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the elf on the GD shelf

The Elf on the Shelf. Either you’ve wrestled with one in your life, or you have friends on FB who are wrestling with one and lashing out by posting photos of their elves doing unsavory things. Either way, the epidemic refuses to be contained.

The EOTS is a small bendy elf figure that “watches” your kids and supposedly flies back to the North Pole every night to rat them out to Santa. The idea is to trick your kids into behaving less like wild animals throughout the month of December than would otherwise be the norm.

Simple enough premise, right? Right. Personally the thing I dislike most about the EOTS is that I didn’t invent it. I’ll give credit where credit is due, and whoever invented this thing and then boxed it up for sale is a freaking genius. Because once you buy one, you’re committed to an annual tradition that inspires such dread that you’d swear the thing was created by Satan himself, if that sentiment didn’t seem so anti-Christmas. You hate it so much that you can’t help talking about it, and then other innocents go out and buy one for their families out of sheer curiosity, and pretty soon, you’re looking at world domination.

Our EOTS is named Rindy. Finn named him two years ago when he was four and that’s all I have to say about that corny name. Personally I’d have gone with “Succubus” or “Evil Malingerer,” but Finn wanted to write “Rindy” down in the little space provided for the elf’s name in the associated EOTS hardcover book, and that was that. The doll itself has a vintage charm that in the light of early morning looks positively demonic. Spindly little legs and arms and a face dominated by large cracked-out eyes, the better to watch your kids. The EOTS is creepy enough that I’m always nervous that I’ll come downstairs in the morning and Rindy will actually be running around, rearranging ornaments, or that he will swivel his head towards me and giggle, “Yoona, you’ve been a verrrrrry naughty girl!”


The EOTS has to be moved every night, to maintain the fiction that he flew back to the North Pole at night and flew back for a new day of surveillance and tattling. But by bedtime, Tom and I are so tired and depleted of mental resources that we always forget to move Rindy before we go upstairs, which means that when 6:00 AM rolls around and we awaken to the peaceful sound of Finn screaming at Tate to get out of his room, one of us has to race down to the first floor and move Rindy before the kids make it downstairs. We have forgotten to move him a couple times and Tom had to spin a complicated yarn about Rindy choosing the same spot as the day before because he really liked the view. Ahhh. Nothing says Christmas like a web of lies.

Here’s the other thing about moving the EOTS: you can’t just cram him anywhere. With the EOTS, placement is all. He has to be high enough that the kids can’t touch him, because imagine the hysteria that would ensue if someone accidentally jostled the EOTS and he fell lifeless to the floor. That has never happened but you can be damned sure that I’m neither emotionally nor intellectually equipped to explain the situation to my kids, if it ever does.

In moving the elf, you also have to be careful to orient the EOTS’s eyes towards the space in the room where people would normally hang out. I learned this the hard way when I told Tate that Rindy would tell Santa if he didn’t eat his eggs. Tate shrugged. “Rindy’s not looking at me.” I looked up and saw that Tom had placed Rindy on top of a painting, with eyes facing towards the windows. Shit! Geez Tom, do I have to do everything??

Finn’s six now but he’s still on board with Rindy. Let’s face it, Finn would be on board with Strawberry Shortcake if she led to presents. If I need the EOTS to help keep anyone in line, it’s Tate, who approaches life as if he is Godzilla and the rest of us are the cowering city of Tokyo. But of course Tate is immune. Last week, he walked past the EOTS, muttering to himself. “Stupid Rindy.” I started to tell Tate that Santa wasn’t going to be happy that he said “stupid,” but I didn’t have the heart to continue the charade.

2012 may be curtains for our elf.

20 Comments Post a comment
  1. thevirtualrealityofstaci #

    Oh but Rindy seems to be working if Tate is muttering stupid….. LOL. I never got the entire idea of the elf thing, but I was usually on Santa’s naught list by dec 2 anyway, I just couldn’t be good. I realized quickly that naughty or nice didn’t matter I still got gifts.

    December 15, 2012
    • it would be terrible if my kids figured that out. the real tragedy here is that
      i need all the parenting gimmicks i can find

      December 15, 2012
  2. THat is a very artistic elf placement (2nd shot). I have only come across this bizarre phenomemum in my facebook feed with American friends. Will only be a matter of time before it is ubiquitous in Australia though.

    December 15, 2012
    • thanks. cuz said it is my anish kapoor. i hope this is one export that never makes it down under

      December 15, 2012
  3. Suzanne #

    At 7, Lucas still believes hook, line and sinker. He caught my Mum with our EOTS, Jake, in her hand last year and we spent weeks doing damage control. In fact, he wrote a letter to Santa this year asking that an elf be sent to William, Ryan and Caleb’s house. We forget to move him all the time. Pain in the ass, especially when I forget to threaten with him.

    December 14, 2012
    • I was waiting for you to make an appearance, you menace that brought the EOTS into my family

      December 14, 2012
  4. A friend of ours was just trying to convince us to get one. ‘It is so much fun’ ‘the kids love it’ HA! I guess misery loves company. Thanks for the warning!

    December 14, 2012
  5. Courtney #

    you are hilarious. thanks!

    December 14, 2012
  6. Ah, the story of my life right now. Last night after I had tucked the kids into bed, I snuck downstairs to eat some chocolate chip cookie dough (yes, the cookies were for the class party) and figured that I had better move “Tad” before I went upstairs and fell into bed. Just when I thought I was ahead of the game by 6 year old came down the stairs with a bleeding nose (because that’s what happens when you pick your nose in bed) freaking out because there was blood on his pyjamas. As I am trying to staunch the gusher, he notices that Tad has moved. And it’s still the same night!

    And so the Academy Award goes to . . . .ME! That’s right. The crap that spewed from my mouth would make any screen writer jealous and the sincerity in which I delivered it . . .priceless.

    December 14, 2012
    • this story is so funny, mostly because i can relate to all of it, starting with the eating of the kids’ food and ending with the nose, bloody from picking. might i add that there is nothing as disheartening as seeing your kids reappear after you think they are asleep

      December 14, 2012
  7. I was tempted to go through the EOTS charade, but I think my kids are too old now and your post has brought me to my senses. Thank you (and thanks to Tate) for keeping things real.
    Santa doesn’t need a messenger elf, he sees all. Right?

    December 14, 2012
    • santa don’t need no stinking helpers. exactly.

      December 14, 2012
  8. Now you’ve gone and done it. Those damned Shelf Elves were high on my list of “Why I am Glad to be Off Facebook”. The elf lovers had their space, and I had the rest of the interweb. Ugh…

    Years ago when I sorted out the family heirloom ornaments from my parent’s house the EotS was the one ornament I was thrilled to donated to the thrift store. I hated that elf as a kid and felt not only shocked but a little betrayed to learn those demonic seated monsters have been reintroduced to an entirely new generation of innocents. Have we learned nothing???

    I’ll bet you cash money the elves were brought back by a dark cabal of Child and Family Therapists who knew the developmental/emotional drift from reinstating the Culture of Santa’s Threatening Spy Elves would mean they’d have full waiting rooms for the foreseeable future.

    December 14, 2012
    • i thought for sure this thing was a
      creation of the 90s. i am simultaneously relieved and chagrined to hear that it has been around longer than i knew

      December 14, 2012
      • Yup – the original EotS were made in Japan in the 50’s (it was during The Occupation – was that part of their punishment ?) though the malevolence level was cranked WAY up in the mid 80’s.

        December 15, 2012
  9. So funny! And now I am very glad I never bought into EOTS!

    December 14, 2012

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