Unless you've been living under a rock without internet access for the past few years, you've undoubtedly heard of or come into direct contact with the Elf on the Shelf phenomenon that will shortly overtake the otherwise rational minds of parents everywhere. It appears the Elf on the Shelf began innocently enough, but has morphed into a competition that makes parents insane.
Let me lay my cards on the table, I hate the Elf on the Shelf. I hate how crazy it will make my friends and how their pictures of their Elf in all sorts of mischief, will crowd my Facebook feed for the next month, pushing actual posts I'd like to see off the page. When I originally planned this post, it was going to be an in-depth expose of the Elf on the Shelf's (fictitious) past and how damaging I believe it is to the true spirit of Christmas. Seriously, I already had a whole backstory complete with mob ties, horse heads, and murder. It was awesome. My friend Jenna has covered the disposing of the Elf well, so go read her thoughts on the matter.
But then the Elf on the Shelf worked its holiday magic on me via a Facebook post by my childhood friend Kristi. Kristi began her relationship with her Elf innocently enough, as a way to have a special treat for her 3-year-old daughter who lost her only child status at the beginning of December. The Elf sat on a shelf, keeping a watchful eye on her daughter, although it moved around occasionally. Kristi's daughter thought it was cute.
And then Pinterest happened and Kristi admits she fell into the "mom guilt" of trying to outdo the pranks and poses she saw there. She'd stay up late frantically attempting to figure out what to do with the Elf. Those were some stressful times and, for Kristi, trying to be super creative with the Elf to entertain her kids and keep up with the moms on social media, was overwhelming. Plus, her kids weren't really into all the pranks the Elf on the Shelf pulled.
A couple of years ago, Kristi was at her children's school when a little boy walked into the office and presented the school secretary with a small handmade gift that appeared to not be a holiday gift, but more a gift for no reason gift. Kristi asked the boy about it and he told her that his Elf on the Shelf had instructed him perform a random act of kindness.
At that moment, the Heavens opened and angels sang. This idea spoke directly to Kristi's life philosophy of kindness and being charitable and the lessons she was trying to teach her children. "We are a very lucky family so we teach our kids that doesn't come free. We are responsible to give back because of our blessings," she told me last night.
Each morning when her kids rise, the Elf has a kindness or charitable activity for them to perform that day. Types of activities include:
"He challenges the kids to go shopping in the pantry for cans to bring to the local food pantry. He asks the kids to be a bucket filler and do nice things for others. He has contests to see who can be nicest to their brother and sisters and he reminds them about what we believe the true meaning of Christmas."
Sometimes the kids will awaken to the Elf skiing on candy canes, but more the most part, Kristi keeps his activities simple and focussed on improving the lives of others. Plus, Kristi says that her kids seem to prefer the simpleness of their Elf and avoiding all the over-the-top shenanigans helps them focus on giving to others.
I love this and it speaks directly to my philosophy of performing random acts of kindness throughout the year. It also speaks to my belief that to those whom much is given, much is expected. If the Elf on the Shelf is used to teach these valuable life lessons rather than just entertaining kids and bringing them even more gifts for no apparent reason, then I'm all in.
What would the holiday season be like if you gave up the stress of the Elf on the Shelf and instead used the Elf to teach your kids valuable life lessons about gratitude, kindness, compassion, paying it forward, and walking in someone else's shoes?
Later today, I'll be sharing my plan for 31 Days of Random Acts of Kindness. Your Elf can present an activity a day to your family or you can simply go out and perform them yourself. It's up to you.
Thank you Kristi for converting me from an Elf on the Shelf hater to an Elf on the Shelf advocate. I guess that little bugger really does have magical Christmas powers.
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