In case you are unfamiliar with the Elf on the Shelf, allow me to explain this plague. The Elf is a creepy inanimate doll with weird follow-you-across-the room eyes that visits your home daily during December to keep tabs on your child, reporting naughty or nice behavior back to Santa when he or she makes his or her nightly flight back to the North Pole. When the Elf returns to your home each morning, it lands in a different perch where it waits to be found by the child. "Ambitious" parents create a fun, perhaps mischievous, scene each day such as the Elf shitting out peppermint candy poops into the toilet or spilling cereal all across the breakfast table. (Oh, those pesky elves!) Less ambitious parents simply hope they remember to move the elf to a new hiding spot before their child wakes. Is the Elf on the Shelf a delightful family tradition or a shameful extension of bribing our kids to behave by telling them that Santa is watching? Is it fanciful holiday fun or a grim lesson to our children that Big Brother is always watching? You make the call. All I know is there were several mornings I had to sprint out of bed to toss our elf, Katie, into a new hiding spot as Grace was waking. There was at least one morning I had to make an excuse (for which there are entire websites dedicated to assisting you in creating your lie) as to why Katie was hiding in the same spot as the day before. You would think this would have left me prepared when Grace found Katie packed away.
On the afternoon I almost ruined Christmas, I had left Grace upstairs in my bedroom watching tv on our tablet while I cooked dinner. I was downstairs only a few minutes when I heard a mournful wail. "Daaaaaady!" I headed for the stairs thinking something was truly wrong. "Daaaaady, why is she in there? Why is she in this box?" I turned the corner into the dining room to see Grace standing perfectly still, sadly looking at her elf smushed in the box she holds in her hands. Suddenly frozen with panic, my first thought was to chastise Grace for snooping in our nightstand. Then I realized now was not the time to chastise, now was the time for damage control. For I had not only stupidly packed the elf away in the box it was purchased in, but I had packed other important things in the box such as Grace's Christmas list, older letters to Santa and the note she left with Santa's cookies this year. All things, along with Katie the Elf, that should currently be hanging out at the North Pole. Grace unleashed a flood of legitimate questions. "Why is Katie here instead of the North Pole?" "How come Santa doesn't have my letters?" "Has Katie lost her magic?" "Is she even real?" All I could think to myself was, Oh, shit.
As I stood there stammering, trying to formulate a response, I could see Grace's wheels turning. I could see the puzzle pieces clicking into place. The Elf Truth would lead, eventually, to the Santa Truth which would lead to the My Wife Is Going To Kick My Ass Truth. The jig was up. If I didn't act fast, my family's Christmas magic would be lost forever. Stay calm, Bryan. You can do this. Fortunately, my Dad Reflexes, innately reserved for moments like these, kicked in. I made up some bull about Katie missing Grace so much that Katie secretly flew back to be near her. Katie had to stay hidden because she would be in big trouble if Santa found out she had left the North Pole. I think she's buying it! Emboldened, I pressed on. I explained that Katie must keep something like a case file on Grace; that she is in charge of keeping all of Grace's documents with her even when she travels. That was why Grace's letters were in the box. Yes, bore her with details of elfin bureaucracy! I told Grace to say goodbye to her elf because surely Katie would have to fly back to