So I'm salivating over the many craft blogs I follow, and one of them presents the cute little idea of "the elf on the shelf." This is a cute little elf you place in view of the children, and this is Santa's "informant." Big Elf Brother watches you, and when you're good, he reports it to Santa Claus, and when you do something bad, little elf snitchy squeals on you.
I do not like this. I have never liked Santa as the bringer of toys to good children and coal and tears to bad children. I have never liked this concept of God, either, the bringer of blessings when you are obedient and the bringer of hurricanes when your historic neighborhood is too tolerant of the homosexual agenda.
While it's true that when one of my otherwise flawless children smacks the other one with a toy, that toy goes away for a while, Bryan and I operate from the solid assumption that our children are GOOD and always good. Nothing they do diminishes that.
We don't reward good and punish bad. We exchange. This isn't working out because it's causing hardship or pain, so we need to take it away and replace it with something else. Hitting your brother hurts him and we are not a hurting family. Let's find a way to solve your problem without hurting. It upsets mommy when there's bath water on the floor because someone could slip and fall and mommy is left with a big mess. Since it is hard for you to remember that bath water stays in the bath, I'm taking the cups out of the bath for now and trading them for a toy that doesn't hold water. When you're done with your bath, I'd like your help drying off the floor.
Everyone, including little children, needs to know that they are forgivable and inherently good. When Santa Claus comes along to judge little children on whether they belong on the naughty or nice list, suddenly their value becomes a matter of what they do instead of who they are. There's no being nice because we want to have a peaceful home where people like living there. There's being nice to get presents and the threat of missing out on Christmas if we forget and lose control of ourselves, this massive influx of toys is at stake and we could lose it. Being good isn't about character anymore. It's about fear of external punishment. It's about that scary elf on the shelf watching and judging our every move.
Have you ever lost your temper with your child and had them come up to you, teary add, and ask softly if you still love them? It's shocking to realize you made your child doubt your love for them. That's one of the worst, most damning feelings in the whole world. Now make that moment all December long. Will Santa still think I'm good? Have I done enough to "earn" goodness?
Now imagine you are 5 years old and you line up to wait for your turn to sit on Santa's lap and tell him what you want for Christmas. "What's your name? Have you been good this year, Alisa?" I don't know, define good! Am I human and make mistakes? Am I supermom, never ever getting angry with my children or my husband? Do I ever swear at people who cut me off? Do I sometimes think Glenn Beck is a trickster? Is changing someone else's diapers enough or should I be volunteering every month in a soup kitchen?
How about a Christmas that doesn't put a measurement on me?
We are celebrating St Nicholas Day tomorrow because Saint Nick was a real Bishop who gave to the poor. The legend goes that he saved three young girls from being sold into slavery by providing a dowry for them, gold coins brought in a sack or stocking. The legend goes on to say that he often threw money into the open windows of poor families, with the coins sometimes falling into the socks hanging to dry. Tonight we are sneaking gold chocolate coins into our children's stockings and telling them that Santa Claus brings presents to children because he likes seeing them happy and wants poor children to have food to eat and clothes to wear and a special little toy to play with.
How about THAT Santa Claus? One that didn't judge if children were good or bad, but loved all children and just wanted all of them to be cared for and happy? What about turning our kids into Santa's elf, and having them help us pick out a nice little $5.00 toy to drop in the toy drive box?
How about a magic love elf on the shelf who, when we feel angry or sad, we can tell him all about it and then he will help us feel better and feel love again when we hug him? How about a Start Over Elf who, when we're all falling apart, waves a magic hand and then everyone gets to take a deep breath and start over?
What about a Santa that has nothing to do with good or bad, naughty or nice, but everything to do with giving and love? How about a Christmas that is 100% inspiring instead of 50% fear? Forget the elf on the shelf. How about the Santa in the heart?