Our elves showed up sometime in the night between Thanksgiving and Black Friday, just as they have every year for the last seven.
All three of our kids had been excited for their arrival, but we noticed our oldest was especially eager this year.
“Our elves come this month!” he announced on November 1, eyes twinkling with anticipation. He counted down nearly every night after, and once they finally showed up we found him in the corner talking to them several times throughout the day.
“How was the trip from the North Pole?”
“Man, I’ve sure missed you guys.”
“What team are you rooting for in the World Cup?”
The thing is, this whole Elf on the Shelf tradition used to just seem like one more thing.
In a month that is already so jam-packed with to-dos, it was one more task to remember and one more thing to wake up in the middle of the night realizing we forgot.
But this year, as I listened to our son chatting with those wide-eyed dolls, my heart simultaneously swelled and ached—because truthfully, we don’t know how many believing years we have left with him.
That realization hit me with a big dose of perspective.
It reminded me that even though the holidays are busy and hectic and we have a million places to be and meals to plan and things to do and presents to wrap . . . it’s all so very worth it. Especially right here and now—in this sweet spot when all three of our kids are still young enough to fully believe in all of the magic of the season.
Right now, they put such careful thought into deciding what to ask Santa for, wholeheartedly believing he’ll fulfill their deepest wishes.
They’re the age to wear elf hats and ring handheld jingle bells at their school Christmas concert.
They ask questions like, “How does Santa get into homes that don’t have chimneys?” and “Mom, do you think I’ll hear reindeer hooves on the roof if I listen realllllly hard on Christmas Eve?” They aren’t yet asking, “Is Santa real?”
They wake up on December 25th with hearts full of faith that the jolly man in the red suit has been by.
And right now, their eyes still dance with excitement every single morning as they search the house for our elves, Boots and Christmas Lady.
They aren’t jaded. They aren’t doubtful.
They’re just 100 percent believers, full of pure joy and innocence and everything that is good and right in the world.
It’s such a blessing to witness it all as their mama, and I don’t want to miss a thing.
So for now, we’ll do whatever we can to make this season as special as it can be—even when we feel like we’re running in a million directions.
We’ll decorate the sugar cookies and pretend not to notice when the sprinkles go all over the kitchen for us to sweep up later.
We’ll put in extra planning and consideration to make sure our kids’ requests are delivered to Santa (and even more planning and consideration when those requests change at the last minute).
We’ll look at the December calendar a little less begrudgingly when we realize we have no free weekends from now until the end of the year.
We’ll do everything within our power to stoke the magic for as long as possible—not because we care about keeping up with the Joneses or making everything Instagram-worthy—but because we realize how fleeting this time is in the big picture of our lives.
These years of toothless grins singing “Jingle Bells” and wide eyes when we flip the switch to the Christmas tree lights for the first time of the year are beyond precious. They are core memories in the story of our lives, and we’re making them right now.
This time of year is exhausting, yes, but it’s so very beautiful too. The magic of the holidays with little kids who believe is every bit worth the chaos, and it always will be.