When my brothers and I were children, our parents would buy us a flimsy piece of cardboard with punch-out chocolate of suspect quality and call it Advent. I can’t speak for my brothers, but I know I never did manage to eat only one chocolate per day. I was always midway through Advent by December 3rd.
Then all us over-achieving Generation Xers had to grow up and have kids. Suddenly, punch-out chocolates seemed gauche. Positively pedestrian! We created a new kind of Advent calendar. Many knew kinds of Advent calendars. There are Advent boxes and Advent bags. Advent houses and Advent stockings. Advent trees with 24 packages. Advent, Advent, Advent.
And it wasn’t enough for us to swap the delivery mechanism. Oh, no. We had to go and change what we were delivering, too. No foil-wrapped chocolates of indeterminate age and manufacturer for our children! We, in our infinite pre-housing crash wisdom, gave gifts–some big, some small; some fun, some practical–for 24 days straight. It was Chanukah on steroids.
I did that. Guilty, 100%. Our budget didn’t allow me to give gifts for 24 days straight, though, which coincided nicely with the part of me that occasionally thought…something about this just isn’t right. My usual gifts to the boys were Christmas pajamas, maybe some mittens and a hat, and a pair of socks. One year I gave the boys hot cocoa mugs. The remaining 20 days were things like trim the tree or drive around and see lights or watch a movie with mom and dad. Those were fun. We didn’t do the calendar this year. With everyone so sick, especially Nicholas, I just didn’t have the time to get it together. The gift of “experiences” may be free, but it takes time to plan and organize.
Alas, parents far better than I weren’t content stuffing Advent calendars and celebrating Christmas. Of course not! Why be stressed when, with a little work, you can be positively insane? Let’s create the Elf on a Shelf, an androgynous little doll with adoption papers (naturally) that sits in your home watching over children. Every night, the elf goes back to the North Pole and reports to Santa who has been naughty and who has been nice. You move it every night to a new location as proof of its travels. It’s supposed to keep kids in line. So does my withering stare, but okay, fine. I get it. Cute!
But then. Then! We couldn’t leave well enough alone and have the elf move twenty four(ish) times. No. Noooooo. No. Now the elf with the name you register at an online adoption center (naturally) does things while children are sleeping or at school or practicing cello. They upend laundry baskets. They put food dye in the faucets. They make cookies, but (hahaha!) they leave a big mess of flour and cracked eggs all over the kitchen!
Oh my gosh, that silly elf! Whoever is going to clean that up? Is it going to be Papa Claus? Because Mama Claus spent all day shopping for teachers’ gifts and bought her mother in-law a sweater at Kohl’s. Ho! Ho! Ho!
I love my boys. I really do. I read to them. I bake with them. I shuttle them around to all their activities. I volunteer in their classes, team-mom their soccer teams, and pretend like there is nothing I would rather do on this earth than go on a play date. This week we are transferring chrysalises into a butterfly cage and next week making marbled paper. By God, I do not have the time or the energy or the desire to clean up a mess made by an elf on a shelf.
I don’t need an Elf of the Shelf. I need a Ryan Gosling on a shelf, the kind that will write me letters every day for a year. Or a Don Draper on a Shelf. Twenty four days of mixed drinks and nihilism sounds good to me. And after finishing that Fever series last week, I’m all in favor of 365 days of Christmas if it means I get a Jericho Barrons on a Shelf. Make that two dozen Jericho Barrons on a Shelf. I’m a reader; I have lots of shelves. Lots and lots of shelves.
Please don’t judge me. I’m a good mom, I promise. And if you are one of those moms with an Elf of a Shelf who loves to type out elfin letters or clean up messes or leave little presents to your kids from “Belegurphen” or “Ashley,” please know I’m not judging you, either. Everyone is different, and there is room in this town for both of us. There just isn’t room on my shelf for an elf.
p.s. The boys want an Elf of a Shelf so badly they can taste it. Just watch: next year I’ll cave.