your big brother, the elf

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.

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About philangelus

Mom, freelance writer, novelist, angelphile, Catholic, know-it-all.
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8 Responses to your big brother, the elf

  1. capt_cardor says:

    “He sees you when you’re sleeping. He knows when your awake. He knows if you’ve been bad or good, so be good for goodness sake.”

  2. MysteryNurse says:

    That’s probably the creepiest Christmas “tradition” I’ve ever heard of.

    We’re trying to downplay Santa’s supposed omniscience, too, because Tess (5) told me she didn’t have to tell me what she wants for Christmas, because Santa can see her all the time and just *knows* what she wants. Which sounds like a recipe for a very disappointed little girl on Christmas Eve.

    So I told them that *I* call Santa at his home in Finland and tell him what to bring. You get his phone number at the hospital along with your discharge instructions, after you have a baby. Also, it’s expensive to call overseas, so let’s not change our minds a lot, okay?

    • cricketB says:

      When Dtr was 3, she was positive she wanted a brown bear. So we quietly called Santa’s second number (which is very similar to where we spend the second half of the holidays — Santa makes two stops for our family), and were assured he would provide something similar to the Sears annual charity bear.

      The last week before Christmas the line at the mall was short. I was just close enough to hear the whisper: A _big_ brown bear. Fortunately, Santa’s helpers came through at the last minute.

      We told our kids that we’d like to get some of their favourite presents for them, so Santa could surprise them with something they hadn’t thought of. We also told them Santa’s sleigh was very full, and he appreciated it if parents helped out. When I was a kid, Dad took us downstairs and showed us a big box in his office that Santa left there for Mom, because it wouldn’t fit in the sleigh. Two very excited secret-keepers.

  3. AnotherFaceintheCrowd says:

    Idolatry and superstition are pretty much the default human condition. Moving beyond that takes education. Nevertheless, they’re still there, waiting to come up again in the most unexpected places. 🙂

    However, if there’s ever a Church of Santa Claus, I might raise an eyebrow. This too shall be put behind them. 🙂

    • Ivy says:

      Superstition is the forebearer to science. “Say, those two guys were wearing red belts when they died. Red belts kill people. Let’s not wear red belts.” “Hey, this chemical reacts oddly in the presence of light. Let’s compare it under various light conditions to see what happens.”

      Most people today misunderstand idolatry. It’s not that the idol is a god–otherwise the ancients would spend all their time beating up gods to show how tough they were–it’s that the god inhabits, or makes sacred the object. We’re not all that far past that when we take Communion and call that wafer sanctified by Jesus, or when say G-d is present with the Torah scrolls in the arc. So long as a faith has a thing they consider sacred, there will be echoes of idolatry. Although we’ve matured to the point it wouldn’t make sense to put the wafers in the corner as punishment for Jesus not doing what we want.

      After the church of the mediocre science fiction writer, I don’t put anything past humanity.

  4. Jen says:

    Those elves are the creepiest-looking things I’ve seen marketed toward kids in a long time. They’d give *me* nightmares!

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