Elf on the Shelf: The Studer Team version

Sunday, November 25, 2012

preface:  this is how OUR family has incorporated Elf on the Shelf because of OUR beliefs.  We adapted the tradition to fit what we believe.  No matter how different our beliefs are from yours - you can do the same thing; adapt it to fit what your family believes.  In no way is the below post meant as an invitation to you to belittle, condemn, or evangelize   If you don't agree with it, great.  I don't really care to hear about it.

If you haven't heard about the Elf on the Shelf craze, you are definitely not on pinterest.  Holy elf-tricks, batman.  We are first time Elf sitters this holiday season, even though I had heard about the little guy last year.  Granted, Grey probably wasn't old enough last year to really get it - but I was very hesitant in jumping on the Elf bandwagon.

I had some initial issues with the Elf idea - first, we talk to our kids about being good all the time, not because you'll get presents from Santa or because someone is 'watching you.'  It also felt like it was somehow teaching kids that being good = getting presents.  We try to teach them that we are "good" (or kind/polite/caring) because being good is the right thing to do.  We talk about being nice and kind and trying our best all the time. That is how our family tries to live everyday, not just around the holiday.   So I didn't feel great about the idea of the kids learning (even if it was only silly fun) that a little spy was going to go tattle on them to Santa if they were bad around Christmas.

I also struggled with the major Santa focus and the lack of focus on baby Jesus and His birthday.  This is something that I had an internal battle about since Grey was first born (I'm apparently something of a  worrier, hah).  But we wanted our kids to be able to have some balance between Santa & presents and baby Jesus's presence (you see what I did there, heh).

For some reference, my husband and I are born&raised Catholics.  We attend Catholic church and relish and celebrate the Catholic traditions and holidays.  But we are also influenced in a lot of ways by Buddhism, Judaism, many sects of Christianity, and Science.  We're a mish mash of religion and beliefs (just like our mish mash of genes in our family tree), but our bottom line is that we believe in being kind.  That is where we draw a hard line.

So last  year, I stumbled upon a beautiful painting that touched me and I very quickly purchased it as a piece of our holiday decorations.  The caption on the photo reads, "and every knee shall bend."

There's quite a bit of criticism about the painting (as there tends to be on the internet), but the painting illustrated what we want our kids to know about the holiday - that Baby Jesus and Santa are not separate from each other, but that they 'know, love, and respect each other'.

And this year, I discovered this pin from Leana's blog over at A Small Snippet and it was the light bulb for me on how we can have Elf fun while maintaining what our family stands for.

So I took to drafting up our letter from Santa and I ordered our Elf on the Shelf from amazon.  (The Elf on the Shelf: Plushee Pals)  I did not order the elf+book combo - but rather the plush Elf since the kids are so young and they could snuggle him up if they wanted.

Our elf, Marco, arrived yesterday (in a recycled laundry detergent box posed as a mailed package from the North Pole)

Marco was welcomed into our home with a whole bunch of hugs (and some very slobbery kisses from Gemmi).  We even had a mini dance party with Marco where we were all giggling and yelling, "Go Marco, Go Marco, Go Marco!" while he showed off his pretty sweet moves.

As I mentioned yesterday, I planned out the 30 days of Marco madness in my planner, thanks to a very easy Pinterest search of Elf on the Shelf ideas.  It was easy to come up with 30 acts, but I knew if I didn't plan them out - there would be days that I would be scrambling and I was also weirdly concerned that I'd repeat some of the days - hah.

This morning, we had a family hunt for Marco when Daddy pointed out that Marco wasn't sleeping on his shelf (under a burp cloth blanket).   Booboo grabbed his flashlight and we made our way around the house searching for Marco.

Only to find him nonchalantly hanging out in the dining room near a big cereal mess that spelled out "Hi, Grey + Gem."

Grey was quick to tell Marco, "Hey, this is a big mess.  Marco - be nice!"  I announced that we should give Marco a hug to remind him that he needed to be nice and try his best.  "Remember how Daddy and Mum love you and remind you even when  you act a little bit naughty.  We have to love Marco too.  Just like Jesus does."  So we all gave Marco a hug (and Gem gave him a slobber kiss) and told him to try his best and Booboo said, "and not make big messes."

Booboo then sat on his chair and handed Gemmi a piece of cereal and said, "Look at me Marco, I'm being nice and sharing."

That's the kind of a being 'good' that we are looking for.  The kind that we practice every day of the year.  And the kind that we as a family, even when the kids are very young, can help remind and be examples for a little sometimes-naughty elf from the North Pole.  At this age, Grey loves being the boss and mimicking the things we say - so getting a chance to tell Marco to "not be a naughty boy, honey" is kind of right up his developmental alley.

My kids aren't perfectly well-behaved angels, by.any.means.  They still go in time-out and get yelled at and make us completely insane.  And I have no expectations that spending a month monitoring Marco will change that part in the least.  But we have to practice being kind everyday, all the time, and being with Marco during the holiday season will be a fun way to be an example of kindness and trying our best a little extra than usual.

I am not the first person to think of this idea and certainly won't be the last to edit something to fit it so it will work for us.  Just look at all of these other bloggers/internet writers who have been discussing the same sort of thing.

In case you need or want a jumping off point for your own adaptation (just as Leana's letter inspired mine), here is our letter.  It's written for the audience of a 2.5year old with the type of language that we use on a daily basis ("trying our best", etc).

happy holidays!


  1. Thanks for this post. I'm also on the fence and hesitant about starting the whole Elf on the Shelf thing. I have made an effort not to watch the movie or read the book.... My oldest is 2.5 and the baby is 10 months. Your letter was great, especially the language about being kind and trying your best. I might be jumping on the Elf Bandwagon afterall.

  2. Cute adaptation of what I have always considered a creepy fad. It is enough to make me rethink my swearing one of those elves would never enter my house.

  3. I really like your approach. I think the elf could be a fun tradition for our family, but I didn't want it to take away from our Advent calendars, or creche. With our son being 9 and our daughter 2, we decided to use the elf this year as a way to keep the 'santa fun' going for him. We use Santa as the catalyst for the gifts that we share with each other for Jesus' birthday. The elf is just another way to incorporate this. I think the more we do to celebrate the season is great- no matter if it's elves, or LEGO advent calendars (ack!)! Have a great Season!!

  4. I just stumbled across the same pin on Pinterest...can't wait till our little ones are old enough to really comprehend this approach. Thanks for sharing...you are a great mommy, I love. Reading your writing!!!

  5. Love your approach! Thank you for sharing!