“Heeey, how come Little Guy’s elf is still here? He was supposed to go back to the North Pole already.” It was January 2 when my niece had walked into the room while I was changing my son’s diaper. Her head was cocked to one side and her hand was on her hip. She was clearly perplexed by the fact that my son’s Elf on the Shelf had not left his shelf to report back to Santa for the final time this year.
I froze. Thank God I was facing the wall, so my niece wouldn’t see the terrified look on my face. I hadn’t followed Christmas protocol this year and hid the elf away on Christmas Eve since my son is a baby. “He doesn’t even understand right now. What’s the point?” I thought to myself. I had simply bought the doll and sat him on the baby’s bookshelf, planning to officially kick off the tradition as soon as he was old enough to understand the elf story. I didn’t, however, plan on my niece and nephew walking into their cousin’s room well after Christmas and noticing the elf! I felt like the winner of the Ultimate Bad Aunt of the Year Award as I struggled to think up a story and QUICK! “Play it cool,” I told myself as I calmly turned to face my little interrogator and her big brother, who had happened to enter the room at just that moment.
“Nope, this is the elf’s first year with Little Guy, so he’s been assigned to stick around a little longer since he knows it’s LG’s first Christmas.”
My niece looked back at the elf, thinking over my story, and my nephew seemed to be doing the same as his eyebrows came closer together and he fumbled with one of my son’s toys. They were five and eight years old, wiser in years than my son and totally familiar with all things Elf on the Shelf (his reappearing in different places every day, the special elf dust-glitter you spread if you accidentally touch the elf, etc). I rattled on, trying to keep them from finding a contradiction…
“Oh, yes. You know how LG really doesn’t get into much mischief right now, so his elf has a different sort of job this year. It’s simply to watch out for him and report to Santa that LG’s getting big and drinking all his milk. The elf will watch over him and keep him company until our Christmas break is over and Little Guy returns to daycare.”
A moment of silence, and then my nephew spoke, “Yeah, LG can’t do as much as us… He doesn’t do much to get in trouble.” He seemed to be buying my story, which certainly clinched the chance that my niece would believe the story as well. I was almost in the clear, praying that my carelessness wouldn’t ruin the elf magic for my niece and nephew.
Finally, some help arrived as their mom, my sister-in-law, walked in and backed my story, “You know? The elves know how special first Christmases are, so they like to stay with the babies longer and care for them. They wait until the next year to start their mischief and hide in different spots.” The kids looked at each other, and then my niece looked at me. “I got a tatoo today,” she said, and she rolled up her sleeve to reveal a small Hello Kitty temporary tattoo on her right forearm. I leaned in close with my baby in my arms and pretended to marvel at the tattoo, inwardly breathing a sigh of relief… Crisis averted.
The next day, I stowed the Elf on the Shelf book and the elf doll in its original box and placed it in the basement where we keep our Christmas decorations. Next year, Ace, my son’s elf, definitely goes back to Santa on Christmas Eve.