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A trendy new Christmas tradition for parents with young children has popped up. It involves purchasing a doll and book called The Elf on the Shelf. Apparently, this all-seeing-elf doll keeps an eye on kids during the daylight hours and flies home every evening to Santa Claus to report how each child is behaving. Someone came up with yet another way for parents to bribe kids (or scare them, perhaps?) into behaving like perfect little angels so come Christmas morning they will score more loot from St. Nick.
Creative parents even orchestrate scenes filled with intrigue, humor or mystery involving their family elf. At recess on the days before winter break kids will talk about what their individual Christmas spies did that morning. It is the new thing. Conversation starters like, "How do you think my elf got into the fridge," or "What did your elf bring you," or "Is your elf a boy or a girl?" are heard in elementary schools all over our city.
A mom friend at work recently asked me if I participate in the Elf on the Shelf tradition at my house. She wasn't pressuring me, just gauging how committed I am to keeping up on the trends. After I told her I can barely keep up with my Tooth Fairy duties, she confessed how many times she has woken up in a state of panic that her kids would wake to an elf that had not moved. She lived in fear that neither she nor her husband had moved the cherubic goody two shoes the night before…and wished, out loud, that she had never caved in to getting one.
No one should ever be in a panic over moving a doll or anything else that isn't truly an emergency. In fact, I copied a quote on a Post-It™ years ago to which I refer to when things get hectic, or when my nine-year-old asks why we don't have an Elf on the Shelf.
"Reduce life down to what's precious and the necessary. In a world of complexity, the best weapon is simplicity."
Learning to reduce is a challenge. Asking yourself what is precious and what is necessary frequently presents a tough choice. However, those tough choices become easier with time. I rarely choose an outside activity on a weeknight after a day at the office when I can instead spend time with my family. Spending time with family always takes precedence.
At the end of your life, are you really going to feel bad if you didn't try every recipe you pinned on Pinterest? Are you going to wish you had handmade more neighbor gifts for every holiday? Will you pine over all the stuff you never had?
As the New Year kicks off, think of the most important things, not just things to add to your "stuff to do" checklist. Whether eliminating things like the Elf on the Shelf, or not participating in every activity to which you're invited (whether you want to go or not), start thinking about what's precious and what's necessary and wield your sword of simplicity proudly.