with elaborate tales that they’d heard from friends about finding their respective elves in boxes of Cheerios or camping out in piles of marshmallows, and they wanted to know why our girl elf, Snowbelle, was such a boring old maid.

I channeled my creativity and began moving the elf half an inch down the mantle every night. This just wasn’t adventurous enough for my children, and I contemplated putting it in the attic and telling my kids that Santa had relocated Snowbelle to the Himalayas. That would allow me to have free mantle space to place my Worst Mother Ever Award.

I just couldn’t compete with the elf stories that my children heard at school. Elves all over the community were casting lines in pond bowls for cheesy goldfish. Elves were eating all the pizza rolls. Elves were wrapping toilets in festive paper. I have a hard enough time wrapping square boxes. I’m not wrapping toilets. That’s wasteful. And asinine.

The name says it all. It’s an elf. On a shelf. A shelf is where it should stay. It isn’t called Elf Making a Damn Mess in the Kitchen. Moving the thing should not require a twenty-foot ladder, bungee cords and a Pinterest log-in. It should do as it’s rhyming name implies and stay on a shelf.

Let’s get back to basics. What’s the sole purpose of the elf? Elves are supposed to be at the North Pole helping Santa make Nintendos and, most importantly, keeping children in line, right? Instead of making the elf the star of a comedy/travel show, parents should simply allow the elf to serve its purpose.

Here are a few ideas that help the elf help you.

First of all, don’t break out the elf while the Thanksgiving gravy boat is still on the dining table. Snowbelle only sticks around our house for twelve days because a song about doves, golden rings, pregnant geese and the Patridge family states that there are twelve days of Christmas. However, if you have really horrible offspring and you are unable to grow a pair and keep them in line, you’d probably like to con them into doing things for longer than 12 days. If this is the case, please launch your elf into super nanny mode in July and learn to stand your ground in the meantime.

  • Main Shelf: This is a mantle or shelf located in the “hub” of the home. When the elf utilizes this location, it helps protect the breakable ornaments on the Christmas tree and keeps Caillou’s whining from being turned up to deafening decibels. Always go back to this shelf when in doubt.
  • Pantry Shelf:
    Place the elf on top of your favorite snack. If the kids can’t touch the elf, they can’t touch the bag of Milano cookies which serves as the elf’s couch.
  • Kid’s Bedroom Shelf:
    Place the elf where it will be the first thing your child sees upon waking. This emphasizes the whole “sees you when you’re sleeping” thing and also helps motivate your child to do as you’ve repeatedly asked and pick up Legos and other foot-harming pieces of minuscule plastic from their bedroom floor. If you have multiple children, congratulations! This can be used multiple nights.
  • Bathroom Shelf:
    This will ensure that your kids wash their hands and brush their teeth at least once this holiday season. If you have terribly nasty children with horrible bathroom habits, feel free to use this one as often as you’d like.
  • Kitchen Shelf:
    I plan ahead for dinners when broccoli will be served, and I place the elf on the kitchen counter. My kids eat vegetables like they are mini corn dogs when Snowbelle is watching.
  • Car Shelf:
    This is also known as a dashboard. Obviously this should be used when long car rides are scheduled.
  • Repeat: See? It’s simple really. Does your child like to set things on fire? Put little Twinkleberry on a shelf next to the box of matches. Got a kid with a headboard smothered in boogers? Put the elf on the child’s bedroom shelf next to a box of Kleenex.

I long for the days when Santa’s helpers were mystical, magical, mysterious and unseen little people and not some overpriced brand. But, the times they are a-changing. If I must participate in this new “tradition,” I choose to let the elf serve its purpose — to set on a shelf and encourage my children to be “nice.”

Parents need all the help they can get. Let your elf help you.

Unless you just thoroughly enjoy going out of your way to play with dolls and wrap toilet seats in tinsel.

Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night.


Follow Whoa Susannah on Facebook or shop for her books on Amazon!

Susannah B. Lewis
Susannah B. Lewis is a humorist, blogger for Whoa! Susannah, and freelance writer whose work has appeared in numerous publications. The author of Can’t Make This Stuff Up!, Lewis studied creative writing at Jackson State Community College and earned her bachelor's degree in business management from Bethel College. She lives in Medina, Tennessee, with her husband, Jason, their three children, and three dogs. Her latest book, How May I Offend You Today?: Rants and Revelations from a Not-So-Proper Southern Lady, releases nationwide October 20 , 2020.

Related Posts


Recent Stories