Social media has allowed us to learn things about people we never would have even thought to ask.
For instance, this year I’ve learned that some of my friends, parents of young children, don’t “do” Santa. Not because the kids no longer believe, but because the parents choose not to encourage the myth and magic.
Talk about your missed opportunities.
I mean, to each his own. I get that some people have religious objections to Santa and, if that’s the route they want to take, I certainly have no problem with it. But I do think they’re — as business folks would say — leaving a lot of money on the table.
In my house we do it all. Jesus, Christmas tree, stockings, Santa, Mrs. Claus, flying reindeer and the Elf on the Shelf. This year we even added a second elf. The reason is simple: As a Must Have Parent, I need all the help I can get. Two elves and Santa watching mean that for one month out of the year I get the benefit of six extra sets of eyes. And what parent hasn’t wished for an extra set of eyes?
I don’t even have to Google “history of Santa Claus” to know how the Santa story came to be. It’s obvious, and I think it’s hilarious that some version of Santa exists in cultures all over the world. It’s proof that parents and children everywhere are pretty much the same, and always have been.
A long time ago some parents realized that their kids would behave better with a little incentive. Just guessing here, but I bet some ancient mom, holed up in a frigid cabin during winter, alone with rowdy kids while her husband was out hunting elk or something, was the first to dream up Santa.
Because she needed help, like all of us MHPs do.
So Santa was born, this mysterious, benevolent guy who holds a grudge. And when she realized the Santa story was wildly effective she told her friends and, together, they added to story.
It’s not hard to figure out why all of these embellishments came to be. Kids ask a lot of questions and quick-thinking parents had to come up with responses.
“Where do all the toys come from?” (Um, he has a, um, workshop where he makes them.”)
“How can Santa make enough toys for every kid in the world?” (Er, there are these little elves who help him.)
“Elves! I want to see them! Can we go to the workshop?” (Um, no. It’s really far away. And it’s impossible to get to. It’s in, um, the North Pole! Yeah, that’s right, the North Pole.)
And so forth, and so on.
In 2004 a mother/daughter team from our very own generation reasoned that one set of eyes isn’t enough — Santa needed spies. The Elf on the Shelf was born.
My same friends who don’t opt in for Santa obviously don’t opt in for the Elf, either. They say things like that it circumvents ‘the reason for the season’” or that they don’t want to introduce their children to “Big Brother style surveillance.” Even some avowed Santa fans avoid the Elf, citing the hassle of having to move it somewhere new every night. I get that.
My elves only occasionally do something cool, like take Barbie for a spin in the Dream Car or eat candy off the gingerbread house. Mostly they just sit on shelves and in other high places, watching and listening.
The effect they have on my children is impressive. The kids tiptoe through whatever room the elves are in. They take their fights outside, where the elves can’t see them. The remind each other that the elves are watching. It’s pure Christmas magic.
The elves are so effective that I’m considering keeping them around all year. Also, it’s time for some tech wiz to write an Elf app for my phone so that we can bring an e-Elf with us everywhere we go.
You see, I think an awareness of Big Brother is a good thing. I WANT my children to think Big Brother is always watching them. Think of all the bad decisions they WON’T have shared online if they internalize at an early age that we live in a camera-phone-social-media-world? That no bad behavior is ever really secret?
If she could go back in time, Anthony Weiner’s mom probably wishes she’d taught him a little more about Big Brother. Or Donald Sperling? How much better would he be doing now if he hadn’t assumed no one was paying attention. Or, ahem, Sony?
I say bring on the elfin surveillance. I’ll take whatever help I can get.