I wasn’t going to be one of those “Elf on the Shelf” moms.
It just seems wrong to let Jude believe I’d buy a doll for the express purpose of spying on him and reporting all of his misdeeds and tantrums back to Santa. I mean, what kind of a monster am I?
I was secure in my decision, too, until I experienced a weak moment last weekend at the hands of the Target machine. I had been wandering the aisles for a while, letting my eyes glaze over the rows of glittery holiday items that I don’t actually need but somehow always want, and that’s when the boxes of elves appeared. There were tons of them, waiting for adults to take them home and start up a new tradition with their little BFFs.
I surprised myself by picking one up to examine it closer, and that’s when I began to wonder if my hesitance to join in the elven games was somehow depriving Jude of a shared experience with his peers. I pictured him standing around with a group of friends as they traded stories about their weird parents and the sadistic elf they brought out every year to shame them into behaving. I realized in that moment that Jude deserved his own story, and by God, I was going to make it happen for him. I put that elf in my cart, and I never looked back.
So, I guess I’m a little bit of a monster, but no more so than most other moms, right?
Upon further reflection, it occurred to me that Tiny—our new Elf on the Shelf as named by Jude—is just the next natural step toward my depravity. I spent a healthy amount of time last year promising to “call Santa” each time Jude misbehaved last holiday season. This meant not only threatening the action with words but also sometimes picking up the phone, fake dialing, and then fake tattle-taling. I am proud of none of this, and even more embarrassed to admit that it worked so well. Hey, whatever it takes to get a toddler to put his pants on, amiright?
So Tiny is just an upping of the ante, or so I thought. It was nice at first, having a scapegoat in the house: “Jude, if you don’t go up and take a bath, Tiny is going to be very upset. Do you want to upset Tiny?” All of a sudden, Tiny was Tony Soprano. Actually, Santa is Tony Soprano. Tiny became more of a Paulie “Walnuts,” if we’re being technical, but whatever. The point is, it was dirty work, but Tiny was up for it.
And then I went a bit too far.
Jude was acting like a complete and utter maniac in the mall on Sunday. To be fair, this occurred after several hours of marathon Christmas shopping, during which he was pretty great and accommodating. By the time we took a break to eat dinner, he was ravenous and exhausted, so it should not have surprised me when he ran out the door to the mall rather than into the restaurant, without wearing his jacket, of course.
“Jude!” I was also beside myself with hunger and fatigue and had no patience for toddler hijinks. “That’s it! I’m calling Tiny right now!”
That’s right. I was threatening to place a fake phone call to a plastic-headed, stuffed doll so that he would report my child to Santa during his nightly, magical trip to the North Pole.
“Hello Tiny?” I said into my phone after pretending to dial. “Jude is not behaving nicely.” Those are stern words, Mommy. Look out.
“No, Mommy!” Jude said. “Don’t call Tiny!” The quiver in his voice let me know that my evil plan was working. Once again, Tiny to the rescue.
“He says he is not happy right now,” I said, rubbing it in.
“Mommy, no!” He jumped and flailed his arms in protest as I led him into the restaurant against his will.
I’d like to say it was my own desperate need to eat that prompted my actions, but that would be a lie. I enjoyed making Tiny the bad guy. I liked raising my hands in the air and saying, “Hey, I’m just following protocol, buddy. I’m just a pawn in Santa’s game.”
I’m not just a monster, I’m sick.
A couple of days ago, Jude wanted to watch TV in the living room rather than get his shoes on to leave for school. I explained that this was not possible, which made him quite frustrated. In response, he held out one hand, using the pointer finger of the other to jab at his open palm.
“Boop-beep-boop-boop-boop,” he said as he pressed. He was mimicking my fake dial. I was simultaneously amused and appalled. “Hello? Santa? Mommy’s not being a good girl,” he said with his open palm to his ear. “Boop,” he said, removing the “phone” from his head and pressing at the center of his hand once more to hang up, satisfied with the report he just delivered.
The student had become the master.
As I suspected, purchasing Tiny was not a great idea. In fact, it’s much worse than I anticipated. He’s reduced us to the sort of petty snitches that are pretty much guaranteed to end up on the naughty list. At this point, I’ll let him ride out the season. I can’t say that I won’t invoke his powers when the need arises. I mean, I did threaten to text him last night when Jude wouldn’t go to bed—I know. I KNOW. But, after this Christmas, Tiny is going back in his box where he can spend the rest of the year thinking about what he’s done. Maybe, if he’s lucky, I’ll think about letting him out again next year, but I can’t say I like the person I become when he’s around, so he’d better watch it. I wouldn’t harm him on purpose, but if something were to happen by accident, well, let’s just say I don’t know if I’d intervene.
I need help.