Elf on the Shelf for Dummies

Stacey Conner family

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Matt and I recommend that you do not join the Elf on the Shelf holiday craze. This is the full tale of our elfin struggles.

It started with my mother—who not only gave birth to me—a person completely incapable of managing the magic of Christmas for my children—but also bought me a complicated elf game complete with creepy elf, elf rules, and daily elf duties.

The Elf on the Shelf comes with one elf and one book describing the rules of elf play including: 1) one must name one’s elf; 2) the elf flies to Santa every night to tattle on the resident children and returns to a different spot every morning; 3) the elf must not be touched or it loses its magic. 

We named our elf Jingles. So far, so good.

On the third day of Jingles’ employment in our home, I placed him on top of a wall sconce. I KNOW it says “elf on the shelf,” but there are only so many shelves in one house and then you have to start getting creative. Unfortunately, his legs dangled down into the sconce and touched the light bulb. That became a problem in the morning when the children turned on the light and Matt—Mr. Fire Safety—immediately nixed the elf location. But you can’t TOUCH the blasted thing because then it loses its magic and it can’t go back and tell Santa how horrid your children are. 

I told the children I was positive it would move its legs out of the burn zone if we all just left the room and went to eat breakfast. They left. I illegally moved the elf in daylight hours a few inches away from the light bulb. Fine.

For the next few days, I did alright although I did have to get up twice at 6:00 a.m. and run downstairs to move the damn elf because magic creepy elves that run to Santa and tattle on children don’t move themselves, you know.

I screwed the whole thing up again because I wanted to put the elf back in their room.  Mainly, I admit, because I kind of liked their trepidation and mild hysteria when they woke and found themselves overseen by one of Santa’s little helper demons. We’d used all the shelves in their room (one) and the sconce (bad idea) and so

I went for the only other high available surface, which seemed fairly logical at the time because it was winter and who the hell turns on the ceiling fans in the winter?

Shut up.

I should have pulled the chain on the ceiling fan and turned it off, but I didn’t. Of course, they woke up and immediately espied their little watcher fiend. And of course Garrett took one look at that elf on the ceiling fan and turned the damn thing on. I wasn’t there, but I take great, great amusement in imagining Jingles whipping around a few times before he was flung across the room, landing face down on the floor.

This is the point at which I woke up from a sound and happy slumber because Garrett —the perpetrator of the elfanticide freaked the hell out. Two hours later, red-faced and swollen, the child still sobbed inconsolably: AH-AH-AH-AH-CI-DEN-DEN-T.  AH-AH-AH-AH-CI-DENT! I did feel bad. I did! For my part in the crime. In my defense, he wasn’t particularly concerned about the welfare of long-suffering Jingles, but more deeply afraid that his small victim would somehow drag its broken body back to the North Pole and with its dying breath, prostrate at Santa’s feet, gasp out: “Gar-rett.  Gaaaarrrrreeeetttt.” Thereby eliminating any possibility of blaming this tragic accident on his sister.

There was nothing to do but make up a new string of ridiculous lies. Isn’t that the magic of Christmas? Lying to your children? We had to leave the room so that the elf could go back to Santa who could kiss him and make him feel better with his Christmas magic. Jingles might need a day to recover, but we were certain that he would return and of course, both Jingles and Santa would know that it was an accident. Also, they are particularly forgiving of children whose mother’s are hopelessly inept at Christmas.

The children went downstairs and I hid the stupid elf in my closet. While Jingles grumbled his way back to the North Pole to smoke a cigarette and wait for all the other elves to return so he could bitch about how he was the unluckiest elf in the history of Elves on Shelves and did they realize that JUST TWO DOORS down,

Crinkle had the cushiest assignment ever. (My friend Meg, who is very, very safety conscious and lovely and together and would never even think of placing a small personage of any kind—creepy or no—on a ceiling fan.) Of all the luck. He gets stuck with this Stacey idiot. 

While Jingles grumbled and smoked, we composed a lovely note of apology to both Jingles and Santa and promised never to turn on anything upon which Jingles sat ever, ever again.

Jingles returned the next morning as creepy as ever, safely seated on the curtain bar in the nursery. The very next morning the damn thing went on strike and refused to move from that spot. Or my brain went on strike. Or Christmas went on strike.

Crestfallen, Garrett, Saige and Quinn tip-toed into our room to tell us that the elf hadn’t moved. It was over. Christmas must surely be dead. I thought, vague and deflated, from my pillow that I had failed at Christmas magic. Thirty days is just too long for me to maintain anything. I can’t make dinner every night for a week let alone sustain the illusion of Jingles the Elf for a month. Matt opened one bleary eye to peer at his children.

“He gets a day off,” he told them with authority, “workman’s comp.”

They joyously padded back to their little beds. That is how Matt and I failed basic elf. We may be banned from elf ownership on both poles.

About the Author

Stacey Conner

Stacey Conner loves chai tea lattes, bedtime and being at home with her children. She hates the cold, fingerpaints and play dough. She writes about life with four children, adoption, trans-racial parenting and other issues big and small at

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