Rule Breaking Elf

Elf on the Shelf always used to annoy me. As if, come December, I need a magical man running around my house making it a mess when I’ve already got a few of them living with me year-round.

Last year, my amazing daycare really revved up the Elf and all his magic. It was great for daycare but they sent Jake home with an Elf. I think. Or somehow, perhaps magic, an Elf found its way into my Christmas storage. I know without a doubt I did not buy it.

Jake discovered it unboxing our decorations and immediately asked if he could color a picture and dust cinnamon on it to make the Elf come to life. Without hesitation, or even a moment of consultation, my husband agreed. By November 26, well before the December 1 start date, our Elf on the Shelf was up to no good.

While charming, I still was annoyed. A few days later I found myself enjoying the Elf on the Shelf movie, while debating if the potential names for the Elf might make good names for the Christmas Cat we’re getting. Despite this magical bonding moment with my 9-year-old, I still disliked the Elf immensely.

Then, while watching the Minnesota Vikings work their magic and win against the Eagles, my son suggested we try to film the Elf for share day. How fun would that be?

Nothing like the logistical nightmare of capturing magic on film. Surprisingly, or maybe not so surprisingly in this day and age, there’s an app for that. So much for your kid just believing.

By week 2, my son’s awe of the magic Elf hadn’t waned. Steve’s refusal to follow the Elf “rules” meant our Elf would randomly move whenever he felt like it (or remembered to). Turns out he has ways to chat with Santa that don’t involve zipping back to the North Pole overnight, only to cause mischief all over the house.

I was less annoyed. At work, we debated who started Elf on the Shelf. It must be a marketing whiz who clearly did not have children and thought adding one more expectation during the holidays for parents was a wise idea. Whoever it was, is making bank, I thought.

Then I Googled the answer. I suddenly wasn’t as annoyed. Turns out, our rule breaking Elf is the creation of a woman and her daughter who wrote a book that nobody wanted. In fact, every editor and publisher said Elf on the Shelf was a bad idea.

They self-published anyway. They sold 5,000 books out of their trunks and at State Fairs. Then celebrities took notice, including Supermom herself, Jennifer Garner. The rest, my friends, is history. Soon, there were book deals and movie deals and millions of Elves making mischief and magic for families. I bet the editors who turned this down hate the Elf more than I do.

Here’s the thing, I don’t mind him anymore. He’s morphed from a mysterious pain in my ass to something much greater. Magic. Not the disappearing and driving your parents crazy magic. But, the magic of what happens when you believe in yourself when nobody else does. He’s somehow become the champion of dreams.

I recently devoured The Alchemist. It is considered one of the greatest books of all time but it shares a common history with Elf on the Shelf. In it, the author talks about its dismal release. How nobody bought it when it hit the shelves in Brazil and his publisher dropped him. The author persevered and found a new publisher. The book was a modest success and eventually got picked up in the United States. Here, it received a fair-to-midland reception that eventually hit a tipping point. Perhaps it was President Clinton carrying a copy or Madonna raving about it in Vanity Fair or simply fate. We’ll never know. What I do know is I am so grateful this author kept going when everyone said no, or I never would have read his words. There are endless words of wisdom in this book, but perhaps most relevant this Elf on the Shelf season:

“The simple things are also the most extraordinary things, and only the wise can see them.

— Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist

There are plenty of things to annoy you in this final frenzy before the holiday madness that is Christmas, including the Elf on the Shelf. It is these same things that can remind you of the magic and awe that still lives in all of us, if we only believe.

This past week, I hit publish on my book. A single click of a button and my book is headed to production. To say I’m feeling a bit exposed is an understatement. This book is a legacy to my parents – much more personal than my first book about shitting my pants and running a half-marathon. I believe there’s a place in this world for my story and for now, that’s enough.

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