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Elf on the Shelf Just Doesn't Fit with Our Values

Photograph by Getty Images

My son is 3 and, this year, he has been into every holiday possible. It is a joy to watch him have fun and understand what special dates mean. I have been trying to make little traditions that will stay in our memories for years to come. So when Christmas season came around, I was filled with joy to see how super special this holiday is to him.

We have been decorating gingerbread houses, decking the halls in our home and filling the windows with his favorite Christmas stickers from the dollar store. Singing Christmas songs is our favorite, and B makes sure he is always belting out his favorite tunes. One thing we are not doing is “Elf on the Shelf.” Last year, we skipped it because I felt he was too young to really “get it.” This year, I came to the conclusion that, while it's fine for other families, it simply isn’t for us.

I mean, am I already telling my son that “Santa is watching” him? That he should eat all his food and listen to me so that he can get a yellow remote control Camaro? To be honest, this is the first year that we are even doing the whole Santa thing. At first it felt weird, because it is not what I am used to nor how I grew up.

In Ecuador, where I was raised, believing in Santa isn't the tradition. We don’t set out cookies and milk the night before. Parents don’t make fake letters and bite cookies for their children to see the following morning. Santa Claus is definitely part of Christmas back home, but he plays a much smaller role than he does here in the U.S. He doesn’t define Christmas; he is more like a logo for the holiday and not the meaning of it. The reason we have Christmas is because it is the birth of baby Jesus, so the stores and homes are filled with nativity scenes instead of elves on shelves and Santas or cookies with milk.

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Still, how could I deprive my child from such a cute holiday tradition without ruining it for him? So we started talking about Santa, and we made sure to tell him that his mommy and daddy help Santa watch after him. If he is not behaving, we can report that to him and he may or may not get the toys he wants. We made ourselves Santa’s elves in a sense. I didn’t want my son to lose that Christmas magic that fills our December days, but I also wanted him to know that we, his parents, work hard to get the gifts he has earned.

That’s when I decided I wouldn't add yet another fake character to the plate.

See, I want him to know and learn the value of things, even at an early age. So many kids get spoiled and don’t’ appreciate the amount of toys that come their way. I felt that if I told my son that a cute, white-bearded man was solely responsible for bringing the gifts that he wouldn’t understand his parents are the ones working hard to get him these things.

That’s when I decided I wouldn't add yet another fake character to the plate.

I have to admit that when the “Elf on the Shelf” first came out a couple of years ago, and my son was still a baby, I thought it was an adorable — even a fantastic — idea. But today I am confident in my decision to raise my son believing in the spirit of Christmas as told to me by my mother and my family traditions growing up.

So while he is still too young to understand the story behind the real meaning of Christmas, I make sure we mention the birth of baby Jesus and the meaning of what December 25th really is. He still knows about Santa Claus, but we haven’t made it a huge deal or filled him with details about what Santa does. We do plan on putting gifts under the tree the night before Christmas Eve, because we celebrate Christmas at midnight on the 24th.

I want my son to be a humble, giving, generous man one day. I don’t want to raise a spoiled brat, just because I feel I should follow certain marketing traditions.

I love the magic of believing, and I truly love the innocence of a child. But I want him to also know the value of his toys and that his mom and dad work hard to reward him. Most importantly, I want him to grow up learning from a very young age that Christmas is not about material gifts. Santa will be here visiting and bringing him that yellow Camaro he has earned, but it will be explained to him that we helped Santa get it because he earned it.

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I want my son to be a humble, giving, generous man one day. I don’t want to raise a spoiled brat, just because I feel I should follow certain marketing traditions. I want him to understand that his parents do everything within our reach to give him the best life possible and supply him with everything that he truly needs. I love the way I was raised. It taught me the value of money. My mother did an excellent job in teaching me that. I thank her dearly even if I don’t tell her that every day. I would get one Christmas toy every year for Christmas, and I was a happy child, an appreciative child, and I want my son to be raised with the same morals that I was.

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