Barnes and Not-So-Noble: The Grinch Who Stole Christmas

CRyingIt’s getting close to Christmas time and as such family traditions are in full swing at the Coxon household.  One of those traditions for the last 5 years has been reading “The Elf on the Shelf.”

For those of you unfamiliar, the book relays the story of an elf that comes to watch your children and reports each night to Santa their Naughty and Nice activities of the day.  Since the elf “returns” to the North Pole each night, the morning routine for the kids is to race downstairs and try to find the new place that the elf has hidden to keep up his surveillance.  There are even rules in the book that tell the kids that if they touch the vertically challenged, pointy eared little imp, that he loses his magic and can’t tell Santa about their Nice activities or what they want for Christmas.

Well my kids are now 4, 7, and 10.  My 10 year old has been doing this excitedly for 5 years. . .that is until tonight.

Of course some of the other kids at school started debating the existence of elves and even Santa this year, but my daughter has always had more than her fair share of wonder and of her namesake.  She has used that to keep Christmas magic alive repeatedly.

The trouble started when my daughter received a Barnes and Noble gift certificate for her birthday in October.  We went a few weeks later so she could get $40 worth of books, (which happens to be about 3 books at Barnes and Noble prices), and on that day the wheels were set in motion.  Blazenly set up in the children’s section of Barnes and Noble is The Elf on the Shelf book.

“Of course!” you say, “Why wouldn’t they display the book?”  But they are not just displaying the book itself.  They are displaying the whole kit, complete with book and “elf” behind plastic in a box.  Naturally, this merchandising caught the attention of all my kids but really interested my 10 year old the most.  We tried to steer her attention elsewhere, but I think the damage was done.

She enthusiatically searched for the elf the first 5 days of December this year, and then tonight, she asked to see my wife and I in private, where she proceeded to ask if the elf was indeed real.

Not wanting to concede so easily, I asked her in turn “What do you think?”   She responded, “Why would a real elf come in a box?” 

My wife and I felt it would be too much to try and undermine her intelligence as a 5th grader to lie to her at that point, and the tears started flowing as her childhood innocence was shattered formally by her parents concession of the truth.  Then she said “I suppose Santa’s not real either.”  Boom!  Two for one!

So in one foul swoop, the haphazzard commercialism and poor merchandising techniques of Barnes and Noble were the death knell in my daughters ideas about Christmas, proving indeed that their heart is “two sizes too small.”

I’m no genius, but putting the book on display, and then placing the elf and book “kits” behind the register wouldn’t be too hard.  Take the book to the register, and the clerk bags up the kit instead. Wow, genius!  But of course we have to consider this is from the same company that gave us the Nook, the Yugo of tablets (I had to get a technology tie in somewhere!)  It would keep kids from being exposed to the elf in the box itself, undermining the whole purpose of the tradition and purchase in the first place.

In fact, when we bought the kit in 2008, we had to go to a clandestine Hallmark to find it.  It wasn’t placed on display in the middle of a section designed to attract the attention of the very kids the book was supposed to enchant.

In the long run, my daughter’s tears cleared and we told her that believing in those ideas is what makes Christmas magical.  (We related that the elf’s ever watching eye and Santa’s giving of gifts are really just simple representations of God being everpresent and of the gifts he blesses us with in this life and the next, and that those are the real miracles of Christmas).

We then inducted her into our secret society, commissioning her as the guardian of magic for her younger siblings, and letting her now hide the elf nightly with us.

So thanks Barnes and Not-So-Noble!  Those 3 books my daughter bought with her birthday gift cost her $40 and her Christmas Wonder, which was priceless.  Congrats on being the Grinch Who Stole Christmas this year, which reminds me, I need a new copy of that book.  If anyone else needs one too, I advise that you do what I’m going to do, and buy it . . .on Amazon here.