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I Just Can't Help My Elf

Why the Elf On the Shelf may send this father into therapy.

If you have a toddler, a preschooler, or a elementary-aged kid, chances are you have either heard of or own an Elf On the Shelf. (If you’ve never heard of this phenomenon, please click the link and prepare to be amazed.) To keep things brief, I’ll explain it this way: your child has their very own tiny felt elf, indued with magic powers of observation and flight, and this elf helps Santa keep track of whether or not your kid has been good or bad. Each night when your youngun goes off to dream of sugarplums (whatever those are), the elf flies to the North Pole to rat the child out.

I guess it depends on your kid, but my daughter, Ella, freaking LOVES her elf. His name is Eli.

He is creepy.

And not just because of his Orwellian nature. If you look closely at a picture of one of those things, you can see that its eyes are sort of dead, with a bizarre sheen to them. And the eyes are looking off to the elf’s right; never at you. There’s something suspicious about an elf that won’t look you in the eye. And the long slender body, with no discernible hands or feet (and no identifiable fingers or toes), seems built for the kind of creeping around your house that even the Tooth Fairy would find abhorrent.

Obviously, I don’t like the little fella.

Well, that’s not entirely true – he doesn’t bother me, really. The game of moving him around and hiding him for Ella and Jon to find each morning is kind of fun, and Ella’s imagination – how she gives him so much more life in her mind than is required – makes me marvel at my children and enjoy the season a little bit more.

I guess what I really don’t like is the design of the elf itself. Which is kind of pathetic. But hey – I’m weird.

I get that the elf doesn’t have to be spectacular looking; in fact, in a world where so much is overwrought design-wise, I suppose it’s almost charming how lacking in design the elf on our shelf really is. But honestly, it just bugs me to no end that the thing look likes the love-child of Howdy Doody and a Sock Monkey. I mean, at least they could’ve given the thing pants. Nobody has worn a solid red jumpsuit since Britney Spears.

Why exactly I’m confessing this is beyond me. I don’t know of anyone else who’s as bothered by the appearance of a once-a-year toy that spends the majority of its life hidden between the ficus and the just-purchased-and-already-half-dead-poinsettia. And like I said, my kids love the thing, the story is cute, and as a discipline tool it can’t be overrated.

Was I scarred as a kid by some 50′s era plushie? Is that why I have an aversion to this thing? Do I need a couple sessions on someone’s couch to recover some kind of repressed memory? I don’t know.

All I know is that right now, a tiny plastic and felt elf sits on a shelf in my living room and gives me the kind of heebie-jeebies Danny Torrance got when he discovered his two playmates at the Overlook Hotel. As a grown man, I can’t help but crack sarcastic and mean-spirited jokes about the thing to direct my attention away from just how much the sucker’s eyes creep me out. I think I need help.

Because obviously, I can’t help my elf. Uh, self.

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Tracie Webb December 01, 2011 at 02:12 PM
Oh my gosh. You crack me up. Our home has never had the "elf" but friends of ours did....same effect...creeeeepy!!!!!!. I remember, being a kid, thinking that pictures and posters on the wall were watching me, so the thought that this little guy runs around the house completely on his own would totally push over the edge. Funny junk I must say. Thank you for that early morning giggle.
Jason Brooks December 01, 2011 at 04:52 PM
Tammy - I'll take a tiny invisible tree monkey over a tiny creepy felt elf. Even the fact that I have to type the word "felt" to accurate describe the thing amps the creepiness up by a factor of ten...
Jason Brooks December 01, 2011 at 04:55 PM
Tracie - I once had a poster of Darth Vader that creeped me out because the eyes followed you wherever you went in my room, so I can relate. By way of update, my daughter got up this morning and asked, "Where's Eli?" When she found him, hanging from a plant in her playroom, she looked at him and then turned to me, frowning. "OK," she said, one hand on her hip, the other pointing to the elf. "That's just weird." So maybe this will be the last year for our creepy felt friend... I can only hope.
Deanna December 02, 2011 at 12:31 AM
We have two elves perched in our Christmas tree and have had for years. It just wouldn't be the same without them! It's a tradition that started with my children's grandmother. I'm also guilty of passing this tradition down to my children.
Jason Brooks December 02, 2011 at 01:52 AM
Deanna - Nothing wrong with a little family tradition. Hopefully, though, your elves don't make your children think of serial killers... ;)

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