Friday, December 13, 2013

Confessions of Poor Parenting at Christmas Time Post # 1

 The Following is a true story of my own issues with the infamous "Elf"....

Since the arrival of” The Elf On The Shelf” in stores across the country, it has become a Christmas “must have” for parents in the know.  Every year since my oldest was in preschool, I heard parents talk about the joy it brought to the children and the harmony it restored in their homes.  I was always guilt ridden that I had again not had the foresight to purchase an elf for my own family in time for the holidays.  But this year, it would be different….
The Eyes Have It
I’m a horrible parent.  I know I have said this before but this time it’s doubly true.  You see, I bought an “Elf On The Shelf” for my children to celebrate the Christmas season.
What I thought was going to be a fun holiday tradition for years to come, one that my own children would wax nostalgic about and want to pass down to their own children, turned out to be, well, disastrous.  I even imagined that my two children may fight over who would actually got to keep “Frosty” (that’s what they named the elf) for their own.  Maybe I would have to put it in my will.  No, instead, my two terrified cherubs decided that Frosty needed to go back to the North Pole after the first day and stay there.
I should have known that my seven year old daughter might have an issue with the elf with the funny, sideways looking eyes but she seemed interested and excited enough when she woke up this morning to find a special new book on the breakfast table.  Once she began to read the story, then looked up to find the elf in the chandelier over the table, she appeared to be hooked, her imagination ignited.  Then my son woke up and stumbled down the stairs.  A look of excitement colored his face and he was instantly intrigued by the story as well.  Ahhhh, while the Christmas memories were created before my very eyes, I couldn’t have been more proud of my own performance insisting that I had no idea how the elf and the book had arrived, could it have been Santa?  The children’s father was happy to play along, too.  My husband, I think, looked forward to all the interesting places he would place the elf once it arrived back each morning after its nightly trip to report to Santa.
Once Ava read the story and had fun thinking of names for the elf, she went about her morning the usual way but was afraid to play in her room while I took a shower before bringing the kids to get the bus.  I found this odd, but mostly I became frustrated.  Ava normally was afraid of going up to her room when it was dark out (a fear that she inherited from her grandmother who used to pay her own sister to turn on the light in her room when they went up to bed for the night)  not in broad daylight with the sun streaming in the windows.  Instead of trying to figure out why, I demanded she go and play in her room as I was going to be in the bathroom adjacent and there was “nothing to be afraid of! “
I swear my mother intuition is sometimes just shut off.  Thursday is my regular day to volunteer in Ava’s classroom.  I sat at the desk collating the huge stack of copies I had just completed.  As Ava and her class mates got ready to go to lunch, she stepped out of line to come over and kiss me.  This wasn’t odd; she often showed me affection while I am helping.  But today, she whispered, “That elf is awfully mysterious.”  I just nodded and gave her a hug.  After all, that was the intention:  Mysterious Elf arrives in Home to tell Santa about Naughty or Nice Children, report at 11:00.  I was actually thrilled she still “believed” enough to think the whole thing was true.
In the afternoon, I got the kids from the bus and we chatted on the walk home about where Frosty may be next and if he had moved while I was out.  We arrived home to find him in the same place, up in the chandelier above the dinner table.  That’s when the whining began.
“Mommy, he is creeping me out!” Ava said
“Why honey, he is just a friendly elf?” I responded
“I don’t like his eyes, I don’t want him to come back!”  Ava was serious as she hid her face in her hands.
I thought I could talk some sense into her.  This was supposed to be a fun, new tradition to last the whole month long, to make my children actually behave for fear that Santa would really find out.  I had heard from other parents that they wished they could have the elf out all year long, that’s how drastic the behavior changes (for the better) had been in their own homes.  Now, it appeared that all bets were off.  I could feel the angelic attitudes already slipping through my fingers.  Fighting and bickering all December long, here we go.
We sat together on the couch and I asked her exactly what she was afraid of.  I thought at one point that we actually came to an agreement, a compromise that would get us over the hump, to get her used to having Frosty in the house.  We began to set up some rules.  We said them out loud so that elf could hear: No showing up in Ava’s room, no going into the bathroom, no hiding in the laundry basket or in drawers.  In fact, just stay up high where no one can accidentally touch you, Frosty.  Are we clear?
“I’m still afraid of his eyes.”  Ava said
“What if he wore sunglasses?”  I asked
Ava laughed.  I thought about fashioning a pair of Barbie’s sunglasses for Frosty just like the elf in Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer who had to shield his eyes from the glare of Rudolph’s nose.  I could do that tonight, after Ava went to bed.
“No.”  She said and she buried her head into my shoulder as we sat on the couch.  She couldn’t bear to look into Frosty’s eyes even by accident.
“Could you please tell him not to come back?”
“Yes.” I said reluctantly.  “Can we maybe invite him back next year?”
“Maybe.  If he knows the rules.”
I remembered as I was washing the dinner dishes while the kids were happily watching TV (in another room away from the elf) that I used to be afraid of what I called, “The Eyes”.  I hadn’t thought about it in such a long time, it must have been buried in my subconscious.
In our “old” house, where we lived until just before I turned five, there was a trap door to the attic located in the ceiling of my room, just above my bed.  For some reason, the ceiling was painted except for this door, leaving the knotty wood exposed.  It looked like a bunch of creepy eyes from my preschooler perspective and I was perpetually scared of them night after night.  As much as my mother tried to comfort me and get me to go to sleep, some nights, I just screamed, “The Eyes!” and she would have to console me until I fell asleep.
So, I guess I understand the “creepy eye” thing even though I was hoping to be a Christmas hero.  And the Elf on a Shelf is now the elf in a box under the bed, hidden far from view, until maybe next year.  That is, if he agrees to follow the rules and wear sunglasses.