I defy any parent to manage without some form of bribery: be it the promise of TV programmes, games, later bedtimes, more stories, chocolate, ponies or Playstatio ns.* For me, Christmas seemed a good opportunity to cash in on the universal little-white-fib, and get some peace and quiet after 8:30pm/before 6am.
The Elf Plan
I decided that, since R seemed pretty convinced there were elves lurking around the place to watch him anyway, we could have some fun with them. I spotted – in Hobbycraft, in case it’s useful for any of you for next year – a load of hanging tree-decorations that resembled elves. (They were actually supposed to be, respectively, a boy and girl, two elves, and Santa and Mrs. Claus, but I’m darned if I thought the last two looked like Father Christmas, beard or no beard.) I gave an evil chuckle, and purchased the lot; along with two tiny hanging knitted jumpers that were also supposed to go on the tree.
I figured it was best to start out small. Whilst R was out at nursery, I hid this on top of the bookshelf:
I waited until evening, and then dropped into the conversation that I hadn’t seen any elves yet, but being the first day of advent, they were probably about.
R immediately started to look, and pretty quickly spotted the red-hatted elf. I had to explain that he would stay very still if a bit frightened, and that his voice might be too quiet to hear. I then hit the inevitable question: “What’s his name?”
“Errr… he says it’s Bori,” I told him. (Spot the person who’s just been watching The Hobbit.)
I suggested that Bori would want to see him get into his pyjamas and into bed, to tell Santa. The quickest and most willing change of clothes happened ever, all for Bori’s benefit. I decided not to worry about encouraging him to strip off whilst small, elderly-looking men watched him in silence. That kind of thing can wait until he’s five.
At bedtime, R said how exciting seeing elves was.
“But you saw some before, didn’t you?” I asked.
“Yes, but I didn’t really.”
The sort of statement that makes me wonder if he’s sometimes just humouring me…
The Elves Outside the Window
I hid a few elves around the place over the next couple of days, and left a small elf jumper hanging on R’s night-lights. Not only did I witness an instant uptick in behaviour, but R had them all named and back-stories associated with them within hours of each new elf arrival. It was actually great fun watching him really grab hold of his elf-imagination.
The only tricky part of the plan, from my perspective, was having to repeatedly go through a charade of being able to hear their extremely quiet voices (and/or explain away why they weren’t really moving several hours later).
I came up with a master-plan: elves watching from outside the window. I could then legitimately claim that I couldn’t hear them, and close the curtains on them so he didn’t ask why they were so still.
So during the day, I spent some minutes sellotaping two elves to the outside of the window. This is harder than you might think. Plastic-coated window-frames are not that sticky, and I thought it might ruin the effect if the magical flying elves were visibly being held up by tape. I then went gleefully to pick R up from nursery and waited until bedtime…
R went to close his curtains, and stopped, a look of shock on his face. At this point, coming closer to him, it occurred to me that the elves didn’t look quite so friendly in the dark. In fact, they looked like some kind of freaky stalkers:
Luckily, it didn’t take long to convince R that it was just friendly old Bori and Elza, and not some kind of elvish demons poised to invade his dreams during the night. It was quite a relief to close the curtains, however.
I got a little busy in the run-up to Christmas. We had a fun-filled wedding to attend, the inevitable presents and decorations, and Rufus wanted to have a Christmas tea-party. As a result, the elves didn’t appear so often – or when they did, they were pretty lazy. They inadvertently stayed in one place for several days, to R’s disgust.
However, I’d decided that Christmas Eve was going to make up for ALL of this. So having driven the two of us some 200 miles to the wilds of the new parental pad in Wales; then having walked up a couple of mountains and spent far too long wrapping presents; I set about creating the Elf Experience.
For reasons of space and various people being awkward, R ended up in a room with his long-suffering aunt (which, given it was Christmas and he was likely to be up at about 5am, I considered a RESULT). While she gave him a bath, I put elves EVERYWHERE.
They were peering off mannequins:
They were on window-ledges, and bookshelves:
And they were, naturally, hiding in the bed…
Elza and Squiffle-iffle-elfle. (I take no responsibility whatsoever for that last name.)
And R LOVED it. He went scampering around between them, thoroughly over-excited, and then got to bed early in the hope that the elves would report back. Naturally, he then spent the next half hour commenting about the elves, asking questions about them, and generally procrastinating. But it worked.
And in the morning, when he had some (thoroughly awesome, naturally) stocking presents, he went over and thanked each and every one of the elves.
So a lot of effort and a few porky-pies seemed pretty much worth it to me. Not only did he enjoy it and get his imagination really going, he also stepped up and behaved like the best of R’s (which is never going to be perfect, but I’ll take what I can get.)
And I’ll admit that, sarcastic and horrible person though I might be, I had a shed load of fun too. It was the kind of thing that makes your eyes water in an embarrassing way to witness, and I got a childish kind of glee from hiding elves everywhere I could think of.
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*I am pretty likely to hate anyone who bribes with these last two. In my head, I’m saying them in a stupid-little-prissy-girl voice and a slurred, dumb-hick voice respectively. But I reserve the right to think they’re TOTALLY FINE as soon as I can afford that kind of bribery.