Thursday, December 10, 2015

Zoe vs. Never Will I Ever . . . Do the Elf on the Shelf

Exciting news! I'm in a new book that just came out called Never Will I Ever (and Then I Had Kids), edited by Alexa Bigwarfe and Kerry Rivera, the talented ladies behind Lose the Cape.

Thirty-two moms (and one dad) have written humorous and heartfelt essays about all the things we said we'd never do when we had children . . . that is, before reality hit us square in the face, followed by a plate of pasta in which we tried to hide a vegetable, but Dear Heart caught on, because God forbid a carrot enters their digestive tract, and then we had to eat face leftovers along with our words.
So what did you say you'd never ever do? Let your toddler watch TV? No toy guns? No food from a box? No tattoos? (For the record, I'm still not allowing Zoe to get tatted up unless it's the temporary kind or if she joins a motorcycle gang and wants to fit in.) 
Point is, most of us said there were things we'd never do. And even after we know better, that's no guarantee against making new ridiculous vows.
For instance, one of the things I said I wouldn't do was take part in the Elf on the Shelf silliness Christmas tradition. And then Zoe turned a recalcitrant five.
Zoe got an Elf as a gift when she was three, but I never imagined using it. I thought it was obnoxious; I thought it was creepy. Still do. I thought it was basically admitting your kid wouldn't behave without the threat of some inanimate object spying on them and reporting on their behavior. My kid should be able to behave on her own, follow the rules because "Mommy said so."
Hilarious, right?
Zoe is shaping up to be quite the little delinquent. In fact, in the weeks leading up to December 1st, Zoe's behavior was shockingly bad. Her activities included hitting, spitting, refusing to apologize, and then lying about it. I talked to her; Daddy talked to her; we took stuff away.  
Then, on November 30, as I was taking out the Christmas decorations, I came across the Elf. I regarded it. It looked smug. I regarded it some more.
Was I going to be the type of parent to cede authority to, essentially, a decoration with a back story? An imaginary person's underling no less? After a moment's soul-searching, I decided: Absoelfinglutely. Dip my head in the Christmas holy water cause I was ready to accept the Elf Chad Thaddeus Dingleberry the Third as my lord and savior. Because as Frosty the Snowman said, there are no Santa deniers in foxholes.
So that night I put Chad out on a shelf wondering if Zoe would even notice him in the morning.
She did. She knew about the Elf from school and from the animated show about the Elf that had already aired on TV.
At first, she gave Chad the side-eye. And I waited to see what she'd say.
Now, regarding the jolly man in the sleigh---just as I intend for all future discussions of sex, God, and the electoral college---I hope to put her off with vague answers and half truths, like any good parent, and I figured I'd take this same cowardly path with the Elf. And so I was not prepared when she asked me, straight out: Is the Elf real?
Could I lie to her that baldly? I wavered.
Would her belief in the Elf help me keep her in line?
Friends, as Santa is my witness, I told my child, yes, Chad was real; Chad was magic; and Chad was watching.
And then something happened. A look came over her face, kind of like the Grinch's when his heart grows those three sizes, and she said, "I was hoping he would come to our house and move around, and he did!"
Holy freakin' mistletoe, I thought, was I, cynical me, unintentionally giving my child a magical childhood?
Ten days in now and Zoe really likes it. Each morning she has fun finding the Elf and then telling us where he is. I'd like to say she's been behaving better, but it's too soon to tell.
Could it be that the Elf actually worked out? If so, would we have a fun tradition we could enjoy for years?
And years.
And years. . . .
Twenty-four days each year spent moving a creepy, moralizing cloth doll around our small apartment.
Or it may be I'll rue the day, after all. Never say never.

Buy it here. Don't say I never told you.

Zoe: 120; Universe: 0

For more of Zoe's hijinks, follow me on Facebook and on Twitter at @zoevsuniverse
I need a win here, people. 

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