Hi Readers — I was only vaguely aware of the shelf elf, so I’m grateful to reader Frankie Wood, who just sent this in:
Dear Free-Range Kids: I know, Christmas is past now, but the topic of the Elf on a Shelf came up in a recent conversation and since I don’t have my own blog in which to rant, I thought it be an interesting (if belated) topic for you. Have you heard of this thing? It’s a little elf doll that comes with a book explaining all about how hateful Santa is that if you aren’t a wonderful little angel you will suffer the consequences. Your parents stick the thing on a shelf somewhere and it watches you all day and then reports to Santa at night. Parents are supposed to move it around at night.
The whole idea creeps me out. Several of my mom friends love it, but when I asked during this recent conversation, all of them admitted to never having read George Orwell’s 1984 which might explain why I am more frightened of the idea than they were. Not only does it go against all of my own notions of Christmas being about unconditional love, but what are we telling our kids by spying on them?
First, I think we are telling them that we don’t trust them. It’s like those horrible Rogers home security ads that tell you that you need to be able to watch your kid come home from school. If you trust them to come home alone, then you trust them. If you don’t, don’t let them. But don’t SPY on them!!!! Second, we are creating an environment in which there is a good chance that kids will only behave if they think they are being watched. I want my kids to learn appropriate behaviour as a core value, to be practiced ESPECIALLY when they AREN’T being watched.
But my biggest “creepy” complaint is that we are raising a generation of kids who will think its totally normal and acceptable for their parents (or the creepy Elf, or Big Brother) to watch their every move! It really is 1984 becoming reality.
Anyhow, I thought you might have some fun with this whole idea and turn it into something much better than I can write. – Frankie
Lenore here: Nope! You nailed it, Frankie!