The 7 Phases Of The Elf On The Shelf Disaster
Blog - December 10, 2020

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I had it all planned out.  This Elf on the Shelf “tradition” that everyone was talking about. But I wasn’t warned about the crazy place it would take me. Little did I know that it was about to take me to another level of parenthood.

The Elf on the Shelf may test you to your limits in motherhood. 

Phase 1:  THE SEARCH. 

Where would I find this Elf?  Do I need the book and the Elf or just the Elf?  Wait!  There’s a DVD! Do I need the DVD too? The book, the Elf AND the DVD? Can I just have the Elf and tell him the story?  I guess I need the book.  After all, on T.V. everyone is is sitting around Christmas Eve reading a book, right?  It has to be “picture perfect!”  

Phase 2:  THE FIND.  

I found it at Target.  It was right on the endcap before the register.  How convenient, I thought.  They all looked so pretty in their shiny boxes.  They even had it for girls and for boys.  There it was.  “A Christmas Tradition” just like everyone said.

Phase 3:  THE WAIT.  

From what I heard, the best time to introduce TEOTS was the day after Thanksgiving.  So I kept it in the back of the car for about a week.  So basically I rushed out to get it for instant gratification and then had to let it sit in my car for a week before opening it.

But at least I knew it was there.


I told my son I was going to get a surprise out of the car.  I couldn’t wait to give it to him.  He had no idea what he was getting.  So when I gave it to him he said, “a doll! yea!.”  I carefully took it out of the box and handed it to him.  FIRST MISTAKE.  I did not read the directions, as usual.  At that point I took the  tradition into my own hands. 

Phase 5:  THE RULES.

He sat cozily on my lap (just how I envisioned) and I read the book to him.  We picked a name for the Elf  (because he couldn’t decide and I was getting impatient).  He loved it.  His eyes got wide when I explained that “Bobby” the elf was flying back to see Santa at night to give him his report of whether or not he had been naughty or nice that day.  And that he would come back in the morning and he would have to look for him.  BUT, I said very sternly, “you cannot touch him otherwise he will lose his magic powers.”  “Okay,” he said.

Phase 6:  THE MELTDOWN.  

“Do you want to go downstairs and look for Bobby?” I said when my son woke up. I was so excited.  We rushed downstairs and he looked everywhere.  Finally, I pointed him out (again, I couldn’t wait).  “I want to hold him!” my son exclaimed.  “Please Mommy I want him!”  I quickly said, “No!  You can’t hold him!  He has special powers!  If you hold him  they will go away!”  He was so disappointed and started to get agitated.  “I want him!” he screamed.  He was not backing down.  I started to get irritated. This was not going the way I planned

He started to wail and I saw my husband’s eyes.  They were telling me to give in.  He said, “why don’t we just give it to him?  He doesn’t understand.”

Of course he understands! I read him the book twice last night! 

Now I was aggravated at my husband for not helping me.  Instead, he caved.  Ugh, I was so aggravated.  

So I refused to give the Elf to my son and walked away.  I went upstairs and found myself so restless and so irritated.  I had this internal struggle for a few minutes. 

Why couldn’t it of just gone my way?

Phase 7:   THE EPIPHANY.  

How important is it?  I thought.  HE’S ONLY THREE!  Wow.  Wow.  Wow.  I am REALLY controlling.  So what if he touches the damn Elf!  Unbelievable, I thought.  I just ruined the tradition.  I screwed it up first of all because, like always, I didn’t read directions.  I felt like a schmuck.  A jerk.  

Ugh, how could I?

I marched downstairs and grabbed the Elf.  I walked up to my son and said, “Mommy is sorry.  If you want to hold the Elf, you can.”  He grabbed the Elf and held him close.  He gave him a kiss and I saw a twinkle in his eye. My son was smiling.  After beating myself up I realized that that moment was supposed to happen and nothing happens by mistake.  He (my son) is my teacher.  I learned a valuable lesson.  Next time I will ask myself, “how important is it?” 


  1. buhwah ha ha! I see so much of myself in this tale…the instant gratification, the disappointment, the need for control!!! THANK YOU for having the courage to be honest and choosing to allow yourself to be vulnerable by sharing! I am ever grateful to know that I am not alone. my son is one of my greatest teachers too, definitely learning to be traditionally untraditional (nontraditional?) lol 😉

  2. Thanks for sharing your story about The Elf On The Shelf! I’ve always wanted one, however, when I saw how much they want for one of those Elves, I said nope, it’s not what I definitely need! We are watching every single penny and I couldn’t justify purchasing an Elf! It doesn’t matter how you celebrate, just that you do it your way! Believe me, I know! Last Christmas I was lucky to have 1 gift for each kid (2 my children and 2 grandchildren)! I was so depressed and I swore this year would be better….Yeah ok! Well, things aren’t looking any better for this year either! I get so depressed this time of year! You had the courage to tell your child that you were sorry and gave him the Elf which made him smile! That’s all that counts! Thanks so much for sharing your story with all of us! I enjoyed the read!!! Thanks again! Michele 🙂

    1. thanks Michelle for your comments. The holidays have nothing to do with money but with the spirit of the season! I am making some of my gifts this year! And call your family. It doesn’t matter who is right. Would you rather be right or happy?

  3. I think the Elf crap is stupid to be honest. It’s a marketing tool to get parents to spend more money at Christmas. By the time the kids can remember about the Elf, it’s just about time that you’re telling them Santa isn’t real anyway, so don’t waste the money!

  4. Loved reading this. Describes parenthood perfectly! We haven’t done Elf on the shelf but our son is only a year and a half so too young to understand anyway!

  5. Love reading about other Elf adventures! Don’t think I would ever do it though…he’s a creepy little guy in my opinion lol!

  6. Thanks for sharing. Elf on the Shelf is such a cute idea, I as well as my family and most of my friends do this. It works, the kids watch themselves and if they make a mistake run to the adults and say sorry will the Elf forgive me.. lol

  7. I can relate to this so much!
    You just want everything to be Pinterest Perfect…
    Then real life happens and screws it all up!
    You have such a way of writing that draws the reader in and it feels really personal.

  8. Lol. we did the same thing. my daughter likes when our elf gets into mischief (like when he toilet papered her brother’s room). We have been having a problem with Elfie and our beloved pets. Currently Elfie has been missing for 8 days. I am not sure who is the guilty party (the cat or the dog). Both have been seen trying to eat him.

  9. Loved your story! Thanks for sharing! We’ve changed some of the ‘rules’ around this household too! 😉 Biggest disaster was me forgetting where the heck id stashed our elf last Christmas!!! Lol So the kids kept saying their friends had elves showing up at their houses & that they even had an elf in their classroom at school AND one that looked after the whole preschool! Where oh where was theirs from last year?!?! I was so close to going out & buying another when finally (a week or two into December) it dawned on me that id stashed it in the cabinet above our fridge!!!! 😉

  10. It’s funny how all of my friends grew up with Elf on the Shelf and have so many stories- while I’m just recently learning about the whole tradition! It’s sad to hear that your experience wasn’t so… fab… the complete opposite!!

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