Our Elf on the Shelf days are pretty much over (Wait while I do a fist pump...). I don't miss having to get up before the crack of dawn to set up some elaborate scene where it appears that "Jingles"has been having an exquisite tea party with Barbie while we slept.
I remember staying up late one night trying to attach our elf to a Christmas banner we have hanging in our entry way. The idea was to make it look like she had been zip lining. Except that it didn't work out. I finally gave up and stuck her in the Christmas tree, an idea that had already been used and was lame in the first place.
I have no shame in telling you that I didn't enjoy our elf. She was too much work. Our third child, the dreamer, got up every morning in anticipation of where "Jingles" was hiding. There were a couple of times I forgot to hide her and had to come up with a quick story about why she hadn't "moved" (as is the stupid rule that she must move to a different location in the house every night...What genius thought of that?).
I admit, my mind is fairly creative. I can come up with a believable lie quicker than you can snap your fingers. ( I know, I probably shouldn't sound so proud to admit that fact. I did say I can come up with good lies but I never really confessed to the practice).
My Facebook scrolling this week has shown me that I'm not the only one who has neglected to move their elf, either by forgetting or oversleeping. Sure you can tell your children that their elf didn't move because "he hurt his leg" or some other carefully, but quickly thought out nonsense. But in my experience, fabricating why the family elf was stationery on Wednesday night isn't the best policy. It certainly shouldn't be the only policy. One morning I tried something else.
The foolproof way to handle a bum elf (and other debacles):
Have you ever told your children to do something like get all of their junk out of the car? They get most of it but leave a jacket and you scold them for it, reminding them that you told them to get their stuff! They then insist that they did get their junk. You tell them they didn't get the jacket then receive a genuinely puzzled look telling you that they didn't leave their jacket. You march them to the car and present the proof to which they cool-ly respond, That's not mine. You spend an additional fifteen minutes explaining how they were the one who left the jacket in the car and therefore (whether it's their jacket or not, it's their responsibility to bring it in-with their junk-if they're the one who left it in the car.
My kids have a gift for implementing the element of confusion when we are having necessary conversations. Though I'm excellent at explaining things (I'm a teacher), they have often pulled a victory by simply convincing me that I have an inability to make them understand certain things like why they can't wear basketball shorts in forty degree weather.
After realizing their brilliance I decided to use the same method one night when the firstborn and I were watching TV years ago. A commercial advertising something of a sexual nature came on. My son asked me, "What's that?" I gave a befuddled look and responded, "I don't get it either." He seemed satisfied with that and we got back to our thirty-minute sitcom.
Fast forward to a morning that I had forgot to move Jingle. The youngest complained, Why didn't Jingle move? I look at her baffled. That's weird. She didn't move. Hmm, I retorted. Her next question centered on what was for breakfast.
In a day and time where we think we have to have all the answers, there is sometimes power in not having one.
Besides having an occasional bum elf, your kid may suffer real problems like not getting invited to a party or not making a team they worked hard to be on. Even then, it's not always necessary, or helpful, to explain why something disappointing is happening. We don't always know the answer. Often the answer we spend precious time crafting and delivering isn't a cure. There's not always a fix.
Sometimes entering the mystery with them is the best we can do.