David Trinko: Mending relationship with family’s elf


First Posted: 12/17/2014

You might’ve seen Mommy kissing Santa Claus. My kids saw Daddy manhandling Steve the Elf.

Like many families, we have an “Elf on the Shelf,” the cute, Gestapo-like spy that children willingly invite into their lives between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Our children named ours Steve, for reasons I’ll never understand but will always remember as a rare unanimous vote in our house. Steve takes mental notes, then shares their transgressions with Santa Claus by magically flying back to the North Pole every night.

It’s a pretty fantastic story, but it must be true. Each morning, Steve ends up somewhere else. Some days he’s the naughty one, spelling out words with M&Ms or putting fake mustaches on the kids’ photographs on the wall. Most of the time, he’s just hanging around.

My children delight in running around the house, trying to find Steve and his elfen adventures.

I’m usually familiar with Steve’s whereabouts, as I rise earlier than the children most mornings. That’s why, on Tuesday, I knew Steve was hanging precariously onto the back of the fish tank.

When the children awoke to find him, they couldn’t. I was as astonished as they were. As they scoured the house, I looked behind the fish tank. There was Steve, helpless on the floor.

What happened next depends on your perspective.

I believe I saved Steve’s life. I reached behind the tank’s stand and pulled him to safety. I then set him atop the fish tank to see how he’d fared. That’s when my 7-year-old daughter walked in the living room.

My middle daughter believes I tried to kill Steve. In the modern holiday classic “An Elf’s Story,” children learn the elf loses his magic when touched by a human, and he can’t return to the North Pole.

She kept crying and screaming, “Dad killed Steve.” I suspect she would’ve repeated those words fewer times if Steve were the name of her husband for the past 50 years.

I promised I’d make it right. I told my girls I’d stand in line to speak to Santa Claus himself and explain what happened. I reminded them the real point in the movie was believing in the magic of Christmas, not the physical touching of the elf. They reluctantly agreed to stop calling me a murderer.

Steve was nowhere to be found when they returned from school Tuesday. On Wednesday morning, they awoke to find Steve hiding in my office. He sat in a doll’s wheelchair, bandaged heavily from head to toe, with a note acknowledging he would recover quickly as long as they remained good.

It amazes me what we’ll do to keep the magic of Christmas alive for our children.