What is it they say? Pride goeth before the fall? Yeah, well, I’m not sure it’s pride that goeth before the fall. I think maybe what goeth before the fall is Pinterest.
See, a couple of years ago, back when my daughter, Iris, was two years old, still not potty trained, and in the throes of giving up her afternoon nap, I was reading some mommy blogs, like an idiot, and there I found tales of tiny handmade stationary and envelopes used to write tiny notes from the tiny tooth fairy. In tiny calligraphy. Notes that contained glitter and money and celebrated perfectly the loss of a child’s first tooth. And other tales of birthday parties for kids with special themes and homemade party favors and homebaked cake pops and crafty place settings and creative activities and inventive gift-exchanges. All complete with pictures of delighted kiddos having the times of their lives.
And did all that crap inspire me? Did all that crap make me want to, likewise, throw parties and make stuff? No. All that crap did was make me feel horrible. I really AM a slacker mom, I lamented inwardly. Outwardly? I wept, all snotty and red-faced at my husband: “Their kids are having a magical and pinterest-y childhood and I’m lucky if I get a SHOWER!!!”
My husband, bless him, calmed me down and handed me a Kleenex (not in that order) and convinced me that I wasn’t doing it wrong, that Iris was still going to experience the magic of childhood, despite my slacker status. But, secretly, way down deep in my heart of hearts, I knew I needed to up my game. Because, if Iris’s childhood could be magic without my intervention, imagine how much better it could be with my intervention.
Enter the Elf on the Shelf.
Her name is Lolly. And she is a bitch.
Oh, sure, it started innocently enough. I purchased Lolly and brought her home with visions of holiday delight in my head. I introduced her to Iris at the appointed time, dreams of the inventive and artistic scenes I would create for Iris while she slept, the joyful giggles of my child when she discovered the “fun” Lolly had in store for her. I started an account on Pinterest just so I could save ideas for the elf.
And I did okay the first few nights. Lolly balanced precariously on the chandelier over the kitchen table. Lolly hiding in the big vase on our entertainment unit. Lolly holding a candy cane and sitting on the mantle.
And that set the tone for the rest of that Christmas season. Every night: what the hell am I going to do with the damned elf? And all those ideas I pinned to my Pinterest board? Half of them required the child in question to know how to read (Iris was two), and the other half were simply impossible given the elf’s floppy arms and legs.
Sometime the following summer, I found out a shocking secret….those mommy bloggers? The ones who make magic for their children? They’d sewn wire into their elves’ arms and legs to make the elves posable. SON OF A BITCH! This is where I had gone wrong! This was the answer! The answer to all my problems from the year before. Now there would be wire! Now there would be poses and scenes and some fucking enchantment, dammit!
Yeah. And then came last year’s day five. “What are we going to do with Lolly?”
But this year, I’ve actually been doing pretty well. I’ve managed to set up some fun little scenes for Iris to find. Lolly hanging out with Iris’s dolls or leading a toy pony parade across the kitchen counter.
Lolly hanging from the shower curtain rod in Iris’s bathroom or sitting on a swing I made from candy canes.
I managed to reach day nineteen before there was a problem. And, let me tell you, on day nineteen, right there in the homestretch, when Lolly was hanging from the garland wrapped around the upstairs banister, I was feeling pretty clever. Nineteen whole days! I was killing it! I was making some damn magic!
4:37am on day twenty, I sat bolt upright in bed. Oh no! The elf! Damnit! I forgot to move the stupid elf! Shit shit shit shit shit!
I scrambled out of bed and tiptoed down the hall, whispering prayers of thanks that Iris hadn’t gotten up to use the bathroom in the middle of the night. I untangled Lolly from the garland and crept down the stairs, hardly daring to breathe as I passed Iris’s bedroom door. Please don’t wake up, please don’t wake up, please don’t wake up. Wait? Was that a noise? Was that a moan? Is she waking up? What am I going to say about the fucking elf I am holding in my fucking hand? The elf I am not supposed to fucking touch because, if I touch the fucking elf she will lose her fucking magic?
Mercifully, Iris did not wake up and I did not have to come up with a creative lie OR hurl Lolly down the stairs like so much rubbish. So far, I was winning.
(Spoiler alert: this would not last long.)
I crept down the stairs and started looking for someplace I could put the stupid elf. The chandelier over the dining room table? Nope. Already used that one. Twice. On top of the kitchen cabinets? Used that one yesterday. And she’d already been in the fridge, in the pantry, on the mantle, hanging from the mistletoe, in a stocking, on the counter, and in the decorative birdcage on top of my bookcase.
Oooo, the copper kettle! The decorative copper teakettle I have on top of my bookcase! I haven’t ever put Lolly there! Perfect!
Except I am kind of short. Well, shorter than the bookcase. And my arms are short and there was no way to reach the stupid teakettle without a step stool.
Craaaaap. Because there was NO WAY I was going to risk the kind of noise I’d have to make to get out the step stool, carry it from the garage to the front room (during which trip you know I’d have banged it into a wall or doorway), or squeaked the darn thing open to set it up. So, there had to be another solution.
Before I tell you the solution I came up with, I am going to have to explain to you exactly why this was the most colossally bad idea I have ever come up with in my entire adult life.
On my very first date with my husband, the first day we actually met, I was walking across a perfectly flat, perfectly dry, recently repaved parking lot. I might be the only person in the history of the world who can fall down and sprain her ankle, badly, under that set of conditions. Our first date? Going to Walmart to get me an ankle brace.
I am a klutz. In our house falling down is called “pulling a Betsy.”
So, keep that in mind when I tell you that my solution to reaching the decorative copper teakettle on top of the tall bookcase was to pull over the ottoman from the yellow chair and stand on it.
And if you’re guessing what happened already, shut up and don’t spoil it for anyone else.
Picture it….there I am, perched on the ottoman, arranging a bendable red elf on a nonfunctional teakettle on top of a bookcase in the middle of the night….you know, like you do…. and, just as I get Lolly perfectly positioned and looking cute…
…the ottoman, for no reason known to man, decides to tip over onto its side.
You know how sometimes people say that a fall happens so fast they didn’t even know what was happening until it was all over?
Yeah, that never happens to me.
I just can't seem to fall like a normal person. There is no simple plop on the butt for me. Nope. I tend to have the really spectacular oh-my-god-I'm-falling-can-I-save-it-I-think-I-can-save-it-oh-no-I-can't-I'm-going-to-fall-no-I-think-I-can-save-it-oh-shit-nevermind-here-I-go kind of fall with my arms and legs and, probably several other body parts that shall remain nameless, flailing around like a convulsing octopus. While Lolly just stared at me with that creepy smile on her plastic face.
One sprained thumb and one bruised calf (all the way from knee to ankle) and I bet I am the only mother on the planet with elf-related injuries this Christmas.
I knew I should have negotiated for workman’s compensation coverage when I became a stay-at-home mom.