Wednesday, January 1, 2014

How we used our Elf on a Shelf: Sky

Three years ago strolling through Straub Park with friends each duo pushing their own stroller with babies experiencing their first holiday season I had a minor rant about the Elf on a Shelf phenomenon. I remember it clearly I ascertained that I did not want to deepen the levels of deceit for my child by creating another potentially devastating life moment. I didn't want to compound the already heart shattering experience when they find out that not only the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, Santa and now unnecessary Elf were not part of a holiday dream team providing gifts and tokens to children but rather an contrived series of falsehoods.
Fast forward to this past holiday season, one of my best friends has a little 8 year old boy that with all of his heart still believes in the Fab 3 of the holiday bunch but also their elf. He believes so much that he eagerly at the beginning of November begins to ask when the Elf is going to return. There was something about that story for both Eliot and I that warmed our hearts. We loved the idea that our girls would have a level of naivety, innocence, imagination, majesty and more importantly, hope. 

To our mind's eye, Lydia being only 3, we didn't really need to introduce the Elf until just a couple of weeks before Christmas.  We purchased a girl elf, because we have daughters, we read the book and watched the cartoon and we asked for an Elf to come to our house, all together as family. And so she did. Lydia named her Sky.

There a million variations to the Elf tradition floating around this year. We never intended our Elf to be a creepy mastermind extrinsically motivating our daughters’ right choices however it is the cultural story behind Santa as well. We just don't overdo it that storyline. Though in full disclosure we differently threw those lines out there in moments of frustration, "You better watch out, Santa Claus is coming!" or "Santa doesn't bring presents to kids that don't listen." But overall, it's just not really our style.
For the first few days our Sky, the girl elf, was very much a 3D virtual where is Waldo. Lydia would wake up in the morning and hunt for her. We also didn't really like the mischievous elf idea.
Why would an elf that didn't follow directions or cause raucous work for Santa? It didn't make sense to the narrative for us. Then some friends posted a link to a blog that suggested Kindness Elves, the elf leaves notes to promote compassion and love through the holiday season. That sounded like a nice idea. Then I read from another friend about the Wandering Wise men from the Little People nativity set going on adventures all over the house to tell the Christmas story, well that sounded pretty good too. Sky did it all! Why not, right?

One morning she was found in the Christmas tree promoting hugs. Sharing and encouraging compassionate and empathetic action. Another morning she was sitting on the chalk board pointing
down to the note that said “Be Nice!”, so we took a few minutes and brainstormed ways of being nice.

One morning she was found holding Baby Jesus and we talked through the whole manger story and Jesus birthday which she knew well from preschool. There was a morning that Sky was on one of the globes. We sang He has the Whole World in his Hands, which Lydia loves and we chatted briefly about that.
One morning Sky was hanging on our pantry with a note that read: give food to those that need it. A young boy in our neighborhood as a school community service project had placed Metropolitan
Ministry barrels for food collection. So we took the opportunity to talk to Lydia about the fact that not everyone has enough. We took her to Publix and she picked out some food to give to those that needed it.  

We really enjoyed our multi-purposed elf buddy, Sky and we look forward to continuing to use our elf in ways that will inspire and provoke important conversations and actions especially during
the holiday season. For our family the season is not over until the official 12th day of Christmas, Epiphany, on January 6th.

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