We have a guest at my house this Christmas season. Her name is Twinkle, and she’s an elf. She’s been visiting our home periodically for the last 5 years or so. She tends to show up sometime around Thanksgiving, stick around for a month or so, and then disappear as mysteriously as she arrived.
The first time we saw her, I was pretty sure she was dead. As a physician, I feel like I am competent at identifying signs of life (not just with people; I’ve successfully identified living and dead animals as well). When we first found Twinkle, I did a full exam and got nothing–no respiratory effort, no pulses, no extremity movements, pupils fixed and dilated…DEAD. Fortunately, just before I pronounced her, I read the book she brought with her; apparently this sort of thing is common with elves. Usually, she’ll fly around at night and find a new spot to perch for the next day. (I say “usually” because if my wife and I both work late, she sometimes forgets to move.) Occasionally, Twinkle will remain in this dormant state for even longer periods–like the time she hibernated in my sock drawer from January to November.
Twinkle’s book claims that she’s an envoy from the North Pole, watching every move we make and reporting back to Santa Claus. Now, I’m sure that communication is indirect, through some kind of middle management elf, but still…that’s some impressive access. Initially, I found the thought of this velvet-clad pixie observing our activity and flitting around while I sleep to be a little creepy. But if she gets out of line, she’d be easy enough to catch. I could totally take her out.
So far, she hasn’t caused much trouble. Our exterminator mentioned that these infestations are pretty common, and in many cases more disruptive. The elves in other homes can be a bit on the mischievous side–making messes, breaking things, raiding the liquor cabinet. Considering the kinds of things she could be into, Twinkle seems pretty tame.
One day last year, we had a guest that was unaware of Twinkle’s significance. She picked the little elf up without thinking, and my girls were horrified. We’re talking pools-of-tears-on-the-floor kind of upset. The book says this could make her lose her magic, but she pulled through after a couple days. It was touch-and-go for a while, though. We thought we’d lost her.
The most interesting thing about Twinkle is that–as unlikely as her story seems, my girls TOTALLY buy it. They’re 8 and 4 now, and both wicked smart. I truly didn’t think Twinkle would make it this long. I mean, she looks a lot less real than most of their dolls. But kids want to believe. It’s really a fun developmental stage, and I feel like it’s almost over–at least with one of them (the 4-year-old).
We didn’t have an elf in my house when I was a kid, but I do remember the day I found out that Santa wasn’t real. (I was in Sports Authority, on the left side of the store, about halfway back. I cried. But I didn’t lose faith in my parents or become blind to the difference between fiction and reality. I turned out ok–I think.)
I’ve heard some good arguments for why you shouldn’t lie to your kids about elves like Twinkle, or even [gasp] Santa Claus. But for many families, traditions like this are an enjoyable part of the holiday season. And while it’s true that we haven’t yet experienced the fallout after Twinkle’s lack of magic is revealed, I feel like Twinkle is pretty innocent. I don’t think she’s eroding our relationship with our children, or compromising their future ability to discern what is true from what isn’t. We certainly don’t use a stuffed elf as a parenting tool–it’s just fun for the kids to see where she ends up next. (And my wife and I get to help a lot of elf treats disappear.)
I think our kids will turn out alright. And if they don’t, it won’t be because of Twinkle.
I’d love to hear about your family’s holiday traditions–just leave your comment below. If you’ve enjoyed reading my blog, be sure to follow me on Facebook or Twitter. Thanks for stopping by–and Merry Christmas!