My paternal grandmother invented the Elf on the Shelf about sixty years before you ever heard of it. She didn’t profit from it – but she created a household elf, McGiffiny, who would come to Shorewood, Wisconsin around Thanksgiving, spy on my dad and aunt and uncle, and have little tete-a-tetes with my grandmother about her children’s behaviour. To say she cultivated a belief in Santa would be an understatement. When my dad found out the whole thing was an adult fabrication – from a friend of his older brother’s – he felt duped and betrayed. And while he’s not exactly losing sleep over it at age 67, it was sufficiently unpleasant that he and my mother went out of their way never to endorse Santa mythology to me or to my sister.
When I was in first grade, I asked my mother where presents came from if Santa didn’t bring them. And she told me. I have been grateful since then that my parents never tried to bullshit me about Santa or about various other imaginary creatures – the tooth fairy, the Easter bunny, etc.
Now that my son is old enough to understand the narrative about Santa, I appreciate more than ever the way my parents never endorsed the myth. Because it is a difficult fricking line to walk. This year, Santa has made appearances at nursery and my husband’s office do, and my son is a firm believer despite the fact that my husband and I have gone out of our way to avoid encouraging him.
And so we find ourselves hamstrung: when Theo met Santa last week, he looked completely star-struck. There is no doubt in his mind, despite the fact that he met two different Santas on two consecutive days, that the whole shebang is real. If, come the 25th, there aren’t presents from Santa under the tree, we will have to have a reckoning. But if there are, we are playing into this weird fantasy about a fat man who breaks into people’s houses every year that is perpetuated by adults for their own amusement. I know some people argue that its fun to believe, but I don’t think anyone enjoys learning that they have been lied to. Stop deceiving your children because you think its cute!
And McGiffiny notwithstanding, don’t even get me started on that damn elf on the shelf. Creepy AF.