As always, I find my trips to the bus stop enlightening, and the other mothers find me surreal. I present for your amusement the scene as we await the bus on Friday, December 4th.
Kiddo#2 waits for the bus in the morning with two other kids the same age as herself (though in a different grade due to different cutoff dates between Angeltown and Angelborough.) One is a boy, one is a girl. I’ve mentioned the other moms before: they’re stylish, classy, smart, and probably wonder what evil they did for God to have inflicted me upon the neighborhood.
The boy said something about an Elf On The Shelf, and how they sell them at Barnes & Noble. “But they can’t be real,” he said. “Mom didn’t get ours from there.” I was half paying attention. He looked so earnest, though, and then he said, “Ours just comes to our house.”
Ooh, a spooky preternatural best friend? Sounds interesting. So I asked him about this elf.
The girl shot her hand into the air, and I said, “Yes, Miss X?” and she said, “An Elf on a Shelf sits there during the day to watch you, and at night it goes back to report to Santa.”
At which point my mouth, which operates independent of my common sense, produced the words, “Oh, like Big Brother?” and the mom of Miss X flinched, with a strangled laugh.
I’m fortunate in that Miss X hasn’t read 1984, and shortly the bus came. But the horror still remains. And the amusement.
First the amusement: the boy knew those elves at B&N that looked exactly like the ones in his house couldn’t be the same kind his mom had because of his absolute faith in his mother and how deeply he’d bought into the story. He’d reconciled the appearance of this thing competitively priced in B&N with his understanding that we don’t buy and sell actual people — and done it by deciding those were fakes, but his house elf just shows up.
But then the horror: that these kids think this elf is sitting there, daily, watching them. Creeeeeepy.
“And if you want to get in trouble,” I later said to my Patient Husband over lunch, “wouldn’t you just go into the next room? Have we gone back to a 3,000 year old idolatry where if you want to sin, all you have to do is sin in the next room where the idol can’t see you, and your god doesn’t know?”
Moreover, what if you want to be bad in the same room as the elf? Wouldn’t it make sense to have your older brother create a distraction so the elf was watching him while you went into the drawer and snuck out the candy?
But here I am, being cynical, and I shouldn’t. Parents, you can buy your own personal paranoia-inducing-kid-monitor for about eleven bucks and make it into a touching family tradition. Merry Christmas.