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Julia Sims: The trouble with elves

Posted December 16, 2014

Julia Sims with son Will

Since I doubt young children will read this, I'm going to say it straight out: Elf on the Shelf is a sham!

There, I said it. I wanted to shout it from the top of my lungs last week, but being the oh so sensitive mom I am, I held back.

Sure, it's all fun and games until your child wises up. Or, as in my case, until the playground rumor mill makes it to your little one's ears.

Last week, right before bed, Will told me some friends told him Elf on the Shelf wasn't real and that parents bought the little guy and moved him around the house. My mind started reeling! What do I say?!

Then, it happened. Will looked me dead in the eye and asked: "Did you BUY the elf? Did YOU pay MONEY for the elf? Did he come in a BOX?" Rapid fire questions. I felt like I was under the white hot lights of a skilled interrogator. I felt the sweat beading on my upper lip. I couldn't think fast enough. I answered with a wimpy yes to each question.

My little boy threw his hands up and covered his eyes as he walked around in a crazy circle in his bedroom. "Oh my gosh. Oh my gosh. How could you mama? He's not real? Is that why he has a tag on the back of his outfit? He's just a toy?"

I quickly moved into survival mode talking about the spirit of Christmas, the power in believing, the magic, whatever my feeble mind could come up with at the moment. It was pure parental panic. Why hadn't I read the book? (Note to self: Always read the instructions!)

Then, like I do, I dug myself even deeper. As he continued the theatrics, I said "It's just like Santa. There's only one Santa - and millions of children around the world. The Santas you see at parties or at the mall are representatives."

Yep. Will looked at me completely horrified! "What's a representative? The Santas aren't real either? So, they don't even have real beards?"

The little guy finally fell asleep, leaving me to wonder if I'd ever recover. I texted my husband to alert him to the Christmas crisis. He came home that night and jokingly said "Julia, you need to lie. If you can't look him in the eye, then turn your head away and lie."

The next morning, Will went looking for that crazy little store-bought Elf then came running to me and said "Mama, I believe you. You're not a liar." I didn't question him. I figured if I did, it would only lead to another round of questioning. It was best to keep my mouth shut.

My son knows the true meaning of Christmas. I don't worry about that. But there is something very special about believing in magical things. I hope we can hold onto that just a little longer.

*By the way, a friend told me there's now an Elf on the Shelf Birthday edition. Um, no thanks!

Julia is a reporter for WRAL-TV and the mother of a grade schooler. She writes monthly for Go Ask Mom.



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  • Elizabeth Kauff Dec 19, 2014
    user avatar

    I loathe the Elf. Kill it with fire.

  • callieriggs Dec 18, 2014

    You can have the elf and enjoy the fun it brings without using it as discipline. Those of you saying if you need an elf to make your kids behave you have failed at parenting seem like those kneejerk reactors on the internet. We have an elf. My kids are 10 and 8 and they think he is fun. My 8yr old LOVES him. She writes him notes and leaves him presents. I don't use him to teach my children to behave because that is my job as a parent but like some of the other posters have said, I have an elf to keep the magic alive and to keep my kids little for as long as possible.

  • christophersma Dec 18, 2014

    When my Boys were small they each in turn came to me upset because they were told there was on such thing as Santa. Pretty much a single parent I did some very fast thinking and told each one at different times that as long as they believed then Santa came every year but they couldn't tell anyone. If they told or didn't believe he stopped coming. All three still say they believe....

  • lizlizardrn2 Dec 17, 2014

    First you turn the question around and ask him what HE thinks. Keep reflecting back to him what he is saying - what he is thinking...ask him if you are hearing him say "blah,blah blah"...and then end with I don't really know for sure...I'll have to think on it some more myself. When a child is ready to know anything, they will send out strong clues and will ask more than once if you are receptive to their questions. They will figure it out in their own time and then tell you ,with certainty the answer as they see it. You,my dear, have to learn how to field some questions without giving a solid answer the first time you are asked. Hedge a bit. So long as you don't keep it up till he's 20, it's not a lie. The day is going to come when he asks where did he come from and you will explain the birds and bees only to find out that the kid down the street came from N.Y and your son was wondering where he came from !!! Old joke, by the way !

  • hforbes482 Dec 17, 2014

    We love our elf Herbie. The kids (yes even my 12 year old) gets up every morning to see where he is. It is all in fun and just adds a little magic to a very busy time. Lets the kids be kids. It isn't to make them be good....after all how many of your parents told you Santa was watching when you were little? When my kids have asked me if I bought answer is a truthful No because their grandmother bought him for our house. Just like when my kids ask me if I buy their Santa gifts....I just say "do you really think I would spend money on that stuff?". Let kids have a little magic and is what being a kid is all about.

  • Vicky Corey Dec 17, 2014
    user avatar

    I have no idea what to tell you. This was not out there when mine were small and to be honest I'm glad it wasn't. I have no problem with Santa or anything else someone chooses to do with their children to make Christmas magical. I just had enough on my plate with 3 toddler boys to have to worry about an elf. Lol It all worked out fine so pat yourself on the back and smile! As long as he knows the real reason for Christmas as far as I'm concerned you have done your job. :)

  • SM Dec 17, 2014

    If you need a toy Elf to keep your children in line leading up to Christmas, you have failed as a parent.

    You know how my parents got me to stay in line around Christmas? They threatened to take Christmas away and would follow through on that threat. I also lost a birthday once as a child.

    THAT'S how you keep your kid in line.

  • CAJ Dec 17, 2014

    Christmas is a magical time. No matter if you believe in the elf, or Santa or not. it is a time when most people try and be on there best behavior (young and old). So what is wrong with having some fun while you are at it. Most adults have as much fun with the elf and the children do finding him. It is not going to scar a child to have one of these elf in your home..... no more than the rest of the world already does. People sure love to trash things but never try saying anything good.

  • Killian Dec 17, 2014

    My parents had an Elf on the Shelf back in the early 70s. But it was simply a decoration that sat there; it never moved or did anything. Someone is making a bundle on creative marketing.

  • Cindy Rose Dec 17, 2014
    user avatar

    Forget the elf, just be a parent. We were just talking about what a rip-off the whole elf thing is. Like I was telling my friend, handling behavior issues is a parents job, not just at Christmas, but year round. And for my child I expected good behavior year round, not just at Christmas. Someone has made a killing off the sales of these things, and all so parents don't have to be the "bad guy". It beats lying to your children which destroys your credibility.