A Chicago dad’s Shelf Elf quandary

This week’s blog post is by The Paternity Test co-host Matt Boresi, who lives in the Edgewater Glen neighborhood of Chicago with his wife (“Professor Foster”) and their 7-year old daughter Viva, who has no problem with broadening Santa’s surveillance powers. 

Are you one of these “Elf on the Shelf” families? The phenomenon is foreign to me. I mean, I have access to the Internet, so I’ve seen plenty of user-generated pictures of this Elf swilling booze and smoking cigarettes and doing unspeakable things to people’s toothbrushes. But I’ve never really got what the original intention of the whole thing was, presumably it wasn’t designed for Instagram posts involving borderline criminal mischief.

As a matter of fact, I had to look up more info on the Elf on this very website – which has covered the neo-tradition in various ways since it began in 2005, including Cheryl’s article on alternative Elves on Shelves, like “The Goblin on the Toboggan,” “The Burro on the Bureau,” “The Krampus on the Campus,” “Uncle Mistletoe Has Got to Go,” “Hey, Hey, It’s Our Lady of Guadalupe,” and others. (I’m paraphrasing, of course.) They all seem fairly adorable, but they all seem like a commitment.

Doubly effortful if you have to track this elf as it pranks your children, AND you have to think of horrifying things for it to do that you can tweet at your friends. (And, really, are you going to do one and not the other?) There’s the Santa thing, travel, volunteering, putting peppermint on stuff and Star Wars Lego advent calendars to manage… I have to track an elf now?

I’m still unclear on the ontological construction of the whole Santa Claus cosmos. If Santa is an omniscient policeman of children’s behavior, why does he need these elves? I’m Catholic, so I guess the shelf elves are like saints—interceding on specific matters to give Santa more time to oversee the hoverboard factory at the North Pole—the way St. Anthony helps you find your keys while God creates solar systems and verboten apple trees? I dunno, I think Santa is slipping if he needs elves to do his reconnaissance for him. Maybe he saw the quality of Hallmark and Netflix Christmas movies people are watching and he’s just given up, or maybe all those bottles of Coca-Cola have dissolved his brain.

I asked my daughter Viva what she thought of the whole thing, and she’s much higher on the idea than I am.  You can watch our discussion in the video below. She doesn’t seem to concern herself much with the metaphysical particulars; she’s in it for the whimsy.

Anyhow, Christmas is close, and we haven’t elved any shelving yet. (Is this supposed to start at Thanksgiving? How many kicky places to hide an elf could there possibly be in your house?) Maybe we’ll never be an elf family—maybe we’ll save it till, like, the 23rd to minimize the required caloric output.

…Or maybe an elf will just show up?

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