Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Ugly Truth about the Elf on the Shelf

Guest post on Everything Moms 
If you are not familiar with the holiday tradition of the Elf on the Shelf, you will take notice now. It is a concept so simple, yet so ingenious, that you will kick yourself for not inventing it first, (just as you do every time you shell out 5 bucks for a pack of Silly Bands)! Elf_On_shelf_warningThis special Elf comes with his own book describing how he is to be placed on a shelf so he can watch your behavior and report back to Santa while you sleep. You will find him again upon waking in the morning, but always in a different spot. Perhaps the most dramatic fact about this Elf is that you can NEVER, EVER touch him, or he will lose his magical power.
This Elf has been working like a charm in our house. The kids really do believe in his magic. They are listening better, are treating each other more kindly, and if they start acting up, all I have to do is point to Will, (that is what they named our Elf) and their behavior instantly changes to sugar and spice. The Elf has also inspired hours of pretend play. The kids dress up in our random Santa hats and Christmas stockings in preparation of sitting like statues in various rooms watching our behavior like little Elf accomplices.
The Elf on the Shelf has brought us great joy in the short time we have known him. But (a BIG BUT...), behind that sweet Elf smile and his cute red suit, lie some ugly truths, which I believe should be disclosed at this time. I love this Elf, I really do, but he has caused a certain level of disruption in our home. He should come with some warning, or caution labels to parents.
  • WARNING #1: If your children are of the high strung variety, you may want to skip past (or at least down play) the part about losing the magical powers if he is touched. If not, your 5 year old may frequently wake up in the night at 12, 2 and 4 AM from nightmares that she has touched the Elf and has ruined Christmas.
  • WARNING #2: If you have birthed any "early bird" children, you may want to go to bed extra early during the Elf’s holiday visiting time. If your extra spirited 3 year old child can't contain himself, he may very well go from waking at 6 AM to 5 AM just so darned excited that he must bounce out of bed and run downstairs to see where the Elf has moved during the night. He will then perhaps burst from exuberance if he doesn't scream his findings at the top of this lungs (waking up high strung child #1 just as she has drifted back to sleep from all of her traumatic Elf nightmares).
  • WARNING #3: If you plan to bring out the Elf in any fashion this holiday season, consider bringing him out later, rather then sooner (December 22nd for instance) Remembering to move him each night (or morning) before the early bird (see warning #2) gets up is a lot of pressure and performance anxiety for both the Elf and parent-especially if you are lacking in impulse control and he came to visit your house on November 2!
Would I use the Elf again next year or recommend the Elf for a friend? You betcha! I would however strongly suggest some story manipulation to make the Elf's visit a bit lower maintenance. If your children are already reading, I would consider bringing your Elf home without the book and make up your own Elf story to fit the unique needs of your own children (and so that mom and dad can get some sleep this holiday season)!
Happy Elf spotting!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Chilling Out

My December blogging will be sparse...maybe even non-existent.  Perhaps I will return as usual in January, but perhaps not.  I am taking the season off to chill out, slow down, and create the time to enjoy my family and friends.  I am going to sip hot chocolate, make snow angels, enjoy the holiday lights, cuddle with my husband and play with my kids.  Coaching clients are always more then welcome, but I am taking a small break from the blog.

Stay warm, enjoy life, take extra care of you... and hug your children often!!!

Happy Holidays!!!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Don't tell dad

A guest post on Owning Pink

My five year-old got off the bus visibly upset yesterday. Instead of giving me her usual run-off-the-bus-all smiles-and-giving-me-a-bear-hug, she stomped past me avoiding eye contact and headed straight for the house. When I asked her what was bothering her, she blurted out, “________ cut my hair in art class!” 
Keeping my cool
I’ve braced myself for this moment -- the first time my child would tell me something shocking. I know I am suppose to keep a straight face, don’t judge, ask open-ended questions, stay calm, be caring and concerned -- but support her in solving her own problems. The dilemma was that none of this was working. She had completely shut down and refused to talk to me about it. The only information I got was that she didn’t tell anyone at school and she didn’t tell the boy to stop. Then she said something I really wasn’t expecting: “Don’t tell dad.” I knew this day would come -- when I was asked to keep a secret from my husband, like her first crush, buying her first bra, or wearing lipstick -- but I did not expected it at the age of five. 
Fortunately, she has dance right after school. Most parents have luck talking to their kids while in the car, right? They aren’t distracted, and you can’t make eye contact -- this is where is where it is all supposed to all hang out, right? WRONG! I got nothing again. I let her know that I was so glad that she told me, that I loved her no matter what… but I wanted to talk about how she could have handled the situation differently (being firm with the hair cutter and telling the teacher). Nope, she wasn’t having it! I tried to address the safety issue of the scissors and that she has every right and absolutely should protect her body. All I got was, “Stop taking about it mom!”  At this point I was less concerned about the hair cutting itself and more concerned at her reaction and withdrawal. This is not the child I know.
What other moms would do
My daughter’s dance class is over an hour long and when I am not feeling particularly inspired to go to the gym, I stay and talk with my friends. Today, I needed their advice (a perfect excuse not to work out). When I tell my two friends the story, one immediately blurts out, “My husband would be up at the school in a hot second.” The second one said, “This is a safety issue and it needs to be handled.” (I have great firecracker friends that always have my back!)
After their knee-jerk reaction, they deeply listened to me and realized that I had a trust issue here. I want my children to feel comfortable telling me ANYTHING.  I don’t want my daughter to feel like she can’t come to me without me immediately reacting and calling the school. I want to be the “go to”, and a positive guide in the right direction, but not THE problem solver. If I felt like my child or another child was in danger, then that is very black and white. I would tell. This situation was a grey area for me -- and one that I felt was a test for the future.    
I completed this conversation deciding that I would try one more time on the car ride home to encourage my daughter to tell her daddy and grant me permission to email her teacher. If she refused again, I would leave it alone. Trust trumps the need to inform in this case. My friends still disagreed with my decision, and came to their own conclusions that if this were their kid they would call the school. Being the open minded and non-judgmental gals they are, they tell me to trust my gut and that I know my kid best. 
One more attempt
I decide to try one more time in the car on the way home from dance to talk to my daughter. I attempt to convince her to tell her daddy -- because he would want to know, and to grant me permission to email her teacher -- because she needs to protect the other kids. Bingo! I suppose the endorphins of exercise are a natural mood lifter. She was much more “available”, verbal and clearheaded about what we should do, and what she can do in the future if someone else is invading her body or space. I feel much better that we were able to talk, and that we have a plan. But most importantly, I kept her confidence. I bet she will come to me next time she needs to talk without the fear of me getting all hot and bothered and reacting without her consent.
I do, however, hold strong that I would have stuck with my original decision to do nothing if this is what she ultimately wanted. 
What would you have done? How have you handled the balance between the desire to protect your child and the need to gain their trust?