The Elf on the Shelf: A New Way for Mama’s to Get Sucked Into an Old Trick

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Cover of "Elf on the Shelf"

Cover of Elf on the Shelf

I have developed a slow fondness for Pinterest over the past two years. At first I thought everyone was just plain crazy enjoying it so much and really didn’t get what was so great about it. Then after using it awhile I began to see the fun, and truth be told it has been helpful in designing say, the world’s cutest homemade peacock costume ever. But as the Christmas Mania amps up online, I have noticed a new and interesting trend related to that mischievous elf many are fond of. As mama’s far and wide pin cute or ridiculous or helpful posts about the Elf on the Shelf, other mama’s are busy pinning subtle “anti-elf” posts. Now, I consider myself outside the entire phenomenon, as I began plenty of my own traditions with my kids in the “pre-elf era” and had no interest in adding another one to my December. Plus, my kids were really too old to be delighted by an elf by the time it became a craze. So, I have observed the whole thing from a safe distance as I watch the younger mama’s enjoy their littles in this way.

But this year I am seeing this subtle form of comparison emerge via social media. Perhaps it was always there. Perhaps it is a reaction to the extreme’s some women go to make the holiday perfect for their kids. But whatever the case, I have noticed it and frankly, I don’t like it. Here’s how it appears to be shaping up through indirect, sideways comments:

Pro-elf Mamas: Look at this cute way to delight your kids with elf doing hand stands in the middle of cereal spelling out “Be Good”. Look how our elf got into the toothpaste. See how your elf can create merriment through getting into a snowball fight.

Anti-elf Mamas: We’re doing the daily advent reading. We are baking clever and precious Happy Birthday Jesus cupcakes in the shape of wise men. Try the Kindness Elf Plan instead. (Only worldly, uncool moms spend so much money and energy on something unnecessary and nonspiritual in nature.)

Sigh. I get that some of you are just doing your thing and feeling good about it. But one of the oldest tricks in the book that Satan uses against us is comparison to each other. There are only two children that comparison ever gives birth to: pride or shame. That’s it. Either I look at you and come out ahead or behind. Better or worse. And the really amazing thing is that there are women on both sides feeling both ways! The Elf on the Shelf is not the problem or solution to being a better mom.

Can I suggest that we pick a better standard for comparison than each other? If we compare ourselves to Christ it gives birth to entirely different fruit: humility and affirmation. When I see myself next to a perfectly loving and holy Savior I am humbled. I do not deserve his love or grace. But when I see the lengths He went to, to offer them to me- well I realize how much He loves me; what I am worth to Him. I will never measure up to Christ and I don’t have to because He came to be perfection in my place! So it frees me to quit worrying about you: what you think of me, what cool things you are doing that I haven’t thought of yet, what mistakes you are making. Instead I can enjoy and celebrate you! We are following different paths as we raise our families, but that’s okay. My mom used to say, “there’s more than one way to cook a chicken.” I’m not saying personal convictions don’t matter- because they do. Follow what you believe is right for your family! But don’t decide that your path, on morally neutral subjects like the Elf or Santa Clause or how many gifts you give (or organic food or homeschooling- oh yes I said it!) is what every family ought to be doing. Offer the freedom to others, that God in Christ has offered you.

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