When we got word from cousins in South Carolina that elves were invading kids’ homes around the holidays, we hoped the moms around those parts would hold the elves at bay. Reports were that the elves ate crackers, stayed suspiciously quiet during the day, and then ran around the house during the night causing all kinds of mischief. ”Let the other moms deal with elves,” I thought. “BirminghamMoms have all we can handle staying one step ahead of Santa. We certainly can’t be taking on any North Pole boarders over the holidays, especially if they’re going to misbehave.”
Well, the elves came anyway, aided by peer pressure from other kids at school – why, some classrooms even have unofficial elves! – and moms who were too ashamed not to have their kids enjoying the fun. When our elf arrived after weeks of pleading from the kids, I sat down with him and had a little talk.
“Grady, you know that Moms and Santa have a direct line of communication. The same way Santa knows if the kids are sleeping is the same way we moms know if you elves are awake. So let’s understand each other up front, because I WILL be making a report to the #1 Jolly Old Elf himself.
“I’m busier than ever over the holidays and I don’t have a lot of time for foolishness. So we are gonna set some ground rules. This is what other moms have told me to cover with you:
1. “Remember that whatever mess you make, the kids will have to clean up. They will be thrilled to see you play some tricks as long as you don’t get too ambitious. It won’t be any fun if the clean up is a lot of trouble, so keep it simple.”
2. “I’m sure elves get tired too, and it’s okay if you don’t have something new for us every single day. I know one of one family whose elf only does tricks during the 10 days leading up to Christmas. That sounds pretty manageable. If you get out of hand, we might have to renegotiate the duration of your stay next year.” (I didn’t want to hurt his feelings and tell him I still wasn’t convinced he could come up with enough tricks to keep us entertained this year.)
3. “Beware of the dog.”
4. “I know you want to go to school one day like so many of the other elves, and I might allow it if the teachers say it is okay, but just know that one school visit to see the kids ages an elf by at least 50 years. I know you’re already over 400 years old, but since that’s young in elf years, you’ll appreciate this advice one day the same way I appreciate my mom making me wear sunscreen. Besides, all the kids at school might not have elves, and that wouldn’t be much fun for them.” (Maybe their moms are more sensible, I thought silently.) “Every household honors its own special traditions.”
5.”Just remember that you are here to bring the kids some fun Christmas memories. As long as you inject some Christmas magic into our home this season, you will have done your job and will receive a glowing report to Santa. You don’t have to do anything elaborate; just keep us guessing. We refuse to begin one-upping elf tricks among the kids’ friends. The kids have enough presents, so you don’t have to bother with those unless its a bit of candy before you leave. The fun is the surprise of where you show up and what you’ve done to the stuff we have already.”
6.”Sadly, elves don’t usually keep up their magical mischief once the kids are grown, and we all know that will happen before we know it. Let’s make the most of this time that we have together. You do your part and I’ll do mine, okay? We’re a team. I’m already starting to like you, Grady.”
“I promise to keep you out of reach of the dog.”