Let me start by saying how wonderful Target is and how no mother could live without its giant red carts, crazy good deals, and endless home goods cuteness. However, I witnessed a conversation the other day that Target and Elf on the Shelf folks might want to know about.
I dropped all of my kiddos at school and (of course) drove directly to Target to wander the aisles in blissful silence and spend $80 on things I would not be able to explain to my husband. Another mom and her child were checking out as I walked in, and I overheard the little boy who was about four years old say, “Mama, why is the Elf on the Shelf in Target? I thought he came from Santa and the North Pole.”
His poor mother. We locked eyes, that panicky fight-or-flight gut feeling flooded my stomach and made my heart race. The boy’s mother and I had an entirely silent conversation with our eyes. We had never met before, but we spoke the same language of motherhood at that moment.
What the hell do I say? she silently pleaded.
Beats the shit out of me, I shrugged.
I hate the Elf. Why do we even do this to ourselves? she spat.
You make a good point, sister, I agreed wordlessly. But now is probably not the time to ruin the magic of Santa Claus for your kid forever. You need the big man to threaten good behavior for at least five more years.
“MOMMY!” the boy tugged at his mother’s sleeve. “Why is the Elf HERE?!?!”
I will admit that, at this point, I wanted to walk away so she could crash and burn without too many witnesses. There was no helping this fallen soldier, right? And then it hit me.
Right next to the Elf display was an entirely new kiosk of Christmas kiddie movies. That mom was about to owe me a latte from the built-in Starbucks.
“Hey, buddy!” I chirped. Heavenly day, that kid looked at me immediately. “I’m looking for a Christmas movie for my kids, and I don’t know which is the best one. Can you help me?”
He silently asked his mom if this was okay or if the friendly lady might kidnap him, and she practically shoved him in my direction, encouraging his long dissertation of the benefits of creepy clay-mation Rudolph versus (what else?) Will Ferrell in Elf.
Crisis averted. For now. For good measure, I even put his recommended movie (Charlie Brown’s Christmas) in my cart even though I already own a copy.
Okay Target and EOTS people, I get it. You want to sell as many of those creepy side-eye elves as you possibly can so that mothers everywhere will wear themselves out on remembering nightly to move the Elf, elf mischief, and red carpets, hot chocolate, and cute elfin scenes with Barbie dolls.
But people, you’re biting the hand that feeds you when you stick the EOTS right in the front by the checkout counter and make mothers across America who just want to leave with their $80 of non-necessities have the above conversation with their kids.
Put the Elf display somewhere else. Put it in the tampon aisle or with the cleaning products. Stick it with the dog toys because who hasn’t rescued your elf from the dog, amiright? Those little creepers will sell, no matter where you put them. But please, please, not by the checkout. Not by the front door. Not anywhere where you could potentially ruin Christmas for a child.
Perpetuating the magic of Christmas and keeping the spark of belief alive for as long as possible is my goal for my children. Woven into the fabric of childhood is the joy of Christmas morning to see that Santa really did come. Santa (and the stupid elf) watched their behavior and made sure that they treated others with kindness and tried their best.
Just please don’t make me tell my kids some hard truths in the middle of Target.