Of all the Christmas traditions our family celebrates, the Kindness Elves are my favourite.Just like Elf on the Shelf, a Kindness Elf is sent directly from the North Pole. They arrive on our doorstep December 1st(ish) and include a letter from Santa reminding the girls why they’re here and how to take care of them.
But instead of monitoring the children’s behaviour, the Kindness Elf’s main job is to remind kids about all the different ways there are to be kind – at Christmas and throughout the year.
Each of my daughters has her own elf, and every morning (okay, most mornings) they wake up to find their elves in a new spot, clutching a note that’s written, suspiciously, in mommy’s hand-writing that says something like “sit with someone new at lunch today”, or “play with someone new at recess”, or “call Grandma and Grandpa to tell them you love them.” The Elves’ mission is to remind us of simple ways to show kindness and embrace the spirit of the season.
When they don’t move (because obviously they’re exhausted), we tell the girls they must have liked playing Jenga or climbing the Christmas tree SO MUCH they decided to stay there.
“Then how did they get the notes?” one of the kids will ask, and I will curse my insistence on teaching them critical thinking.
“Magic,” I’ll say, which is my answer for everything Christmas-related, and also when I’m tired.
We got the idea for the Kindness Elves from their adorable website, and after I’d picked up an Elf on the Shelf at two or three different stores but could never bring myself to buy it. There was just something about him, in addition to the price tag, that I couldn’t get my head around. Maybe it was the idea that someone else was going to be lording the “I’ll tell Santa” threat over my kids, and I am loathe to relinquish that privilege.
Or maybe it’s because I’m trying to teach my kids not to tattle tale and putting a little red dude on the shelf to do exactly that seems a bit hypocritical. But then again, my kids don’t even know what hypocritical means so I could probably get away with it.
I’ll admit, I see the cute outfits, the pets, and all the Elf on the Shelf accessories and I get a little jealous because they’re adorable and I’m still an eight-year old girl at heart. And who among us does not want to buy clothes for our $40 fictional Elf whose main job is to narc on our kids to another fictional being? And what kind of monster would deny a toy’s right to have its own pet, such as a huggable plush reindeer for $35.95 plus tax?
It’s all a bit weird but it doesn’t stop me from occasionally wanting to be part of the Elf on the Shelf craze. And it doesn’t stop me from respecting a family’s right to develop its own traditions. I’m not ragging on the Elf on the Shelf, it’s just not for us.
I’m sure Elf on the Shelf can be effective in some way. Maybe when the kids are grown I’ll get my own Elf who can narc back to my Fitbit or my gym instructor about all the wine I’m drinking and all the exercise I’m not doing. He could wrap himself around the fridge door handle so his creepy, crap-eating grin and the idea of being shamed by a 7-inch doll, will cause me to think twice about pouring another glass of merlot or shoving another hunk of cheese down my gullet.
But I digress.
Kindness Elves are a favourite tradition not because they allow me to indulge my Elf on the Shelf fantasies, but because it’s one small way to embrace the holiday spirit. We’re all going one hundred miles an hour at this time of year and I can count on one hand the number of times I stop to talk to my kids about what Christmas really means, or should mean, beyond presents and parties and chocolate.
I love watching my girls get excited about putting up the lights, or picking out the tree or watching a Christmas movie together, but it’s even better when I see them find joy in giving to others – whether that’s an actual gift or simply giving of themselves. The Kindness Elves help us encourage a way of thinking and behaviour that’s less about the Toys R’ Us catalogue and more about peace on earth, goodwill to others. It’s fun, age-appropriate and none of us feels left out when our friends proudly display their elf’s shenanigans: “Did you see the picture I posted of Ernie last night? We pretended he was pooping on the cookies but they were really chocolate chips!”
And it works for me too. Many times I’ve hauled myself out of bed, cursing under my breath about forgetting to move the Elves or to attach their notes. And then I read the simple instruction meant for a seven-year old: give someone a hug for no reason, and I remember that the Christmas spirit can really be as simple as that.
In addition to the website above, you can purchase small elf dolls at craft stores like Michael’s for about $10 each.