The Narc on the Shelf

Thirteen years into this parenting gig I was pretty sure that I was acing low-key holiday parenting.

Kids get something big-ish from us, modest things from Santa (equality, ya know), a few books, maybe an experience, but, most importantly NO ELF ON THE SHELF.

The older two had asked, and a healthy combination of vagueness and procrastination got us through the holiday danger zone. This year I straight up told the 6YO that the Elf on the Shelf’s whole job is to tattle on you to Santa.

And yet the 6YO asked, and asked, and asked. Mostly, he asked the correct parent – Daddy. Two days later, Amazon delivered us our very own Elf. (Dammit, Bezos!)

And so, on November 30th, it began.

The 13 YO was nonchalant.  The 11 YO, a true middle child, was deeply offended – Why does HE get an Elf? I always wanted an Elf!

Then, the Battle of the Name: 6 & 11 couldn’t find a compromise between Tyler (his favorite) and Taylor (her favorite). Their inability to find common ground on this probably explains everything about America today.

They settled on Snowball, because clearly middle-class, mid-western, suburban mediocrity needed to be reinforced by mundanity.

By December 2nd we had our first parental failure to move Snowball, triggering the first epic tantrum of Who Touched the Elf?

On December 6th, some genius (🙋🏻) decided to hang Snowball from the chandelier, and then throw herself a birthday party.  Which led to a cascade of issues beginning with a 6 YO standing in the middle of the dining room yelling at increasingly inebriated adults that they’d better not touch his Elf! This was followed by a fairly impressive hangover, an unmoved Elf, and the second epic tantrum of Why Did You Let Your Grown-Up Friends Touch My Elf?!?

The older two kids had finally had enough. We, their parents, were clearly incapable of properly managing an Elf. Our positioning thus far had been both irregular and boring, and it was time to take over.

As somewhat recent members of the Greatest International Conspiracy Of All Time, they take their new duty quite seriously.

Shortly after bedtime, one of them will sneak downstairs for the repositioning. Sometimes they both come down which generally ends in whisper fights about who’s idea is dumber. Twice there has been cooperation and collaboration.

But the real gift, the part that has made this whole stupid, performative, adorable Elf journey totally worth it, is the way the 6 YO bounces out of bed every day to find Snowball’s new landing spot, and the looks of adoration and pride on the older kids’ faces when he finds the Elf, and the Christmas Magic they made for him.


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