Monday, November 21, 2011

Alfie On A Shelf: An Alternative to Creepy Elf Surveillance

Y'all have probably seen Elf On A Shelf, the combination of book and ornament/decoration/toy that's become a big holiday hit - a phenomenon, even. The idea is that he's Santa's tiny spy, who monitors the children in every household, comes to life when no one is watching, and reports back to the North Pole with nightly reports on who's been naughty and who's been nice. It takes the deeply ingrained cultural idea of Santa Claus as bestower of karma and brings it to a whole new Orwellian level (not to mention the Chucky doll creep factor). And it's hugely popular.

Some parents are just fine with this, and might find it a useful tool*. It's totally not my style of being, though, and I know it squicks some other like-minded parents out, too. What to do? It's always fun to find new holiday traditions, and I see the appeal of introducing a new game every year - with the original Elf, you move him around each night and the kids try to find his new surveillance spot. I'm the type of person who likes things like leaving hoofprints and making Reindeer Crap cookies, so I totally get the fun of finding novel ways to engage in holiday hijinks. So I devised an alternative.

I hereby present Alfie On A Shelf, a friendly reminder to treat your child with unconditional love this holiday season, and try to avoid the temptation to depend on bribes as a means of controlling our kids' behavior, naughty and nice lists notwithstanding.

Anyone have an in with a manufacturer?

*Disclaimer: I totally understand that every child is different, and some parents may find it useful to introduce rewards in some situations. Even parents who hold unconditional parenting as an ideal do find it necessary at times. And using the concept of Santa to introduce the idea of karma or other values is legitimate, even if I disagree. It should go without saying, but I know these things can be sensitive among parents, and it's always worth acknowledgement. 

Thanks to Rebekah Folsom for the Photoshopping!


  1. (I was going to go with "Alf On A Shelf", but that called to mind that weird cat-eating alien from the 80's. Even creepier.)

    Thank you for being a voice of kindness in an otherwise ridiculous tradition :)

  3. I haven't seen that!
    That's pretty creepy, huh? I always thought it was weird as a kid that Santa would spy on us through the windows... seemed so unlike his kindly self. And now something that's in your own home? oof.
    My ten and six still believe in Santa, but they know the truth... that they'll get presents no matter what. I wouldn't dream of having it any other way.
    Here's to less fear and more love in the world!!

  4. Check out this book! It comes with an angel instead of an elf!

  5. Sorry, gotta love the iPhone!!

  6. I LOVE THIS!!!! I HATE Elf on the Shelf!! LOVE LOVE LOVE this post!!!!

  7. Oh please, it isn't that creepy or Orwellian. It is about imagination and excitement and the anticipation of the holiday.

    My handmade Nordic Elves are one of kind with their own personalities and bring gifts of the creative, generous, or loving nature :) Coming this holiday season will be a new blog with all their special deliveries and adventures :)

  9. We have Annalee the elf. She brings small gifts (puzzles from the $1 store, Christmas coloring books etc) makes cookies, packs lunches etc. We have her around for fun and never use her (or Santa!) spying on our kids.