If you’re on Pinterest, you’ve no doubt seen the millions of cute, creative ideas people are using with the Elf on the Shelf. I would see them and think, oh, that’s cute, and wish I had Pinterest for inspiration several years ago when we started with JoJo, our elf.
JoJo was a gift from Matt’s mom several years ago, and for the first few Christmases, we used him faithfully. It was fun, Luke and Bennett weren’t freaked out by him (Jack Henry was too young to know) and his ability to watch them and fly to Santa at night, and Matt and I mostly remembered to move him every night. On those nights he didn’t move, we just made up something about how he must not have had anything to report to Santa that night, so he stayed put.
Sometimes, though, our lazy elf would stay put for a couple of days. The last year we had him out (our first in this house), he didn’t even show up until close to Christmas, and even then, didn’t do a very good job.
Which, I think, is primarily why last Christmas, JoJo stayed suffocating in his box. I was tired of sucking at moving the elf. Plus, Jack Henry didn’t make a peep about it, and neither Luke nor Bennett believed in Santa, so it seemed unnecessary.
However, last week, I decided to get him back out. Jack Henry has an elf at school that just showed up on Wednesday, and he told me all about it. He was so excited that I decided we should do it again. One more time, at least.
Because I may tell him about Santa after this year. Yes, I know he’s 5. And I know some of you right now are thinking I’m crazy or stupid, and I’m fine with that. Please know that these are just my thoughts, and no reflection on what I think other people should be doing.
The truth is, I’ve struggled for years with the idea of Santa. We’ve always kept Santa’s gifts pretty small, and we’ve never talked about the naughty/nice aspect of Santa, though I did once use the Elf to try and bribe Bennett, in the thick of his “rough years”, which *shockingly* didn’t work (Katie wrote an awesome post about the Elf and behavior modification that I LOVED). I hate the lying to my kids that keeping the story of Santa involves. I’ve probably also mentioned this before, but I also hate how when my kids make a Christmas list, and I’d talk about how Matt and I spend money conservatively through the year and we can’t (and WON’T) buy them everything they want, they pull the “I’ll Just Ask Santa” card.
Last Christmas was our first with 2 boys not believing, and it was still magical and amazing and fantastic. It wasn’t sad or lacking.
But here’s the kicker for me, and why I’m considering telling JH fairly soon: several weeks ago, we were preparing a shoebox for Operation Christmas Child. As we were deciding what to put in there, Jack Henry said, “Why doesn’t Santa just bring those kids what they need?”
It’s difficult to really teach your kids how to be the hands and feet of Jesus when they think that a make-believe character can deliver toothbrushes and soap to kids in third world countries. And though I gently explained that just like Santa only brings him one or two things from his list, he can’t bring kids everything they need and want, no matter where they live.
But really, I hate that answer. So much. If I want him to grow up to know that we are called to care for the poor, that it is our responsibility, then I want to be able to fully teach him that now while he’s so impressionable.
So that brings me back to the elf, which we are having fun with again this year. Going out with a bang? Maybe. But it’s making the older boys smile and wink at me, and Jack Henry gasp, when they walk in and see JoJo playing Candyland with Buzz Lightyear, Sheriff Woody, and Mack Truck!
For now, it’s a fun game of hide-and-seek, while I work out this inner conflict I’m having.