All I want for Christmas is a clean continuing Resolution into the New Year. It’s all fruitcake from here to First Base 2014.
Oh, yeh, and I want an Elf who, finished with Santa, shows up at dawn on December 26 to help me get all this Christmas mess put away.
Meanwhile I keep moving Joanna Leigh’s Elf on a Shelf from place to place every night after she goes to sleep or, if I forget, thinking up excuses for why he/she/it sits in the same spot several mornings. You know, the Elf on a Shelf. The one whom the kids name when he/she shows up sometime during November or December, the one who keeps an eye on behavior, flies back to the North Pole each night to report to Santa, and returns to a different spot each morning to continue the behavior vigil. That Elf.
Which, along with a lot of other Christmas stuff like fruitcake, I thought was pretty silly, until about a week ago. Her Elf on a Shelf, whose name I can’t remember, saved me as I wallowed in a terrible dilemma of what to do when Joanna Leigh really acted up at school, so much that the teacher called me. Yikes, I was so taken off guard by what she did.
But first, the Elf on a Shelf: Some people think he/she/it is pretty creepy, with those wild blue eyes cocked toward something, I’m not sure what. And its slightly too warm grin in between those red, protruding cheeks strikes some as eerie. Some consider this Elf just part of the War on Christmas and a pagan idol that undermines the Reason for the Season. Some psychologists and behavioral experts say "It's the parents who want to be in charge as the authority in the house. Not the elf or Santa Claus." Harumph.
On the other hand, many judge the origins of the Elf on a Shelf as warm and fuzzy, perfect for Christmas. And look, can 6 million parents who have bought the Elf and book be wrong?
Whatever. I don’t really care one way or the other. Here’s the short version of what happened. After the teacher provided the details, I confronted Joanna Leigh with the incident. “Now,” I said, “I have talked to your teacher, and I expect you to explain to me exactly what happened.”
She was rightly upset and not eager to tell on herself. I pushed. She grabbed her biggest teddy bear, which is her size, and pulled him close. She took the bear’s leg and draped it over hers.
“When we were sitting on the carpet getting ready to leave, Owen was sitting too close and I told him to move and to move and to move. He wouldn’t.” She shoved at the bear, demonstrating that she was pushing him away. She looked down at the bed rather than at me.
“So I took his arm and twisted it backwards. Twice. He cried.”
My mind was spinning as I lectured her about not using violence when people wouldn’t do what she said. “You have choices of how to handle these situations (My mind: ‘what are you going to do? Spank her after you’ve explained violence?’). What can you do instead?” (Mind: ‘How am I supposed to punish her?’) “You are going to be punished for this, you know.” (Mind: ‘Yeh, but what?’)
Then it hit me: The Elf. “The first thing you are going to do is go downstairs and confess to your Elf what you did today and tell him you’re sorry and won’t do this again.”
She started bawling. “I don’t want to tell him. I’m scared to. He’ll tell Santa.”
“Yes, he will, so you’d better tell the truth and take the punishment.”
It took some time for her to gather the courage to get out of her bed, walk downstairs, walk to the den, and get up on the chair by the bookcase to get to him/her/it. She bawled the whole way. She stood there for some time hanging her head. Finally she began to whisper to her Elf, admitting what she had done, apologizing, and promising never to do such a thing again. Then she got down and went back upstairs to the comfort of her teddy bears, all 20+ of them.
Let me be clear. It worked. It’s all the punishment she needed to make a lasting impression on her.
He/she/it leaves tonight, not to return until next December. So what do I do for 11 months????
I guess I’ll be contemplating how I will explain to her when she turns 15 that the rules have changed. “Sweetheart,” I’ll say, things have changed. From now on you don’t owe the Elf anything. You can break any guy’s arm who messes with you.”