Why can’t our Elf on the Shelf be a role model instead of an accomplice?

Why can’t our Elf on the Shelf be a role model instead of an accomplice?

All over the Internet, Elves are leaving their shelves to engage in nightly mischief

Why can’t our Elf on the Shelf be a role model instead of an accomplice?

By Sarah Seitz

It’s that time of the year when I reevaluate my relationship with Ruby, our Elf on the Shelf. Like any relationship, Ruby and I have had our ups and downs.

I was smitten with Ruby, at first. It was fun thinking up funny and adventurous places for the kids to find her. One morning she was swinging from her ankles on the pendant light in our kitchen. Another morning she was discovered in a pile of chocolate chips after sneaking into the baking cupboard overnight.

As we got deeper into December, my interest and energy waned and soon Ruby stopped pulling all-nighters. She wasn’t even moving.

After Christmas, I decided to chalk Ruby up as a parenting fail and move on. We would make different Christmas traditions that were less guilt-inducing and created less resentment towards an inanimate object. I gave Ruby away.

When December rolled around the next year, my kids were confused by Ruby absence. “Was it because we’ve been bad this year?” they asked. “Do you mean the time you tried to sell your brother for five cents? Yes, that probably had something to do with it.” I answered, half-joking.

But I was surprised that they remembered Ruby. I started to doubt how I ended things with her. With the discomfort of the previous Christmas season far enough in the past, I headed back to the store for another Elf on the Shelf.

I know what you’re thinking. I’m a glutton for punishment and a very, very slow learner.

The second go-around with our Elf on the Shelf left me feeling more frustrated than before but my kids were invested and to break up with her again feels complicated. One morning I found a hand-written note and drawing from our eight-year-old daughter to Ruby.

“Dear Ruby, I hope you get presents from Elves. If you don’t, I got you one.”

This tiny gesture from my little girl made me realize that Ruby meant something to her, and also that I should have ended things when I had the chance.

“At the heart of the matter though, is my doubt as to the value of her actual job”

According to the book she comes with, Ruby is supposed to serve as Santa’s eyes and ears. She monitors the children’s naughty and nice behaviour and reports back to Santa. As her name clearly suggests, she is supposed to do this from her superior vantage point of THE SHELF.

Unfortunately for me and other parents, the societal expectation is to hide Ruby in creative and amusing places for the children to find. THE SHELF is no longer good enough.

There are websites, Instagram and Facebook posts dedicated to Elves NOT on the shelf. These Elves are usually involved in some kind of mischief that is often not even kid-appropriate. What started as a simple holiday game of hide-and-seek for children has become an entire industry.

And another thing: Ruby takes 11 months of leave. She can’t live in the Christmas box because she’s magic and supposedly returns to the North Pole. She has to be carefully stored away in a box not labelled ‘Christmas’ until the following Nov. 30 when you begin searching for her whereabouts.

This year, I couldn’t find Ruby. Back to the store. Buy a third one.

But the real difficulty with the Elf on the Shelf is remembering to move it. After a long day with kids and work and the multitude of other jobs that need to get done before your head hits the pillow, the Elf on the Shelf is one more thing to do.

I have tucked myself into bed on more than one occasion only to realize that I didn’t move the effing Elf. There have been even more nights when I just plain forgot. It is in those moments that I truly resent this skinny red waif and plot her banishment from our home.

At the heart of the matter though, is my doubt as to the value of her actual job. If she is supposed to be Santa’s eyes and ears, watching out for bad behaviour, why is she herself getting into mischief? The only message I can imagine my kids get from seeing Ruby in a mess of her own making is that she’s just like them and therefore not someone they need to impress.

In other words, instead of a role model, my kids have an accomplice.

To truly live up to her life’s purpose, Ruby should be setting a good example for our children. I would like my children to find her doing the chores that I so often have to nag them to do.

Imagine if they found Ruby taking it upon herself to empty the dishwasher without being asked, making her own lunch or cleaning up the Lego. That kind of goody-two-shoes behaviour may be just the ticket to turn my kids against Ruby forever.

Possibly the surest sign that a relationship has soured is when you start to resent the mere presence of the other person. As I write this, we are a few weeks away from the holiday season and I can already feel the stirrings of resentment.

I long for the simpler days when the chocolate Advent calendar was magic enough.

Sarah Seitz has two children. She lives in Victoria and also writes a column for Island Parent magazine.


Origin of Elf on a Shelf

The Elf on the Shelf: A Christmas Tradition is a 2005 children’s picture book, written by Carol Aebersold and her daughter Chanda Bell, and illustrated by Coë Steinwart. The book tells a Christmas-themed story, written in rhyme, that explains how Santa Claus knows who is naughty and nice. It describes elves visiting children from Thanksgiving to Christmas Eve, after which they return to the North Pole until the next holiday season.


Mensch on a Bench

A Jewish counterpart to Elf on the Shelf was designed by Benjamin Goober Elikns: “Mensch on a Bench”, a stuffed toy that looks a bit like a rabbi or a Hasidic Jew. Jewish father Neal Hoffman, a former Hasbro Toys toy marketing executive, raised more than $22,000 using the crowdfunding website Kickstarter to fund the creation of the toy in 2011. “Mensch”, in Yiddish, means a person of integrity or honour.

— Wikipedia



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The tooth fairy is only human

The tooth fairy is only human

The tooth fairy is only human

By Sarah Seitz

My daughter lost her first tooth playing outside on a late summer evening. Minutes later, I lost my parental halo after throwing the tooth fairy under the bus.

We had anticipated this milestone for weeks. We did daily tests and teased about how best to speed up the process. “Shall I get some pliers?” I would say, followed with a cartoonishly evil laugh.

And then, playing the good cop, we’d talk about the magical, wonderful tooth fairy who would fly into her room at night, like Tinkerbell, and gently whisk away the tooth, exchanging it for a gift. My daughter, Julia, knew what to expect from the tooth fairy, of course. Based on peer experience, she expected coins under her pillow in the morning.

So when Julia came running into the kitchen with the freshly plucked tooth in her hand, we were ready and excited – our first born’s first lost tooth and my first time in the role of the Tooth Fairy.

After giggling at her new toothless smile in the mirror and marveling at the tiny white tooth in her hand, Julia placed the tooth on the kitchen counter for me to keep safe and went back outside to play. I continued my frenzied post-dinner tidying up – washing dishes and wiping the counters clean.

It wasn’t until Julia came back inside and asked to see her tooth that I realized I had no idea WHERE IT WAS. In my mad rush to clean up, I had forgotten my job as keeper of the tooth and that my daughter’s key to the magical realm of the Tooth Fairy was now most likely in the compost or garbage bin.

I panicked. How to keep this fantasy alive? I feigned surprise and said that the tooth fairy must have taken it when I wasn’t looking. I reasoned that because she was so busy doing the job of gathering up other children’s teeth, the Tooth Fairy was probably already likely in the neighborhood and took Julia’s tooth now instead of coming back at night.

I’m not sure this reason seemed as clever to Julia as it did to someone who places a high value and necessity on multi-tasking, such as myself. However, I explained the tooth fairy would likely circle back in the night and leave some something extra special under her pillow.

I watched the expressions on my daughter’s face while she reconciled what we had told her the tooth fairy would do, and what she was now actually doing. I realized Julia was reaching the only logical explanation: the tooth fairy was unreliable.

Later, as my husband and I scoured the house for toonies or loonies to place under our daughter’s pillow, I regretted how I had handled the lost tooth, not to mention that I had lost it in the first place. If I had told Julia the truth, she would know that the tooth fairy wasn’t real. But my lie had characterized the tooth fairy as flighty and impulsive.

The truth was, I wanted to protect my daughter from the fact that I was sometimes unreliable, impulsive and flighty. I had thrown the tooth fairy under the bus to save myself.

So that night, out of guilt, the tooth fairy left five bucks under Julia’s pillow and vowed to be a more responsible tooth fairy in the future. Full disclosure here: the cash came from Julia’s own piggy bank that I had to busted into. (Who carries cash anymore?)

Several months later, when the next tooth became wiggly, I was ecstatic. Here was my chance to do it right. The tooth fairy would be redeemed. The bonus was that it was my daughters “pirate tooth,” as it was affectionately referred to. Her front left tooth had slowly turned dark after dying from a bonk three years prior. I was not sad to see it go. It came out in the morning before school and I carefully tucked it away for bedtime.

That evening, as my husband and I collapsed onto the couch, I reminded him to remind me to remember that the tooth fairy had to come that evening. This is the identical conversation we have every night mid-December until Christmas Day about the Elf on the Shelf.

I awoke the next morning with my daughter beside my bed. “Mom,” she said, “the tooth fairy didn’t come and take my tooth.” My heart sank. To mess up the Tooth Fairy once – understandable. Twice? I need a new cover story!

“Do you think it’s because it was my pirate tooth and she doesn’t take teeth that aren’t white?” she asked. No, I told her. It’s probably because the tooth fairy was so overloaded with teeth jobs the night before that she wasn’t able to get to all of the houses and that tonight she was sure to come. Julia said, “ I know what happened. The tooth fairy works at a busy office with lots of computers and they got so many messages that she didn’t get mine so she will come tonight.”

The earnestness in her little voice warmed my heart. I vowed that tonight I would remember. My husband put a reminder in his phone. I asked my sister to text me. This trifecta of reminders was my only hope and redemption.

That night, the tooth fairy did come and she left a little note thanking Julia for her patience and understanding during a very busy time. I told myself it was an opportunity to discuss patience, compassion and other values with my daughter that wouldn’t have happened if I had been perfect.

The truth is, I am a flawed parent. It’s something the Tooth Fairy understands.

Sarah Seitz is a former Comox Valley resident and now the mother of two children. She lives in Victoria. This essay first appeared in Island Parent Magazine. (Full disclosure, Seitz is the daughter of Decafnation publisher, George Le Masurier.)





20th Century Fox presents this family comedy following a star hockey player’s (Dwayne Johnson, The Rock) temporary transformation into a full-fledged tooth fairy as penalty for discouraging a young fan. Rotten Tomatoes gave it a 18 percent ratiing.

— Rotten Tomatoes



Compared to the two other main figures in modern American mythology, the Tooth Fairy is the new kid on the block. Santa Claus can be traced back to Saint Nicholas, born around 280 CE, and the Easter Bunny arrived in the United States with German immigrants during the 1700s, but the very earliest reference to the Tooth Fairy appears in a Chicago Daily Tribune “Household Hints” column from September 1908.

Tribune reader Lillian Brown wrote in to suggest that “Many a refractory child will allow a loose tooth to be removed if he knows about the tooth fairy. If he takes his little tooth and puts it under the pillow when he goes to bed the tooth fairy will come in the night and take it away, and in its place will leave some little gift.” The story was further popularized by Esther Watkins Arnold’s 1927 play for children, The Tooth Fairy.



Unlike Santa, there isn’t a widely-held consensus on the Fairy’s appearance. Most cartoons and books depict a winged female sprite or pixie, much like Tinkerbell, bearing a wand and trailing sparkles in her wake. But a 1984 survey found that while 74 percent viewed the Tooth Fairy as female, another 12 percent envisioned the Fairy as neither male nor female. Other responders gave less traditional answers: Some imagined the Tooth Fairy as a bear, a bat, a dragon, or even “a potbellied, cigar smoking, jeans clad tiny flying male.”

— Mental Floss






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