Being truly self aware requires admitting not only who you are, but also who you are not.
For example, I am not an elite athlete — or even a mediocre athlete. I am not a great finisher of tasks. I will gladly leave the last 20 pages of a book, the last three sips of soda or the last two socks in a basket of folded laundry without guilt or regret.
And I am not very good at going the extra mile.
To me, life is overwhelming enough, and anything extra is usually just too much. I rarely did extra credit in high school; I never use coupons at the grocery store; and when it comes to the extras of parenthood, I just can’t. No elaborate Pinterest crafts. No artfully arranged bento boxes. No elves on shelves.
Emilia is almost 6 years old, and so far I’ve managed to avoid adding an Elf on the Shelf to our family through a combination of feigned ignorance and distraction. You say everyone else in preschool has an elf? Here’s an advent calendar! You can open days one through 15.
We made it through the 2016 holiday season without an elf, and everything was fine. The girls weren’t traumatized. Santa still made his way to my in-laws house. The decorations were packed away, and we were ready to move on.
Then I took a detour through a post-holiday sale section at the mall, and there, nestled between bent wreaths, broken ornaments and seasonal throw pillows, was a lone elf, clearly neglected and bearing the slightest semblance of a frown on his little elf face. He was friendless, and he was ridiculously cheap.
Suddenly, a swirl of sympathy and parental FOMO encircled my icy heart. I bought the elf, snuck him into the house and promptly shoved him to the back of the deep cabinet above our refrigerator. For the past 11 months, he’s lived a quiet life behind the casserole dishes, eagerly anticipating the day he’ll get to pop into our daughters’ lives and make their Christmas experience 83 percent more magical.
The thing is, I’m still not sure I’m up for setting him free. As I debate his fate, I’ve settled on three possible routes:
1. I overcome my personal limitations and go all out. In this scenario, I will somehow channel a version of myself that is more motivated and committed, using my creative brainstorming skills to plan and implement a brilliant new elf scenario every single day until Christmas. Pro: the girls will love it. Con: I will be forced to do it again next year.
2. I stay true to the lazy me I’m meant to be. I could do absolutely nothing. Pro: easy. Con: the Elf in the Casserole Cabinet will taunt me, like the Telltale Heart in a tiny hat, until I go crazy or throw him away. Whatever comes first.
3. Find a middle ground. In Option 3, I introduce the elf to the girls and begrudgingly move him around once every three or four or 10 days. If they ask questions, I’ll tell them their elf is just tired like mom so lay off. I somehow make it to Christmas without totally disappointing them, and then I start it all over again next year.
Catherine Kraemer writes twice a month for Momaha.com. She and her husband, Matt, are the parents of three young girls – Emilia, 5, Grace, 3 and Phoebe, 1. Originally from St. Louis, Catherine lives in Omaha and works at a local advertising agency.