Our elf showed up about three years ago and it was a very monumental time for us. We had just moved into our new home and my sister had "big" plans for us. She had been surfing the "inter-web" (where we know that whatever is posted there is always true and you just "got to do" the next best thing that is posted there) and had come across the idea for the elf on the shelf. We even found there to be a book about this little creature. We spent countless hours searching ideas for our little guy to do. We even made little note cards to go with each day!
Oh, if you haven't been introduced to this elf thing, it is where you have an elf visit your home for the days leading up to Christmas. The idea is the elf sits on the shelf, mantel, bookcase, fridge....or wherever, and watches over the children. He/she serves as a reminder for them to be good so Santa will keep them on the "nice list". The children are not supposed to touch the elf or it will lose it's "magic" and not be able to return to your home.
Sitting is just fine and dandy, however, it is also mentioned that this little elf can sometimes be mischievous. Yeah, he/she "flies" to the North Pole at night, delivers the "daily naughty/nice" report to the man in red, and just before the children wake up in the morning, he/she comes back and creates chaos in your home for the children to find. This chaos is sometimes tame, and sometimes it is just a big mess. (My hubby didn't like our elf too much the first year he adopted us.)
So, with encouragement from my sister, Timothy came to reside at our humble home. Timothy was not to be friendless either. You see, my other sister was in the process of moving into her new home just one mile away from me and my "thoughtful" sister decided that my moving sister could also use an elf at her house. So was born the elf on the shelf at two of our homes. My sister who was moving named her elf Neville. Now, Neville and Timothy look almost exactly alike, except for their bells. One has silver bells and the other has gold bells on their hats and shoes.
There was a time when I was visiting my sister who had Neville, and my son soon spotted him. He came to me super concerned and said, "Mom, Timothy is here and we need to take him home." I said, "No, that is Neville. He comes to your cousins' house." He said, "No mom, that is Timothy and we need to take him home." This is where it gets good. You see, you are not supposed to touch the elf or they will "lose their Christmas magic". However, my sister had a "clause" with her elf where only she, being the mom, could touch her elf. My son was unaware of the "clause". When my sister heard the conversation between my son and I, she scooped up Neville, rang his bells, and said, "This is Neville, he looks just like Timothy doesn't he?" At this my son just about had a "come-apart" with his eyes popping out of his head, his jaw dropped to the floor and he started to get tears in his eyes. He was now super concerned for Neville cuz now Neville was going to lose all his "Christmas magic" and never be ale to return to my sister's house again. Ahh, the joys of youth and believing in magic!
My "thoughtful" sister and I came up with all sorts of things to do with the elves for that first Christmas! We had them "fighting" with the snowmen - (ex are as follows):
Reading books and writing Christmas cards:
And just plain mischief:
Now, that first year, my children were 3 1/2 yrs and 1 1/2 yrs. They really had a blast finding what our little guy did each day. And I got to admit, it helped a little with keeping the children on good behavior. However, they tend to grow-up and get more "mischievous" themselves. So the next year Timothy visited our house he started out being "mischievous" then had to take a break cuz my son was being more disruptive than good.
I have found that if our little visitor, Timothy, brings only one or two treats during the "leading up" days to Christmas, my children are more likely to be excited to find him, but they are also genuinely good throughout the day. He still brings the occasional treat, but rarely does he create havoc in our home.
I recently overheard a few friends discussing this very topic. They were saying that yes, they have the elf visit, but they were griping about how people make it more complicated than it has to be. One person said, "I don't have time for all that!" Another person said, "That is just going too far!" Yet another said, "Why do people create more stress for themselves at this time of year?"
I am in agreement with most of the statements that were made that day, however, I kept my mouth closed because I know what our little guy did the first year. I have since come to an agreement with our elf. Timothy comes and watches over our children without the fuss and mess, and I will let him bring a treat of two, but only maybe once a week. If he asks the children to do service for others that is a big bonus.
For example, last year he brought us the story of the Nativity with a treat. He also brought the same thing for the children to share with a neighbor. It was a great way for the children to see that there is more to Christmas than just getting "stuff". Christmas is about serving others so they may feel the true spirit of Christmas as well.
That first and second year I found that with extra "visitors" came the "expectation" of getting stuff. If Timothy showed up with a gift, treat, or mischief, my son would be more rambunctious the rest of the day. In essence, Timothy "back-fired". I started to notice that when Timothy came and just "watched" over the children, my son was calmer and nicer the rest of the day. So, last year, Timothy only came to sit on our shelf (or wherever he landed) and watch over us. This helped to make the season a little less stressful and a lot less chaotic!
Even without the treats, chaos and mess, my children love to find Timothy each and every day. He does occasionally bring a treat, but not often. So, if you are contemplating adding a "Santa's little helper" to your home, decide what will work for your family best.