There are a lot of folks who hate my Elf, and his Elf, and her Elf, and their Elf.
Although I am well aware our elf — Jingles — doesn't have a beating heart, my kids like to believe she has a magical one.
As for the fool who moves the tiny toy around each night?
Well, hey, I have one too.
I know the Elf-less don't mean to criticize me when they make fun of the Elf idea. Just like I have no intention of making the Elf-less feel bad when I choose to share a photo or two.
Why did I let myself succumb to the consumeristic hype?
Why do I exert the effort when there are so many other things I could be doing?
I guess you'd have to travel back to my childhood for the answer. Despite growing up in families that did not celebrate Santa Claus, my parents put gifts with special wrapping paper and Santa handwriting under the tree every year.
Then right around the time I was the age my oldest daughter is now, when friends were getting harder to navigate and the peer pressure to stop believing was pressing down on me, my parents had our neighbour dress up in a Santa suit and pose for Polaroid snapshots in front of our tree.
Despite predictions by many online Elf-haters, I did not grow up to resent my parents for deceiving me or tricking me or making me look like a fool. I feel nothing but gratitude that they wanted to preserve the magic of childhood for me and my sister, even if it meant buying into cultural practices they didn't come from.
When the gig is up around here, and the last of my lot has figured out that it was me and Dad who bolted out of bed in the middle of the night, or stuffed Jingles down our pants in the morning so we could discreetly move her before she was spotted, I'm certain they'll feel gratitude.
As for the judgey comments about parents using the Elf as a behaviour deflector, well that's none of my business. We don't use that approach around here, but I did use M&M's to toilet train our youngest daughter, so I guess there's always the threat that I'll succumb.
My kids are at different ages and stages of believing, but this "creepy toy with the cold eyes" still brings their varying beliefs together in fun. They roll out of bed every day in the month of December and launch an early morning search for her landing spot. When they find her, they are equally delighted.
It's not about the photos (though do be warned, there will be some because I like saving memories for my kids), but the magic. A reminder to hold on to it, because it is fleeting.
It's not about having or doing the latest thing for me. It's about being grateful that I can do these things with and for my kids.
It's not a waste of my time, but a short-lived re-prioritization—five minutes that I dedicate to setting the stage for gap-toothed morning smiles.
It's not just about the Elf, you see—it's about those memories.
And if adding a mischievous red Elf to our traditions gives those memories a swish of colour, that's quite all right with me.