Elf on the Shelf: My Love Letter to My Son

I updated this piece three years later as I enter into the first season without our Elf and without Santa.  It is the night of Thanksgiving.  On this very night, at this very time for as long as I can remember, I have unearthed our Elf and scoured Pinterest and recently dressed and dug out the Elf Brigade that has assisted in all the hijinks and tomfoolery over the years.  But tonight . . . tonight, I do nothing.  And I feel the nothing.  I truly thought this nothing would feel so much better, or different.  But it just feels a little empty.  I mean, what is Christmas without the magic?  So, parents of littles.  I leave you this post from the late years of my Elf days when I knew they were drawing to an end, and I beseech you to hold them tight, for when they end, you will feel that emptiness.

. . .

I know, I know.  I have seen all the anti-Elf posts and some of them are hilarious.  There are times that I curse out our elf and loathe coming up with new and crazy ideas for him to participate in.  Waking up in the middle of the night, going to bed late, or getting up early to be sure he has moved and has written my son a letter can be exhausting.  But when it comes down to it, my relationship with our Elf is a month-long love letter to my son and his childhood.

Frozen Ben

Ben the Elf frozen in ice (2017)

I do not ever really remember believing in Santa.  I had two older siblings and, as it often goes, once they figured it all out, they were eager to spread their knowledge to their siblings.  So that bit of magic was lost for me.  I never really regretted it, and I do not feel like I am damaged because of it; it is just how it was and another reason that I am determined to have my son believe for as long as possible.

TP Tree Ben

Ben the Elf zip lining down the toilet paper after he TP’ed the tree (2014)

The other night, my son had the stomach flu.  He does not get sick often, so it hits him kind of hard when he does.  Our Elf (and his cronies, as he has collected friends to help him with his shenanigans- Grinch, Santa, Lizzie the Lizard, Fred a touchable elf, and Wolfie the Wolf) made him a care package of hot cocoa, Alka Seltzer, acetaminophen, and tissues.  Like I mentioned earlier, he also wrote him a letter asking him to get better soon.  My son was so moved by the kind gesture that it literally brought him to tears.  Right then, I said to myself, “THIS.  This is why I do this.”

Sick Elf Brigade_2016

The Elf Brigade came to nurse a sick Ben back to health.  They brought some acetaminophen, a thermometer, hot cocoa, alka seltzer, and some tissue (2016)

Listening to my son talk to his elf and tell the elf about his Christmas wishes and desires and laughing at the antics of the elf fill the holiday season with such joy.  My son pops out of bed each morning to see his elf.  The other day, my son realized that his time with his elf was drawing to a close and, again, it made him cry.  He thinks of his elf as a friend and confidant.  My son is eight.  This may be his last year that he so wholly and completely believes in this magic of the season.  This time thinking of silly and fun ways to make my son giggle and believe is time well-spent, in my opinion.

Caution Ben

Ben the Elf “locked” Ben the Human in his room when he saw how messy it was and declared it a disaster zone (2017)

So this year, and hopefully next, I will move our elf and hang him from ceiling fans, and create wanted posters, and allow him to poop peppermints and fish in our turtle tank if it means that I can bring a smile to my son’s face and allow him to keep this magical memory one day, one month, one year longer.

Elf Brigade Surrounded 2013

The army has them surrounded!  How will the Elf Brigade ever escape? (2013)

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To All the Single Parents on the Holidays

Being a single mom is lonely.  I can imagine that being a single dad is just as lonely, if not moreso, but I am not one, so my point of view will be of that from a single mom.  Even with friends and family surrounding you, it is lonely.  The holidays bring a special kind of loneliness and sometimes, terror and anxiety

On a day-to-day basis, I am all there is.  When I am sick, like I have been for the past few days with a killer stomach virus, I feel particularly helpless.  I have no one to call for help.  There is no one in the next room who can step in and take over.  There is no one else to make the lunches and dinners and get my son to practice.  No one else to wake him up.  No one else to tuck him in.  This is normally something that I am not only fine with, but enjoy.  On days when I am not fully functioning, it is overwhelming.  Yes, I have friends who will help me get him to practice and school, but tuck him in? Wake him up? There is no one.    I do not have family within even a surrounding state and his father is not in the state and has chosen not to see him in the past year.  So it is him and me.

Friends get sick of me cancelling on them because I do not have a baby-sitter and do not want to spend my money on them or call in yet another favor to go out when oftentimes, I would rather be home hanging out with my sidekick. So they stop inviting me.  Some have become openly hostile and do not understand why I will not just leave my son with any 12-year-old and just go out.  Why sometimes after being everything to that one little man, I am just exhausted and do not have a desire to do anything but relax or clean (which I really should be doing now instead of writing this as my house is a complete shit hole).  So the loneliness intensifies.

People say, “take care of yourself first.” That is a nice sentiment, but it is not realistic.  I cannot tag someone is so that I can drop my son off at practice and someone can pick him up so I can run to the store or go work out.  “Take care of myself” means that at the end of the day, after he is safely in bed, I can rest easy that I have done everything to make his world safe and full of love and life so that he does not come to think that he was raised by a “single mom,” but that he was raised by his mom and his mom was enough.  My hobby is him.  My past-times are his practices and helping him memorize the regions in the state and conjuring up Elf on the Shelf schemes. So the loneliness intensifies.

Friends who are single parents, but who have family or whose ex plays an active role in their child’s life do not even understand the depths of the loneliness.  They can make plans at least once a month and not have to worry about baby-sitters.  While I feel incredibly lucky for the time that I have with my son and that I do not have to split it and deal with what many of my friends have to deal with (kids coming home and comparing what they can do at mom’s or dad’s house but cannot do at their home; wanting to go to a party, but not being able to because it is their weekend with the other parent; etc), sometimes I just want and need some help.  Help that will never come. So the loneliness intensifies.

The loneliness reaches its climax at the holidays.  Every Christmas since I have been separated, i have allowed my ex to have my son and then I take the second half of break.  I sacrifice this precious holiday and all its many traditions because it is the best thing for my son.  But it is intensely lonely.  It is a lonely that no one and nothing can fill.  The feeling of waking up on Christmas Day to nothing when you have a young child out there is a void that cannot be filled.  It is even worse when your ex does not have your child call to say, “Merry Christmas.”  That lonely is one that so many parents are feeling throughout the holiday season – not just this, but all holidays and much of the summer as well.

The loneliness of single parenting is a deep chasm.  It is lonely when you are up at night looking over a sick child.  It is lonely when you are unable to give your best.  It is lonely when you cannot provide financially, emotionally, physically, or psychologically.  It is lonely when you are in a room of a thousand people or with your five closest friends.  So, single parents, i want you to know that while you are lonely, you are not alone.  While you feel like you are adrift in a world where no one understands or sees your struggle; we are there alongside you.  We see you and we understand and if any of us had the time or the ability, we would form a club, but no one would show up because we are too busy parenting :).