Every December, celebrities flood their social media pages with photos of ‘Elf on the Shelf’ rascals getting up to all sorts of mischief. Stacey Solomon was up at 2am on December 1st prepping her homemade 'Elf', with the Pickle Cottage Santa scout clutching letters for her children.
As the countdown to Christmas continues, the elf has taken up residence in homes up and down the UK, and its shenanigans seem to become more and more elaborate.
Not everyone is a fan! Eimear O’Hagan, 41, a writer and mum of two explains how she became a hostage to the EOTS craze…
“Lying in bed last night, I was just drifting off to sleep when I suddenly sat up in a panic.
“We’ve forgotten to move the bloody elf,” I said to my snoring husband. After trying, but failing, to shake him awake, I reluctantly dragged myself from our warm bed and trudged downstairs, cursing (a lot) under my breath.
Half asleep, I scattered hot chocolate and mini marshmallows on the kitchen counter, before plonking “Elfie” in a mug and smearing his face with Nutella.
Climbing back into bed, I thought to myself – and not for the first time – how on earth did this become my life every December?
Like many people with children at this time of year, I am a deeply reluctant EOTS parent. An Elf Hostage, if you will.
I resent yet another addition to the domestic and mental load I have to carry daily – especially at what is such a busy time anyway – and yet here I am, begrudgingly going along with this trend which shows no signs of going away.
Let me be clear, it was not my decision to have an elf.
Two years ago, in December 2020, a very well meaning family friend sent my children, Ruadhan, now seven and Donnacha, now five, a helium balloon with their names on it, and attached to it was their very own elf.
They were absolutely ecstatic, and I admit, that at that time, after a year of lockdowns, restrictions, so much sadness and another lockdown on the horizon, I loved seeing the joy and excitement on their little faces.
Elfie was, I am happy to admit, a joyful distraction and every morning Ruadhan and Donnacha raced around the house looking for him, squealing with excitement when they found him in his latest mischievous scenario.
I suppose it never occurred to me back then that elves aren’t just for one Christmas, once you have one, they’re for every Christmas.
And so, not wanting to disappoint them, I dug Elfie out of a box of decorations where he’d been hidden and I went through the motions again, racking my brains for new ideas, my enthusiasm waning by the day.
Fast forward to December 2022 and not only have I lost all enthusiasm, I hate Elfie!
Along with shopping for presents, sourcing a sheep costume for the Nativity and holding down a full time job, I now have to come up with entertaining ideas for what to do with him every night.
It’s caused more than one argument with my husband Malcolm about whose turn it is to be on Elf Duty, because he’s now as bored of it as I am.
And as we all know, these sorts of trends bring out the very worst in competitive parents who try to outdo one another on the ‘gram with increasingly elaborate elf pranks.
Not a naturally creative person, seeing their amazing efforts fills me both with envy that I haven’t been as imaginative, and frustrated that they are raising the bar so high, and making life harder for the rest of us.
My Insta story of Elfie sitting with the boy’s advent calendars, which he’d delivered from the North Pole earlier this week, felt really crap compared to the mum who posted an image of her elf on the ROOF of their house in a toy sledge, surrounded by fake snow! She definitely has too much time on her hands, I thought bitterly. Don't even get me started on the celebrity edition of Elf. It’s hard not to roll my eyes when I stumble upon the elaborate scenarios conjured up by the likes of Kim Kardashian and Rochelle Humes. Kate Ferdinand even had her elf land December 1st in a fully functioning mini hot air balloon for God’s sake!
I’m not alone in wishing my elf would just Elf Off and not come back, a quick poll of friends and school mums on Whatsapp revealed the vast majority feel the same way as me."
Chartered Psychologist Catherine Hallisey says a social pressure has developed around the EOTS trend.
“Parents reluctantly sign up because they don’t want their child to feel left out and because we’re now bombarded with social media posts about the weird and wonderful things other people are doing with their elves, it’s easy to feel guilty if you don’t join in and go all in.”
When I tell Catherine that the one advantage of having an elf is using it as a way to ensure good behaviour – he is, as far as my boys are concerned, Santa’s eyes and ears – she isn’t a fan.
“I hate the idea of the elf being used as a behaviour management tool. For me, the idea that the elf is spying and reporting back to Santa is not in line with the magic and wonder of Christmas,” she says.
Sorry Catherine, but there have to be some benefits to elf ownership, so I’m going to choose to ignore that.
Catherine’s advice is to take part in EOTS if you enjoy it, but don’t sign up if you don’t.
“If you and your children love the elf, then go for it. But, if it puts pressure on you as a parent, do not sign up for it. Yes, we want childhood to be filled with magic and wonder. But that should come from children’s imagination, not parents.”
She’s right, of course, but sadly I am in too deep now.
I only have to look at Elfie’s creepy smile and wide eyed gaze to feel riddled with regret I didn’t chuck him in the bin the day he arrived.
Now, he’s as much a part of our Christmas as leaving a mince pie out for Santa and singing Away In A Manger at the school carol concert.
I’m well and truly stuck with him until my kids no longer believe."
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