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Why I Banned Elf on the Shelf… and the Magic that Followed

Updated: Dec 9, 2020

Ever have those times when you feel like a mean mom?  When your child asks you for something with their sweet puppy dog eyes and you give them a flat “No”? 

That was me this year when my sweet 7 yr. old, Lucas, asked if the Elf on the Shelf could visit our house. 

Right after I answered him I felt that tinge of guilt that only mommies can understand.  Did I do the right thing? 

I got my answer that night.  And it was better than I could have ever expected.

What happened after I banned the Elf on the Shelf was pure Christmas magic.

Elf on the Shelf

Let me tell you a little about Elf on the Shelf

Have you ever heard of the Elf on the Shelf?  He is this creepy (ok a little cute) elf that acts as a “watcher” for Santa in your house.  Each night he moves to a new spot and if you touch him he loses his magic.  I have seen some crazy things people do with the elf and, I must admit, it looks fun.  Anyways he keeps his eye on boys and girls and reports back to Santa on their behavior.

The whole concept of the Elf on the Shelf is popular.  So popular that even my son’s elementary has their own elf, Mr. Candy Cane.  Lucas loves magic and mystery and unexpected surprises so, of course, he loves Elf on the Shelf.  So when he came home and asked me if we could have our own elf I wasn’t completely surprised.

Why I banned Elf on the Shelf

What I was surprised with was how quickly I answered.  The word “No” came out without a second thought.  I had never really considered before whether or not I liked this Christmas tradition.  But, now that my sweet boy was asking, I knew my answer.  I don’t want Elf in the Shelf in my home.

Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t have a deep-seated hatred for the elf.  I know a ton of friends who have him visit their home and their kids love it.  And it’s great when families can enjoy a Christmas tradition together.

But Elf on the Shelf just isn’t the right thing for me and my family.  Frankly the whole concept just sounds exhausting.  I don’t want to have to keep up with moving him every night.  I don’t want to have to come up with a new, great “scene” every night.  And the idea that children should be good because “the elf is watching” just doesn’t sit right with me. 

Kids should be nice and kind and truthful simply because it is the right thing to do.  Plus the whole commercialism of it turns me off.

The Mommy Guilt Never Stops

Although I know I made the right decision for our family, I still had that dreaded mommy guilt creep in.  A thousand questions and doubts flooded my mind.  Was I being mean? Was I a killjoy?  What’s wrong with indulging your kid’s a littles?  Seriously can the Elf on the Shelf be that bad? I wasn’t sure what to do.  Lucky for me, Lucas soon made the answer clear.

A New Christmas Tradition Courtesy of a Little Boy’s Imagination

Lucas and I have been talking a lot lately about how to stay positive.  Making lemonade out of lemons. This was probably spurred from my recent addiction to the new NBC show This is Us.  If you haven’t watched it yet, it is a MUST for any thirty-something.  If you do watch the show, you know what I mean about the whole lemon thing.

I guess my ban on Elf on the Shelf spurred Lucas to start squeezing some lemons.  Shortly after our talk, he made a mad dash to my office and grabbed a pen and paper.  He rushed to his room for a “secret project”.  Excitedly he returned to me jumping up and down as he asked me to see who “appeared” in his room.

I was soon to enjoy one of those moments you can’t plan.  When your children warm your heart.  When they make you smile with pride at their ingenuity.  When you realize the exact moment a new family tradition has just begun.  Standing on his bookshelf was a little Angry Bird figurine along with a handwritten note that said “Hi? Can you give me a name?”  Next to it was one of the Lucas’ favorite books.

He gleefully informed me that the Angry Bird had invaded our home and would be moving around each night.  When we find him we need to read the book together he set out for us.  I picked up the Angry Bird to examine him and was quickly told that if you touch him he loses his magic.  Oops!

Naming our Angry Bird and enjoying a story… together

Our first order of business was to name our new house guest.  We first asked Aubrey, the two yr. old, to come up with a name but she just kept pointing to him and saying “Angry Bird”.  I then suggested Lucas name him.  He picked “Jackson”.  It sounded perfect to me.  Jackson, welcome to the Zurawski home.  We then sat together on the bedroom floor and read the story Jackson picked for us, Tyrannosaurus Math.  It was a great way to end the night.

Jackson the Angry Bird

The Sweetest Lemonade I’ve Ever Tried

I had no idea where this concept of Jackson the Angry Bird would lead to.  The attention span of a seven yr. old is like a that of a new puppy.  The next morning though Jackson struck once again.  This time in our pantry closet.  Another handwritten note and book was at his side.  This is the moment I realized my son created a new, wonderful, fantastic Christmas tradition.  He made the sweetest lemonade ever.

THE FINAL VERDICT: The ban on the Elf on the Shelf will continue but Jackson is always welcome

I love the lessons my son learned by me saying “No”.  He learned you can’t always get what you want. He learned that sometimes it is better to give than to receive (maybe I can move the “elf” around instead of mom).  He learned that you don’t need to follow every trend that comes along.  And this mommy learned that the best things in life aren’t things…. they can’t be planned…. and they can be bought.

What to do when you want to say “No”

It can be hard saying “no” to something your child truly wants.  In fact, it can make you seriously doubt your mommy skills.  But my best advice is to always go with your gut.  Don’t feed into fads unless you want to.  It’s OK to be different from everyone else. 

And don’t worry that you need to make every moment and season magical for your children.  By taking a step back, we may even allow them to make the magic themselves.

Oh and Jackson wants to wish you a “Merry Christmas”

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