Want to know how I sleep at night knowing that I don’t do Elf on the Shelf for my three young children? Soundly. Peacefully. Like a baby. Better yet, like my husband. Spoiler alert for the new parents: Babies typically don’t sleep well. Husbands, or at least mine, on the other hand... I digress. I don’t spend that sacred window of time between my children’s eyes closing and when I finally decide to get some rest by thinking up new places to stage a mischievous elf. Are you kidding me? These bonbons won’t eat themselves! Kidding. Kind of.
Listen, I use that time to devour a chapter of my book before inevitably falling asleep mid-page. Or by eating my secret stash of snacks while catching up on the latest episode of Yellowstone. Another spoiler alert: You’re going to need to scope out some hiding spots for your library of snacks that you don’t want to share with those grubby-handed kids. Sometimes I do the dishes so I can wake up to a clean kitchen and enjoy that scene for approximately four seconds. Sometimes, I mindlessly scroll on my phone, undoubtedly stumbling upon posts about naughty elves in other homes and sighing in relief that it ain't mine. In a stage of life where the list of things that are wholly and completely mine are dwindling faster than my Christmas budget, I protect this precious time.
Especially during this pressure cooker of a season. There is pulling. Lots of pulling, and not just from the demanding army of tiny humans I birthed. It’s pulling in every direction from every direction. Be there, do this, volunteer here, buy that, decorate like this, cook this, bake that, wrap these … JIMMINY SCROOGE, it’s enough to drive a person mad! We can get so lost in the ought-tos and shoulds and need-tos of the holiday season that we completely miss the get-tos. We get to sit in the warm glow of Christmas lights. We get to watch our kids’ faces light up with wonder at the sight of Santa Clause in a busy shopping mall. We get to share the joy of the season by gifting the store cashier with a bit more patience than the last shopper. We get to devour an entire plate of cookies. Whoops. Just me? But how do we arrive at the get-to moments when the looming pressure to perform is choking out every opportunity for joy and the possibility of a rare silent night?
This year, I encourage you to give yourself the gift your heart might not even know it needs. Give yourself the permission to say “no.” Say “no” to something, anything, that is robbing your time and sanity. Say “no” so that you may create space for a more important “yes.” For me, I’m shelving the whole idea of the elf. My kids don’t grieve its absence. We have other traditions and special ways of celebrating this magical time. Because they, like all kids, really just want a present parent, unscathed by the season, to simply enjoy it in childlike wonder right alongside them.