My elf just moves from shelf to shelf — if I move it at all

If you've bolted upright in the middle of the night and mumbled, "I forgot to move the elf," then this is for you.

Because you will understand. You know the wearisome and increasingly absurd exercise that is the Elf on the Shelf.

If you don't have one of these red-cheeked dolls intruding on your sleep, be grateful. You can rest easy knowing that your child's belief in Christmas magic doesn't rest on your ability to hide an elf for 33 days in a row.

Hear that? Thirty-three days. This isn't a whimsical Christmas tradition as much as a parental endurance test.

Thanksgiving came early this year. That means the Elf on the Shelf came early, too. Because, according to the included storybook, that's when he shows up.

If you aren't familiar with this elf nonsense, let me to fill you in.

The Elf on the Shelf retails for about $30. It's the kind of thing grandparents see in a store and say, "The grandchildren will love it!"

At least that's how our elf arrived at my house.

He comes with a story about flying back to the North Pole every night and reporting to Santa about whether the child was naughty or nice. Then, before morning, he flies back to your house and perches in a different spot, creating a delightful, daily game of elf hide-and-seek.

Or a frenzied hunt that ends with you leading the children directly to the elf, pointing up and exclaiming, "Look! How did he get up there?" Otherwise the search takes forever, making the kids late to school and you late to work.

If that were all there was to it, that wouldn't be so bad. But that isn't all.

Some parents have ventured into extreme elfdom, and they're trying to take the rest of us down with them.

Just look at Pinterest. Or Facebook. Apparently, if your elf isn't toilet-papering your living room, writing in lipstick on your windows or baking cookies in the middle of the night and leaving a big mess, then your elf magic isn't adequate.

Do these people actually have children? If they did, they wouldn't find it necessary to create new messes around the house.

I have two little elves who specialize in disorder year-round. We don't need Christmas to play a game of "hide one shoe" or "put toothbrushes in the toilet."

Those are actual elf suggestions from one woman's blog. She needs to get a life.

I'm not the only one who thinks so. Someone sent me a link to another mommy's blog, aptly named http://www.peopleIwanttopunchinthethroat.com.

Her name is Jen, and last year her Elf on the Shelf rebellion went viral, so I guess I'm a little late to this party.

But my kids weren't old enough to "get" the elf last year, so I didn't worry so much about it.

This year my 4-year-old is watching it like a hawk. On the first day it appeared, we heard her come out of her room, notice it on the bookcase and have a conversation with it. Yes, it was adorable. And, momentarily, it was all worth it.

But now I'm on Day 15, with 18 more to go.

I felt a kindred spirit in Jen when she said, "I'm the one doing all the 'magic' and I totally suck at it. I forget to move him all the time and when I forget I have to spin even MORE lies than usual."

Not to mention, Jen, that Elf on the Shelf joins the parade of lies we already tell our children about Santa, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy, all of which we'll eventually have to own up to.

I am not against Christmas fun. We decorated our tree, ate popcorn and watched Rudolph. We do an Advent calendar. We write letters to Santa and leave him cookies and hot cocoa on Christmas Eve.

But the elf is one more thing I do not need, and that's why my children won't wake each morning to an elf tableau that I executed in the middle of the night.

My elf interpretation is very literal: from shelf to shelf. I just hope I remember to move him tonight.

bkassab@tribune.com or 407-420-5448

CHICAGO

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