As I was scrolling through my Facebook news feed last week, I saw all the frustrated Elf on the Shelf posts from my friends, and smiled to myself. It was the kind of smile a parent wears only a handful of times in their lives when they know they’ve made a brilliant parental decision. In this case, I made the choice years ago to never invite that creepy, borderline demonic, looking elf into my house.
I’m willing to do a lot of crazy stuff for my kids, but continuously fucking up my house for the 24 days leading up to Christmas isn’t one of them. This time of year is about maintaining my sanity, so I don’t accidentally strangle one of my loved ones with a strand of Christmas lights while visions of sugarplums dance in their heads. Well, that and all the merry, fa-la-la crap too, I guess. But it will never, EVER be about creating more work for myself during an already hectic time of year. There are innocent lives at stake.
I know what all you avid Elf-on-the-Shelfers are thinking right now – What a scrooge!! It’s FUN! The kids love it! Trust me, I’m not trying to give Ebenezer a run for his money. I can be just as holly and jolly as the rest of you at this time of year – though there’s usually some sort of booze involved. If you saw me years ago when my kids were little, you’d know that I wasn’t always against making a little mischief in order to entertain my children. That’s how I know these sorts of “fun” parental pranks can spiral out of control.
But it wasn’t the Elf on the Shelf wreaking havoc in my home – it was a little leprechaun named Shenanigan. It started out innocent enough. It was supposed to be a one-shot deal to amuse my (then) seven year old, fairy obsessed daughter and her friend who had come over for a play date. They had dubbed themselves the “fairy finders” and they were in active pursuit of the mysterious creatures when an idea occurred to me – I thought it would be fun for them to be able to interact with their fairies. But since it happened to be St. Patrick’s Day, I decided to make it a leprechaun instead. I blame my husband’s Irish ancestry and his ugly collection of Tom Clark gnomes – all of which looked far creepier than the Elf on the Shelf. Case and point:
The game began with me writing little notes for them to find around the house. When they came upon the first note (written in tiny, curlicue handwriting) they were absolutely giddy with excitement. They quickly started a written dialog with someone they believed was a fairy, but quickly discovered was a magical leprechaun visiting from Ireland. I swear I wasn’t drunk at the time. Looking back, I find that fact hard to believe because when you start seeing leprechauns, there’s almost always alcohol involved.
I’ll admit it, I was caught up in the excitement too. I got an adrenaline rush each time I had to write the note (in ridiculously complicated print) before they came back into the room. I had to be quick, quiet, and creative; or Shenanigan would live up to his fraudulent name and once again resume life as a dusty knick-knack on my shelf.
After about an hour, I couldn’t take the pressure anymore. My nerves were frayed and I had become more jittery than excited each time I escaped discovery. I ended the game by writing that Shenanigan had to go visit the houses of other good little Irish boys and girls before St. Patrick’s Day ended. While disappointed, they seemed to understand the reason for his hasty departure, which surprised me. They latched onto the weird idea of Ireland’s version of Santa Claus as a rational concept, the way only little kids and stoned adults can.
I stupidly thought their one-time encounter with a leprechaun would become a fun childhood memory they would recount years from now. Until my bright-eyed little girl came up to me before bed that night and said, “I can’t wait for Shenanigan to come back next St. Patrick’s Day!!”
I had a brief moment when I thought about coming clean, but how could I look into those eager little eyes and crap all over her magical moment? Answer – I couldn’t. And so began Shenanigan’s annual trips to our house. I felt compelled to try and make each visit more magical and outlandish than the previous year; which ultimately resulted in making my house look like a bunch of drunken, Irish frat boys had visited us.
Every year, I bought loads of gaudy St. Patrick’s Day decorations from the party store, and used them to trash my house. There were streamers hanging in every room of the house with balloons to match, shamrock confetti on the floors, rainbows and Irish flags drawn on all the mirrors, green water in the toilets, and glitter scattered where ever Shenanigan had left a note for them to read.
This is just a small taste of the havoc that Shenanigan left in his wake…..
After several years of this self-defeating stupidity, it got to the point where I dreaded the approach of St. Patrick’s Day. While my friends and family members were having fun going to parades and getting drunk on green beer, I was making an inordinate amount of housework for myself. The glitter alone was enough to make weaker moms run in fear. Have you ever tried getting a piece of glitter off your hands? Almost impossible. Now times that chore by about A BILLION, and add in some confetti to make it extra obnoxious. Every time I threw the little foil shamrocks all over the floor, I wondered if this was the year they would kill one of my cats.
The clean-up craziness would go on for days afterward because every time I turned around, I would find more leprechaun residue on the floors or furniture. I finally decided that no sane person would willingly sign up for this bullshit. Shenanigan had to die – preferably a slow, painful death involving party favors. I won’t give you the details of how I basically killed all my children’s St. Patrick’s Day dreams – I already feel enough like Cruella DeVil without having my parental mistakes immortalized on the internet. But suffice to say that it will give my kids something to chat about with their future therapist.
After this experience, it wasn’t hard for me to decide whether or not I wanted to participate in the Elf on the Shelf phenomenon. To me, it would be like inviting Shenanigan to spend a month with me. No offense to the little figment of my imagination, but he was kind of an asshole; and from all the stories I’ve heard about the creepy Christmas tattletale, so is the elf.