Some call it creepy, some call it fun, and some call it an effective parenting tool; regardless of what you think of it, the Elf on the Shelf is a Christmas-time phenomenon. Created in 2004 by a mother who never has to work again, the Elf is a doll that mixes holiday cheer with the violation of numerous privacy laws.
Here’s how it works: in December, you and your children get the doll out and give it a name. Then you tell your children that Elfie the Wonder-Schnoz is there to watch them and monitor their behavior every day before flying back to Santa each night to give him a report. This is meant to encourage children to do a better job of hiding their bad behavior from you. Also, children aren’t allowed to touch the elf or it loses its magic, which I can only assume is a policy that was put in place after some traumatized elves filed a lawsuit.
The problem for subpar parents like myself is that the Elf on the Shelf has become another outlet for holiday Pinterest shaming. Awesome parents post photos of themselves posing their elves like they’re taking bubble baths in marshmallows or playing hide-and-seek in toilet-paper rolls. Meanwhile, the rest of us are telling our kids that the Elf didn’t move again because it has contracted some kind of terrible illness.
Apparently, there are enough committed parents out there to turn the Elf on the Shelf into a marketing machine. I was at Barnes & Noble the other day and was startled to see a rack of Elf on the Shelf clothes and accessories.
Clothes. And accessories. For the elf.
Now, buying an elf a mini-motorcycle jacket is something no parent should let themselves get talked into. I did, however, come up with a few accessories that the Elf on the Shelf folks should consider adding to their line:
If this Elf is sneaking out every night, why are we making life more difficult for it by dressing it in a bright red suit? I say help an elf out with some camouflage: jungle prints for warmer climates, and snow camo for those chilly nights. Night-vision goggles would also be appreciated.
2. Murder Kit
You can’t tell me that of all the elves out there, there aren’t at least a couple of murderers. After all, what good is being nocturnal and tiny if you can’t use those traits against your enemies? A little shovel, a small tarp, and a thimble of bleach are all your Dexter-inspired elf will require from you; leave finding a murder weapon up to them — the less you know about it, the better. Then, when you wake up in the morning to find your elf splattered with blood and his arms posed in an, “Oops, I did it again,” shrug, you’ll know to get rid of the evidence.
3. Reindeer strike accessories
The Elf on the Shelf line does, of course, offer some accessories for reindeer, because what reindeer doesn’t want a set of legwarmers? But I think the product designers need to reprioritize things. Those reindeer need to form a union and start protesting their work conditions. Blitzen was there for however many years, and then Rudolph comes in and on day one becomes his boss? And despite the fact that Santa cannot do his job without them, they get paid in what, hay? While those elves get all the glory and the cocoa? Really? Look for a line of reindeer picket signs that say things like, “Santa Profits Off Our Hairy Backs,” “Deer Demand Equal Pay,” and “Keep Your Elves on the Shelves.”
4. Surveillance Log
Show your work, elf. An Elf Surveillance Log, left casually around the house, would be a great way to remind your kids that they are always being watched and evaluated. Make sure to note bathroom breaks and sleep positions to really get the point across. Note: this should only be given to elves who will use their logs for constructive criticism rather than personal insults. For example, “Susie worked on her math homework for an hour tonight. What a great effort!” as opposed to, “One hour on math homework, dumba**?”
Elf on the Shelf people, give me a call when you’re ready to dive into this new branch of products. I am currently accepting seed money.