Today I almost ruined Christmas for my son. Today I almost let the Elf on the Shelf destroy the magic and innocence that still lives in my 8yo son’s heart. All of this almost happened in an instant, because I got flustered in the rafters of our garage.
My son LOVES Christmas and so today, after a few hours of persistent begging this morning, I finally agreed to decorate the house early for the holidays. This year has been pretty tough in so many ways, so I decided to turn my “Bah humbug!” into a “Let’s get this party started!”
So there I was, up on the ladder, unpacking boxes of lights, ornaments, stockings and garlands from the overhead storage. I grabbed a small plastic bag that was wrapped up tight and to save a trip down and back up the ladder, I handed it to my son to put with the other stuff.
As I brought down the next box, I noticed he was staring into the bag I had just given him. He was frozen, with his eyes wide and his mouth dropped open.
All I could guess was that a mouse got trapped in there and he was paralyzed by the sight of the rotten corpse.
I asked, “What’s wrong kiddo?”
He looked up at me with a dazed and confused look on his face. Then he turned back to stare into the bag.
I was worried now and quickly came down from the ladder to see what was in the bag. As I got closer to him, he stammered, “Whaa?…um…Dad?”
My heart was racing now as I took the bag from him and looked inside…
It was the Elf! Or rather it was the doll I’ve used for the secret Elf Adventures at our house for the past 3 years…CRAP!!!
For the last few years, my son has had a penpal relationship with Fred the Elf. He asks Fred questions and tries to capture with elaborate traps my son spends hours setting up each evening. Fred never gets caught but makes messes around the house to get my son back. It’s all great fun. We don’t do the “Elf of the Shelf is watching you and reporting back to Santa anything bad you do so you better watch out!” thing. It’s all great fun.
“Dad, what is the Elf doing in this bag?” “Why isn’t he moving?” “Why was he up in the rafters and not in the North Pole?” “What happened to him? Is he ok?”
I didn’t know how to get out of this so all I could think to say was, “I don’t know what he’s doing in this bag. What do you think happened?”
He thought hard for a minute. I could see his mind racing for answers as fast as my heart was pounding.
By hastily unpacking Christmas boxes from storage making my son help me did I just ruin Christmas? With this simple act of handing him this plastic bag did I unknowingly pull back the curtain on the Wizard of Oz (or in this case, the Elf on the Shelf)?
We pieced together that because the Elf was in our house last night to answer our letter, then he must have gotten enticed by all the decorations up in the garage today. There was a package of Candy Canes in the bag with Fred so my son guessed he probably went after the treats. Smart kid.
I reminded him that the Elf freezes when people are around and only moves around when no one can see him (just like Woody in Toy Story) so he must be ok. He’s not dead. Just frozen. “Oh yeah…” my son said.
So to help Fred recover, my son placed the Elf on a pillow on my bed, being careful not to touch him with his own hands. He got a dish towel to lay over him as a blanket and even put a Candy Cane next to his head. It was so friggin’ cute! He then closed the bedroom door so the Elf could rest and regain his strength.
He even went back a couple minutes later to sprinkle some cinnamon around the pillow because he remembered Elves like cinnamon and it’s good for them. Again, adorable right?!?
With Fred behind a closed door and my son back to decorating the living room, now was my chance. I grabbed a piece of paper and a marker and announced that I needed to use the bathroom. “You don’t need to tell me that Dad. You can just go.”
I wrote a note from the Elf explaining the situation. I flushed the toilet, ran the sink for a minute “washing my hands” and made sure my son was immersed in decorating again.
I made another announcement that I was going to take the recycling out. I went out the front door, around to the corner of the house and then SPRINTED into the back yard. I went in the back door, grabbed the Elf, placed the note on the pillow and buried him deep in my clothes closet out of sight. I ran back around the house, picked up the recycling bin and walked calmly back into the house.
“Can I help you hang those stockings?”
A half hour went by before my son went to check on the Elf. I heard him go into my bedroom but I stayed back waiting to see what would happen…
“Dad…? Come and look at this…”
“The Elf is gone!”
“And he left me this note!”
The rest and the cinnamon worked and it helped Fred the Elf recover enough for him to scurry off. His strength was now restored to escape our traps again, to eat or treats, and make messes around our house until Christmas Day.
In talking with my son about what had happened with the Elf on and off throughout the rest of the day, I’m convinced that he really believes all is ok.
I know this will end someday. The “truth” about Christmas, Santa, the Elf and all other magic beings will be revealed to him.
But not today. Not now. Not this year.
The magic is still alive!
For as long as I can keep better track of where I keep that freakin’ Elf!
Dr. Jay Warren has been a prenatal and pediatric chiropractor for over 20 years in San Diego, CA where he works with new families everyday. He has created online courses for pregnant women and for new dads and is the host of two popular podcasts, “Healthy Births, Happy Babies” and “The Dadhood Journey”. What’s most important to him though is being the proud father of his son, Niko, who inspires him to strive to be a better person and better dad everyday.