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How to Love Elf on the Shelf

An Open Letter to All the Elf on the Shelf Haters Out There

Things that irritate me: when someone steals my credit card, when my plane is delayed on the tarmac for three hours, and when people talk on their phones at a dinner table. You know what doesn't bother me? What other people do with their Elf on the Shelf. I do not understand why there is so much hatred for the 12-inch doll that so many children adore.

Over the weekend, I posted my daily picture of Alfie on Facebook and received some of the normal likes, comments, and some affectionate emoji.

But one hater wrote, "I can't wait for Alfie to go bye-bye." I laughed it off and cheekily wrote back to him: "That's why Facebook has hide, block, and unfriend options. Otherwise you'll have to endure another week of this!" Quickly I had friends texting me and also replying under him to "keep it up!" along with other positive notes.

To be honest, I really don't care what people think of my elfing antics — I obviously do it for my kids, but also for myself and now for what has grown to be his own expectant audience. Here's why you should forget the naysayers, grab the elf, and get to moving his felt tush around.

I started this tradition with my own family seven years ago when my mom sent us the book and enclosed stuffed doll. My then 3-year-old daughter and 1-year-old son crowned him Alfie. Like many parents, initially I made an effort to move him nightly from the tree to the fireplace mantle and continued to boomerang him back and forth with little creativity in mind.

The following year, I took it up a notch as Alfie enjoyed some marshmallow baths, hung from light fixtures, and headed up a trail ride with his My Little Pony crew. My kids were enamored with finding him every morning. They would spring out of bed, run around the house and squeal upon finding him cuddled up with his Calico Critter pals. With every December day that went by, so did the magical mornings. A few things have changed since our early Elf on the Shelf days but the magic has only grown.

Of course they've had their doubts along the way, and will continue to, but here's how and why I've kept the Elf on the Shelf magic alive.

I think it's fair to say that I go a little overboard with the Elf on the Shelf. I've even earned the nickname, "Michelf." I have a background in fashion design so it came naturally to me to make our elf some outfits. It started with Alfie Cyrus's "Wrecking Ball" costume and I couldn't stop myself after that. The children grew wary when my daughter found scraps of felt on the couch one morning but I wondered aloud if maybe he found his way into my craft stash and helped himself. She bought it and believed he was the Martha Stewart of elves. Soon after, they expected to find him in new threads every day, which they essentially do, and it makes them giggle as they guess what he is with every sunrise.

It may sound corny but there's something about a family tradition — as simple or as dumb as one may think it is — that forms a bond between siblings.

Another factor to keeping the magic alive was that I had another baby. Unlike my older two, my youngest hasn't known a Christmas without Alfie. Watching the older two kids indoctrinate him with Alfie stories, rules (DON'T DARE TOUCH HIM!), and getting him fired up for the elf hunt every morning for the last five years has been heartwarming. It may sound corny, but there's something about a family tradition — as simple or as dumb as one may think it is — that forms a bond between siblings. I distinctly remember eating Daddy Ray's Famous Gingerbread and singing the same Christmas album every Christmas morning of my youth. Our Alfie may seem ridiculous and infantile to some, but I'm pretty sure my kids will have some incredibly fond memories of him and his adventures for years to come.

As the kids age, their curiosity deepens and they are quick to question the veracity, and therefore the magic, of the elf. In recent years, I've had a couple of slip-ups that have required some quick and creative thinking. Three summers ago, all of my kids came running into the living room screaming, "MOMMY!!!! Alfie is here! He's under your table in your room!" I thought to myself, "*&$!! They found him stuffed in my bedside drawer!" I ran back to the room with them and sure as Rudolph's nose is red, Alfie was dangling from my bedside table as if I had planted him there myself. I looked at my watch and realized it was June 25.

Excitedly I told the kids, "Guys! He's checking in on you! We are halfway to Christmas!" They jumped for joy and ever since then, Alfie is always with our family at the halfway point — in Texas, California, or wherever we may be.

Similarly, my little munchkins were playing in my room a couple of weeks ago and their ball rolled into my closet. Due to my extensive Alfie scenes, I bought two extra elves last year as backup but never put them to use. However, the kids found them and declared them our new elves. I feigned surprise and succumbed to hiding two more red beings every night but have kept it simple with them. And to their delight, sometimes the simpler spots are just as enjoyable to them as my time-consuming dioramas that I cut up every night.

So when moms say I am making them feel bad about their elf, I really don't think it matters to the kids. If the elf moves across the room in your house, that's all the magic they need to believe in the spirit of Christmas. All the extra stuff is mostly for our entertainment. I can promise you when Alfie was gussied up as Alfie Swayze from Ghost, the kids didn't get the laughs out of it that my adult friends did, but they did find his pottery making skills quite silly.

Don't let the Pinterest-obsessed or felt-cutting maniacs (yours truly) deter you from creating some fun in your own home. The bar can be set as low or as high as you want it to be. Just as your kids think you're the best mom in the world, they'll think they have the best elf in the world if you just help them believe.

How to create some hater-free magic for your Elf on the Shelf:

  1. Write notes to them using your non-dominant hand. They LOVE getting notes — keep it short or else you'll start to detest the task.
  2. Hide it in their room.
  3. Hide it outside! It can't get any easier than tossing Jingle in the pot by the door.
  4. Have it make a cut-out snowflake or something simple that you can hang from your tree as an ornament so your tot can turn to and connect a memory to it.
  5. When they question you about the elf, throw the question back at them. It has worked for me every time — "Mom, do you think Alfie is real?" "What do YOU think?"
  6. Make cookies or snacks for it every now and then. Tinsel needs cookies just as bad as, ahem, mom does, right? Wink, wink.
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