Those of you who have my beautiful wife as a friend on Facebook or follow her on Instagram know that she’s been posting daily pictures of her Christmas project, the Elf on a Shelf. According to Lynnette, it’s a ingenious device meant to keep kids in check. The mythology is as follows: The Elf sits in our home, watches Madison, then reports to Santa each night, some how making the trip to the North Pole and back in a few hours. No one may touch the Elf, as it will “lose his powers.” Like I said, ingenious. Madison has totally bought in.
As mentioned previously, Lynnette LOVES holidays, Christmas chief among them. The Elf on a Shelf is something she’s wanted to do since at least last Christmas. When we went shopping on Black Friday this year, she threw it into the pile of things we bought from Macy’s.
I wasn’t around when Lynnette explained the rules of Elf-Shelfdom to Madison, but would later find out that Mad named our elf “Reid.” I have no idea how she settled on this name, but that’s par for the course since I rarely understand the reasoning behind anything Madison does. Or Lynnette for that matter. Or women in general, I guess. But I digress.
Madison is so enthralled by Reid and his connections with Santa that she’s warned me on several times not to touch him. We set up our Christmas tree in the spot usually reserved for our fish tank. As such, we had to movie the tank to our bedroom. As I wheeled the stand to the room, Madison hovered over me with a cautious eye. “Be careful, dad. If you touch Reid, his magic goes away.” “Thanks, Mad,” I said. I was more concerned about not getting fish water on the carpet.
Lynnette is an incredible mother. Each night, she takes the time to figure out how to set Reid up in some kind of new position. One day Madison came home and said that she had learned about snow angels in school. The next morning, Reid was laid out in a pan of rock salt. I like to think that I could do just as well as Lynnette, but I know that I could not sustain this kind of effort. What Lynnette’s done is incredible. Madison looks forward to finding Reid every morning. Though I am not home to see her joy upon finding him, she can’t wait to tell me about him when I get home from work, whether it’s at 4:30 or 7:30.
I’m a simple guy. While I am creative in my own way, I am also lazy. When Lynnette tried to tell me about the Elf on a Shelf a year ago, I was mostly scared off by the price tag of something I perceived to be unnecessary. I was wrong. The pure glee that Madison derives from her new friend is worth way more than what it cost to bring Reid home. My only concern now is making sure that he doesn’t fall into the wrong paws of Abby the Destructor.
I can never know what goes through the mind of another human being, let alone a dog, but I swear I see Abby staring at Reid with designs of tearing him to shreds like she’s done to so many of Madison’s other toys. I kid you not when I say that Abby’s favorite hobby is seeing the stuffing of pillows and stuffed animals strewn about the floor of our room. She also loves gnawing on plastic toys until they are unrecognizable pieces of saliva-covered debris. Reid would be both.
While the Elf on a Shelf is Lynnette’s baby, I do benefit from it in a very specific way. It’s my job every night to keep Madison occupied while Lynnette sets Reid up int he living room. The past three nights have unfolded in exactly the same way: I help Madison get ready for bed, then entertain her until Lynnette returns to the bedroom. Last night, Madison and I passed the time by playing with stuffed animals. She took up one, I took another, and we started creating stories. We did voices and anything. Since I am shirtless and my stomach hangs over the waistband of my boxers, I am glad that there is no photographic or video evidence of it. Still, though, I think I’d love to see what the two of us look and sound like moving animals around the bed and talking in either raised or lowered voices. The funniest part of it all is how we can never get through a story without Madison laughing uncontrollably about something she said or I said, or some silly sound effects that one or both of us make.
The stupidest part about it is how I catch myself being slightly frustrated by Madison’s ridiculous storytelling style. I talk and think about literature all day. I specifically teach how storytelling works. Madison’s stream of consciousness, incoherent plots and questionable character development leave me puzzled. It’s like a dream sequence, one moment Jingle the Dog and Deet-Deet the caterpillar are swimming at the beach, and the next moment they’re doing gymnastics and making shapes with their bodies. It’s all I can do to suspend my complete and utter disbelief and just improvise with her maddening direction.
It’s crazy, really. The other day, Madison didn’t follow directions – I can’t even remember what they were. But as I came over to correct her, the first thing she says is “I know, dad. I’m sorry. Don’t tell Reid.” I laughed. I couldn’t help it. It caught me totally off-guard. I quickly scrambled back to “serious dad” to make the point, but man, it was really, really difficult.