The Elf on the Shelf was easy enough to avoid when it was just a Christmas thing my overachieving mom friends did, but nowadays even my lazy comrade Netflix tries to sell my kids on the concept of the daily North Pole commute of the household naughty list narc, and there is even a birthday version you can get on eBay. While I tip my festive Santa hat in respect to the Southern family who turned a self-published book into a household holiday mainstay in less than a decade, I still have plenty of reasons why the elf scout won’t be making mischief in my house.


I thought it was creepy enough when I was a kid that Santa Claus was always watching and judging me from the North Pole. Kids today have to contend with a creepy little Santa emissary hiding in their own homes and smartphone apps that will initiate a call from Santa to set them straight when they’re being little jerks.

RELATED READING :: I Love Elf on the Shelf

You know what other kind of toy can’t be touched lest its magical powers drain away? Chucky from Child’s Play. And his face is equally creepy.


My kids are coming of age in a world that has normalized involuntary surveillance as a consensual act. From facial recognition and license plate readers, to 24/7 surveillance footage in the cloud and a smart phone in every pocket, our kids are already surrounded by devices that know what they’re up to all the time. Alexa, show me the kids bedroom! (At least with Alexa, you are opting into the data collection and sharing.) Don’t get me started on the Jiobit, and if you don’t know what it is, look it up in incognito mode or else Facebook and Instagram will start showing you ads for it every time you scroll past creepy elf photos.

With the Elf on the Shelf, though, there is no end user license agreement to consent to. Kids don’t get to choose what Sprinkles shares with Father Christmas; Sprinkles the Spy just shows up soon after Thanksgiving and starts recording the nannycam. Morality isn’t a punishment and rewards system; I’d rather teach my kids to have the integrity to do the right thing even when no one is watching and evaluating your position on the nice list.


Hearing my friends complain about being on the brink of sleep only to remember they haven’t moved the elf is a bit like hearing my keto-dieting friends miss chips and queso out loud. Your martyrdom is self-inflicted! My brain is already at capacity with the amount of things I have to think about after my kids go to bed, especially in December: packing lunches for the next day, sending Christmas cards, figuring out who else I need to shop for, hiding the gifts, pretending to shave but really reading a book in the bathroom… the list goes on and on.

There is no room in my post-bedtime me time for over-the-top storyboards involving Pinterest and Sprinkles the Spy. I’ve already given in and succumbed to telling the elaborate lies of Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, and “that sign over there says ‘no whining’;” I don’t need any more elaborate lies I will have to come clean about later. And I already have enough people wreaking havoc on my house and making messes for me to clean up – I do not need another one.

Suck it, Sprinkles.

Kelly I. Hitchcock
Kelly I. Hitchcock is a literary fiction author, humorist, and poet in the Austin, Texas area. She is the author of three books and has published poems, short stories, and creative non-fiction works all over the country. Raised by a single father in the small town of Buffalo, Missouri, Kelly has fond memories of her poor rural upbringing in the Ozarks that strongly influence her writing and way of life. She’s a graduate of Missouri State University, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts in Creative Writing. She has six-year-old identical twins and a full-time job, so writing and picking up LEGO are the only other things she can devote herself to. You can find all Kelly's work at


  1. We were just discussing this recently. We felt the same way and avoided it for a while, and then when it was all the rage in school (believe it or not, I think it’s calmer than it used to be!) there were some feelings of being left out.

    We worked around these issues and the single-seller price by getting a $5 elf from hallmark or something, and declared that this was Starsky “apprentice Elf” who just came to visit and hang out around the holidays. He’s still learning how things work and what should happen, so he occasionally stays in the same spot. Sometimes he did odd things like make a snowman out of TP rolls. He’s currently lounging in an N95 mask with his pet skunk (he was jealous of the kitties, so he had to get his own… and being not smart got a polecat) and eating gummy bears. He’s been there all month, I think.

    Anyway, wanted to share our lazy, cheap, and anti-surveillance parent version in case some other parents out there are feeling the pressure to participate but need a break!


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