Matt Driscoll

It’s time for the Elf on the Shelf to take a hike

What happens when an elf goes off his shelf?

"The Elf on the Shelf: A Christmas Tradition" is a 2005 children's picture book that describes how Santa's "scout elves" hide in people's homes to watch over activities, good and bad. One elf in Gautier, Miss., known as Elf on the Bayou, went rogue.
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"The Elf on the Shelf: A Christmas Tradition" is a 2005 children's picture book that describes how Santa's "scout elves" hide in people's homes to watch over activities, good and bad. One elf in Gautier, Miss., known as Elf on the Bayou, went rogue.

We regret to inform you that Holly, your Elf on the Shelf, will not be joining you this season.

Thus begins the formal correspondence — composed on letterhead from the North Pole — that I’ve been fantasizing about delivering to my children this year.

Will the kids be crushed, at least for a while? Oh, probably. But, at this point, a few youthful tears seem like a small price to pay.

Faced with a decision on whether to continue the Christmas charade or finally forgo the terrible corporate gimmick, I’m ready to choose the latter.

Children are resourceful. They’ll regroup, and perhaps even grow from this experience.

The Elf on the Shelf, on the other hand?

It needs to take a hike, and fast.

As a parent, I’m sure I’m not alone in this sentiment. Like many, our family succumbed to the Elf on the Shelf shtick a few years back, pressured by our oldest daughter, who claimed it was something “all her friends” were doing.

That’s how they get you. That’s always how they get you — and it’s surely just how the hucksters at Big Elf planned it.

Since that fateful time, we’ve engaged in the seasonal rigmarole, albeit halfheartedly. As parents we never bought into the whole “the Elf is here to spy on you” thing, because — let’s be honest — that’s super creepy, and — even more — we lack the necessary follow through.

Put another way, we’re lazy. Let’s just call it for what it is.

We have, however, been casually complicit in allowing Holly to enter our home every year, and for this I take full responsibility. We’ve watched the Elf on the Shelf magically appear in different concocted poses each morning, to the delight of our children and the chagrin of their exasperated parents.

Breaking the news won’t be easy, it’s worth noting. I’m not fooling myself. The work will be delicate, requiring a certain parental tenderness I might not possess.

I’m hoping to muster it this week, though, when Elves on the Shelves are scheduled to start appearing across the land.

Time is of the essence. And I’m certain the time has come.

How will I do it? I’m still spit-balling.

My first thought was a workplace accident. Maybe back in July Holly got entangled in the package wrapper and lost a limb? Seems believable, right? Especially since elves are notoriously clumsy (or so I might be able to make our kids believe)?

Unfortunately, it also opens the door to all sorts of follow-up questions that I probably won’t be able to answer.

Is L&I investigating? Was there an injury settlement? Does Santa run a union shop?

I’m not ready to wilt under the questioning of our 11-year-old.

A failed drug test also crossed my mind. I mean, Holly has spent recent holiday seasons in Tacoma, not far from Mary Mart.

If the Elf on the Shelf can write cute Christmas messages in lipstick on the bathroom mirror every year surely she could also manage to procure a few pre-rolled joints for the long off-season up north.

Again, however, the excuse is full of potential holes. Is weed legal in the North Pole? I have no idea, but probably. It’s close enough to Canada.

Plus, I’m not trying to tarnish Holly’s good name. I just don’t want her to come back to our house.

Maybe Holly got laid off, took a buyout or Santa pivoted to video? Stranger things have happened.

Maybe Holly was actually a Russian bot this whole time? We could even blame Zuckerberg.

Maybe Holly found more meaningful work, pursuing her passion? Maybe she lives in Santa Fe now, immersed in the city’s art scene? That sounds nice.

Maybe — since Elves don’t need health insurance — Holly embraced the gig economy? It wouldn’t be too big of a stretch to tell the kids she’s driving for Uber or working for Instacart?

Maybe we could just follow Holly on Instagram and call it good?

Or, maybe — just maybe — I could tell the kids the truth.

Are they old enough to know Santa got bought out by Jeff Bezos?

Probably not, but it sure beats the alternative.

In case it’s not already clear, I don’t know how this is going to turn out. Will I ruin Christmas? Will getting rid of the Elf on the Shelf be the worst idea I’ve ever had? Will I cement my familial status as the Grinch to end all Grinches?

Anything’s possible.

But desperate times call for desperate measures. And I’m nothing if not desperate.

What I do know is that — if we’re lucky — someday my children will forget that the Elf on the Shelf ever existed.

Now for the most important question:

Who’s with me?

Because it’s time to say goodbye to the Elf on the Shelf, for good, once and for all.

Matt Driscoll is a reporter and The News Tribune’s metro news columnist. A McClatchy President’s Award winner, Driscoll lives in Central Tacoma with his wife and three children. He’s passionate about the City of Destiny and strives to tell stories that might otherwise go untold.


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