Down with the Elf!

Someone really needs to convince me that the stupid Elf on the Shelf thing is not just pure bribery. Shouldn’t we teach and then expect that our children know how to behave? Because that is the right thing to do, not because some creepy elf is watching and they will get something in return?

When did we as parents, and mothers in particular, start thinking so little of our children that we decided we needed to start bribing them? When did we start thinking so little of our own parenting abilities that we stopped trusting ourselves to teach, address, and correct our children’s behavior?

I don’t get it.


One of the things that I continue to learn about myself as a mother, wife, woman, working mother, and human is that I often have completely unrealistic expectations of…life. Mostly myself. But sometimes these expectations spill over into other things. The challenge is how to deal with unfulfilled expectations. I am constantly checking myself. “Was this expectation fair, realistic, really that important?”

After weeks of waiting, the boys’ school pictures finally came home. Both of the boys chose to wear ties this year. I could not wait to get my hands on those photos! I was working late that night and my husband called to tell me that they arrived. Points to the hubs for the heads-up. He knows that I have these expectations and he wanted to let me know what I was walking into. He said that the photos were “okay.” L’s was decent and C’s was not his best moment, but you could tell he was trying hard to not blink. Then, he sent me a picture of their pictures. I held my breath and opened it.

On first glance, I thought..who are those kids? How did they get so big? Immediately after that I thought, well, L’s is okay enough to send out to family, but we’ll have to have C’s redone. Expectations are tricky things. When I came home, the boys greeted me at the door, school photos in hand, beaming with pride. “Look, Mommy! Our pictures are here!” They don’t care that in both of their photos, their ties are askew and their hair needed re-combing. They don’t care that the blue background matches their dress shirts too closely and washes them out just a little bit (who picks those backgrounds, anyway?).

My boys teach me that I need to not care about those things either. Instead, I agreed that they were great and of course we can start cutting them out and mailing them to Grandma Jersey, and Grandpop, and Aunta Liz and Uncle Andy, and GG Rose and Grandma Tootie. When I really looked at those photos with my heart and not my eyes, I saw their beautiful eyes, their gorgeously long eyelashes. That they both have new freckles. C is looking more and more like my husband but with my coloring. L looks exactly like my Dad and has the same crooked smile that’s he had since birth. They are growing and changing before my eyes. They are doing everything that they are supposed to do.

As a parent, I am slowly learning to get out of my own way and to not let my expectations spill over into every day life. The magic of parenting happens when I let moments unfold and I hold back just a little bit so my children can grow into themselves and not my expectations of the perfect school photo.