I will do almost anything for my kids. But I won’t do The Elf on the Shelf.
Disclaimer: To all the Elf-hiding moms out there, don’t freak out. I am not making a political statement or embarking on an anti-Elf crusade.
I am scared of the Elf. I trace it back to the only Twilight Zone episode I ever watched involving a ventriloquist and a sadistic dummy that comes to life.
I’ve never fully recovered.
Among other commonalities, Emma shares my fear of the Elf. We also take issue with:
…and claymation. Don’t even get me started on claymation.
Basically anything fitting one or more of these descriptions is off limits:
- Anything that looks fake but at the same time freakishly real
- Anything that is smiling at you but in a way that says “I want to kill you.”
- Anything that wears sad/angry makeup but is intended to make you happy
- Anything that pretends to be voiceless and trapped in an imaginary box.
All of these things just seem to be invented with the sole purpose of fucking with your emotions and making you feel slightly schizophrenic. And I don’t need any help in that area. I am all set.
We recently took the girls to see the new Disney flick Frozen.
In the movie is an adorable snowman character named Olaf. As I sat in the darkened theater, listening to the girls belly laugh at his sweet antics, I thought I love this little snowman. I want to put him in a snowglobe and put him on my shelf.
On the drive home, I turned to the girls and said, “I have an awesome idea. Instead of the Elf, we should have…”
“…an Olaf on the Shelf,” finished Emma. Our telepathic connection is both fascinating and frightening.
Olaf’s role in the movie is the funny, lovable sidekick. He “likes warm hugs,” and defines true love as “putting someone’s needs before your own.” So, our Olaf on the Shelf is on the lookout for Acts of True Love.
When I think of the words “true love,” I think of my two girls.
I will do pretty much anything for them: Get intimate with their poop, puke, and boogers, paint daisies on their microscopic fingernails, and subject myself to a quiz entitled “What Color Are Your Feelings Today?” on the American Girl Doll website. I will make sure the peas don’t touch the chicken nuggets on their compartmentalized plates, I will play in the snow even though I hate the cold, and I will listen to the Annie soundtrack for the 3,000,000th time without singing a word because it pisses Phoebe off.
But that’s a mother’s love, a love that is in large part a sacrificial love – to give freely without reservation or expectation.
But what about “true love” in the marital sense – does the same definition apply? Maybe I am still working through my Catholic issues of sin and sacrifice, but…that definition makes me cringe a bit.
For the past eight years, I have been a stay at home mom. I don’t view this as a sacrifice, but as a decision Phil and I made for a variety of reasons. I don’t regret it, but with Phoebe getting ready to go off to kindergarten next year, I feel…uneasy with the role I have created for myself. I wake up in the middle of the night to the sound of my own teeth grinding together. Then I wonder if our dental insurance covers a mouth guard.
I worked before I had kids, but I never had a career. My career has become supporting Phil’s career. And I don’t just mean in the you-make-money-I-clean-bathrooms kind of way. Phil confides in me about his work, and asks me to weigh in. We discuss books likeThe Big Leap by Gay Hendricks, and how Phil can achieve his “Zone of Genius:” that which you are truly called to do.
I thought this dynamic worked for us, until I realized that helping Phil discover his Zone of Genius had become my Zone of Genius…which kind of seems like a waste of a graduate degree.
A close friend asked me, “Let’s say, hypothetically, that Phil never finds his Zone of Genius. Can you still be happy?”
The answer flew out of my mouth before my brain could catch up: “No. I can’t.”
What? Who said that? Is June Cleaver in the house? What the hell?
The Sufi poet Hafiz writes, Both our hearts are meant to sing. Taking care of the people I love does make my heart sing, but I am realizing it can’t be the only thing that makes it sing. Sacrifice is a huge part of any marriage, and of course there will be periods of inequality, the scales tipping one way or another. There will be moments when the other person has a deep need, and in the spirit of true love, you run to meet that need. But a lifetime of sacrificing – without pausing to ask, what do I want? What do I need? – doesn’t make the heart sing. It strangles it.
There’s a reason Meatloaf sang, “I will do anything for love, but I won’t do that.” Because everyone has a “that.” Having a “that” doesn’t make you less of a person, it makes you a person. A whole person. A person with needs and dreams and a Zone of Genius all your own. And as I see it, to entrust these vulnerable parts of yourself to another person is an act of true love. Because while it is wonderful to give, it is just as important to receive. We all deserve the opportunity to do both.
Give someone a chance meet your needs.
Because while I agree with Olaf that it feels great to give a warm hug….
…it feels even better when the other person hugs you back.