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What I’ve Learned About My Parenting Style From Elf On The Shelf

Photograph by Lisa Quinones-Fontanez

This is our third year doing Elf on the Shelf and no one is more surprised than me. Elf on the Shelf is a controversial topic among the moms I know — they either love it or hate it. Looking around Facebook and Instagram, the moms who love Elf on the Shelf are kind of hardcore. They are crafters, bakers and builders of creative props and scenarios. Their elves write notes and get into all kinds of mischief.

I am not that mom.

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I used to be among the moms who thought Elf on the Shelf was ridiculous. Having a child with autism who had difficulty understanding Christmas, I was looking for ways to make Christmas magical. The elf has helped my son, Norrin, understand the magic of Christmas. And in the last three years, Elf on the Shelf has helped me discover and accept the kind of mom that I am.

I am not a "Bah! Humbug!" Scrooge.

I am not the kind of mom who goes overboard during the holidays, but that doesn't mean I don't like the holidays, either. Working outside of the home during the day and freelance writing at night, I am last-minute and bare-minimum especially at this time of year. I find the holidays overwhelming and emotional, and all the running around can make me grumpy. I find everything from Christmas cards to gift wrapping to be a dreadful chore worth putting off. Yet, I find myself looking forward to our Elf season. He makes the holidays fun again for me. The Elf on the Shelf is my one and only holiday indulgence. And I'm passing along that magic to my son.

I am not that creative.

I literally move our elf from one shelf to another. Sometimes I'll hang him from a curtain but that's as creative as I get. Would I like to create fun scenes for our elf? Yes, I think I would. I just don't have the time and all my son cares about is finding the elf. I don't feel the pressure of creating some elaborate scene.

I am not the best housekeeper.

Nothing reminds me that I need to dust more often than elf season. I tend to put our elf on high shelves so my son won't touch it. And every morning when I go to move him, I notice how dusty my elf is. Sometime before New Year's, I will take a weekend and give my apartment a major cleaning.

I am not my mother.

My mom had her own way of creating Christmas magic although Elf on the Shelf didn't exist when I was a kid. Even if it did, my mother would be among the moms who see the elf as a "chore." My mother was busy dusting, cooking, cleaning and taking care of us.

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This time of year, it's easy to feel the (often self-imposed) pressure and need to do it all. But I can't feel intimidated by what the other moms are doing. I'm not going to feel guilty about being a busy mom who has time for some things, and not others. And I'm not going to feel bad about my lack of creativity or abundance of dust. I'm still a good mom. Not because I'm an Elf on the Shelf mom, but because I recognize the mom I'm not, as well as the mom I am. I am absolutely OK with both.

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