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Friday, 9 December 2011

A new addition to the family

On Wednesday, Isla, monkey and I got home from a busy day in London to find a parcel addressed to Isla. We unwrapped it to find a green box with a gold seal embossed with the words 'The Official Seal of Santa's Workshop'. Carefully, we broke the seal to reveal another box entitled 'The elf on the shelf' and within it was a little red elf, with a red hat, red cheeks and a ruby red smile. Along with our mysterious elf was a story. The story said that Santa Claus had sent this little elf to Isla to keep an eye on her and every night he would fly back to the North Pole along with lots of other elves across the world to report back on their charges.  The book told us we had to give him a name, but mustn't touch him or he would lose his magic. And, every morning before Isla wakes, he would 'magically' re-appear in a different place from where we left him the night before.

We decided to name our elf Alvin. Getting him out of the box without breaking the touching rule proved tricky so I resorted to putting on my woolly gloves before setting him on the shelf in Isla's room. I asked her if she had a message for Alvin to give to Santa and she said, 'please tell him i would like an orange bike'.
Orange? Orange? Where the hell did that come from?
'Really, orange?' I said, wondering if I'd kept the Halfords receipt. 'I thought your favourite colour was pink?'
'No mummy' she said firmly, pointing her finger at me, 'my bike will be orange'.
'No, no, no. Actually, I want my bike to be pink'.
'Did you hear that Alvin? Pink! She wants pink!' Phew.
'Now Alvin is going back to the North Pole soon, so you must make sure that you stay in bed otherwise he will have to tell Santa Claus that you didn't stay in your bed and that will make Santa sad.'
And sure enough, I left the stair gate open and didn't hear a peep.

In the morning, Alvin was perched at the top of the stairs. 'Look mummy! He is back, he has moved! Can I touch him, pleeease may I touch him?'
'But if you touch him he will lose his magic and won't be able to fly back to the North pole'.
'But I will put the glove on and be really careful'.
And so, on went the glove and Isla tentatively touched Alvin's small red foot.
'I touched him, I touched him!' Suitably satisfied, Alvin was then left in peace.

It has only taken a couple of days for Alvin to become integral to our home and my somewhat lazy powers of persuasion. Typically, our conversations all go along the liens of:
'Isla, its time to brush your teeth'.
'But I don't want to'
'Alvin, can you tell Father Christmas that Isla won't brush her teeth?'
'I will, I will!'
Job done.

But, emotionally blackmailing your child on a daily basis, suggesting Santa will only visit her if she's been good, can't be healthy. All the modern-day parenting books say you shouldn't even use the word 'naughty' for fear of giving your child low self-esteem so God knows what mental scars I've inflicted this past week with my threats of the little snitch Alvin reportig back to the Big Man. Part of me thinks, its just adding to the magic of Christmas and can't do any harm but  I can't help feeling like I'm taking advantage of Isla's gullibility and total belief in all things Christmas. Because surely it should be me who's setting the example, teaching Isla about right or wrong, truth and lies, trust and honesty. And instead, I'm spinning her the biggest line of all.

This evening, when my parents dropped Isla home she rushed them upstairs so she could show them Alvin and told Grandad all about how he was going to the North Pole to tell Santa Claus all about Isla. On one level, it feels no different from letting her watch Cinderella and our fantastical childhoods are all too short and we should embrace them. But the other part of me can't help wondering if I'm setting us both up for one big fall when the illusion is shattered.

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