Imagine your spouse takes you out for your birthday and then brings out a laptop full of footage of your home. "I'd really like to give you a present, but my moving web cams all over the house caught you pretending you weren't home when your in-laws were calling. Oh, and you yelled at the dog unnecessarily. And called in sick when really you just wanted to finish a season of Downton Abbey. Sorry!" If you think that's fair enough, then I guess Elf on the Shelf is for you. Personally I think this strange tradition of moving an elf statue around the house to prove it's reporting our kids' moves to Santa is bizarre. In an age where privacy is a hot topic, why are we essentially inviting Santa's Secret Service into our homes? In 1984 wasn't it a bad thing that Big Brother was watching all the time? Now we buy Big Brother and put him on Pinterest every morning. Look, I get that it's supposed to be lighthearted. I have nothing against elves in particular, especially when they are kindness elves. (What a fantastic idea at that link from The Imagination Tree!) And I know there is a contingent of people who agree with the lyrics to "Santa Claus is Comin' to Town," and are all for a Santa Claus who is a kind of police officer. But for me and for my family, there just is no way we are creating a tradition that a creepy Elf on the Shelf comes to watch behaviour and report back to Santa. This doesn't mesh with our parenting in several ways:
- My husband and I try not to establish consequences we won't follow through on. Since we're not going to give our kids lumps of coal even if an Elf on the Shelf were to catch them doing something wrong (always a possibility over a whole month), it's just an empty concept.
- Santa for us is about generosity and giving, not about good behaviour. And vice versa:
- Gifts are something you get because the giver is ready to give them, not because you were behaving well. Behaving well should be a given.
- Privacy is something we value in our home. Not always above safety (if I were worrying about my kids' safety, I would snoop). But if Santa cannot divine by magical means, then tough - we're not inviting his agents into our house.