SPOILER ALERT: Do NOT allow children to read this! Major Spoiler Alert! (Probably THE spoiler alert of all spoiler alerts).
With the Christmas season all wrapped up and put away for the next 12 months, I decided to reflect on my experience as a mother to a six-year-old. People, I’ve never had to lie so much in my life. My little man, X, is asking questions these days. LOTS of questions and that means I have to make up answers… Ahem. Okay. Lie.
Exhibit #1: Santa. I am glad my parents lied to me about this. I have lots of warm memories of anticipation and excitement about getting presents and being a good girl. Thanks, Mom and Dad. I really do mean that. Santa was slightly scary for me when I actually met him in person, and still is for my own kids.
Exhibit #2: On a tangent, I must note that X screamed his head off (I have pictures to prove that, too) when he met the Easter Bunny. Those were a bad couple of years, but he managed to keep it together for Santa.
I can deal with lying about Santa and the Easter Bunny because these stories embody the things I want my kids to know and live by: generosity, hope, magic, happiness. But now there’s a new craze that makes me lie on a daily basis during the Christmas season.
Exhibit #3: Elf on the Shelf. X’s teacher has an elf on the shelf. We actually have an original elf on the shelf from the 60s, but I chose to remain blissfully ignorant of this elf on the shelf phenom until it hit close to home. It started with X-man’s daily report about Snowball (the classroom elf). He’d follow up his report with questions about OUR sedentary elf. It went a little something like this.
X: Today, Snowball left everyone gummy bears while we were at P.E.
Me: Wow. (Notice the short response so as not to trip up on my ignorance).
X: Why doesn’t our elf on the shelf work?
My subconscious: Anything you say will be a lie.
Me: [Squirms in chair]. We must have forgotten to activate it.
My subconscious: Liar! Liar McLiar-ton! This is your child for God’s sake.
X: [Considers.] Hmm. How do we activate it?
Me: Please, make it stop! Make the questions stop. I don’t know. Let me look it up on the Internet.
Note: The information I have put together is this. The Elf on the Shelf watches and listens all day long (slightly creepy). Then it reports back to Santa at the North Pole nightly (slightly like Communist Russia and the KGB). To help it fly, you must put a dish of sugar out for it. The elf needs a name. Ours was going to be Crazy, but we settled with Bud. (Fair enough, an elf does need a name). When the elf flies back every night, it lands somewhere else in the house, so the kids have to find it the next day. (One more thing for me to remember to do. Not a big thing. But a thing nonetheless. Not to mention, I also feel like I’m lying. Again.) An elf on the shelf cannot be touched by human hands. (Very good rule, elf on the shelf creators.)
So I moved Bud semi-regularly. And once in a while he had sugar. But really I’m still kind of struggling with the whole elf on the shelf phenomenon. I thought it would go away after a year or two of enthusiasm. But I think it’s here to stay for the duration of my two kids’ childhoods.
I’m struggling and here are my inner thoughts about Bud the elf: Why do I have to do ONE MORE thing over the holiday season? I have a baby. I’m BUSY. I also don’t want to have to lie on a daily basis about our elf.
But then there’s the Christmas and wonder part of me that’s thinking…
We can make memories. It’s so sweet when they’re little. They believe in magic. Deep down, I believe in magic too. And I LOVE Christmas. I break out the Christmas music in July just to get a taste of it and then start playing the stuff everyday after Thanksgiving (sometimes after Halloween). Decorating the Christmas tree has become more fun every year as X gets more patience and enthusiasm for the project. It’s fun to watch him and hubby decorate our front yard with lights. Christmas is fun, even though it does require some work.
So what have we learned here? Lie. Lie like there’s no tomorrow and then lie some more.
No, really, when I think of the effort that it takes to keep these traditions in motion, it makes me realize that we, as parents, are guardians of magic. These phenomenon live on because we put in the effort to help our kids understand that magic is possible. And in a world where real lying occurs–the kind that hurts people and causes war, famine, holocaust–we should feel okay when we make up stories to call into being all of the wonder of a season that allows wonderful things to be real.