Innocence is Being Lost, But It’s Not Stolen by an Elf

By Jay Menard

Instead of looking for nefarious motivations in life, perhaps we should spend a little more time seeing the world through the eyes of a kid. There’s a world of wonder, joy, magic, and mystery out there — but some adults are so far removed from their inner child that they seem to want nothing more than to squeeze the innocence out of those who are still in the throes of youth.

My daughter’s too old for the Elf on the Shelf. I’m not a huge fan of it, but not for the reason that seems to be gaining popularity — the idea that this elf is really a conduit for creating a subservient generation of brainwashed sheep for whom Big-Brother-esque surveillance and privacy invasion is not just accepted by welcome.

It’s an elf. On a shelf.

Back in my day, we had Santa. You know, the whole “he sees you when you’re sleeping; he knows when you’re awake…”

No reference to how. No reference to hidden networks, spy cams, or other nefarious terms. We didn’t know how, but we believed. Kind of like magic. In retrospect, it’s a little Peeping-Tomish, creepy magic, but magic nonetheless.

It was fun to believe in something that we couldn’t explain.

It didn’t make me more subservient to the Man. It didn’t teach me to accept authority without question.

I grew up to be relatively fine, pretty much well-adjusted, and with a healthy level of skepticism, and a fully functioning hypocrisy and BS meter.

I grew up understanding that few things were black and white; that few people had all the answers; to trust actions more than words; and — most importantly — not to look for offense or conspiracy behind every window.

You can pretty much apply nefarious motivations to everything in our lives if you look for it. You can champion your cause and take offense to any perceived slight — compounding the problem by attributing motivations to people without, you know, asking.

But when did we forget what it was like being a kid?

When did we get so jaded that simple things that should bring joy, wonderment, or amazement need to be dissected, disputed, and disproportionately analyzed?

It’s an elf.

It’s not real.

It’s not wearing a tin foil hat, so neither should you.

Kids believe weird stuff. We believed weird stuff when we were kids. It wasn’t indoctrination, it was imagination. I loved the Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe and the Lord of the Rings when I was a child. I had no idea they were religious metaphors. And they didn’t impact my beliefs in any way as an adult. Why?

Because I knew they were fiction. I enjoyed the stories and I liked being whisked away on the wings of my imagination.

Kids… stop reading here. OK? Are you gone? Let’s continue.

I didn’t develop a jaded sense of the world, believe my parents were perpetually lying to me and part of some great 1984-esque conspiracy when I found out that there was no Santa Claus. My daughter knew a couple of years before she admitted it — mainly because she thought the gift-to-child ratio may be suffer when they were all coming from one source, as opposed to a parent-plus-mythical being partnership.

Some of us spend so much time trying to prove how adult we are that we forget that being a kid is pretty darn awesome.

Think back a few years. Remember when those new Star Wars movies came out and how PO’d people got about Jar Jar? Well, that was the adults, not the kids. The kids loved that freaky creature. Just like we loved wookies and ewoks and the like when we were younger. People forgot that they watched — and fell in love with — these films as CHILDREN. Nothing can compete with sentimentality.

Don’t believe me? Go back and watch some shows you loved… I ruined the Greatest American Hero for myself by watching it today. It’s terrible. Painfully so. Some things are meant to be a part of our childhood.

As a child, I owned both Father Abraham in Smurfland AND Don Johnson’s Heartbeat. My parents could have told me they were crap, but they didn’t. Why? Because the worst thing you can do as an adult is tell a kid something they like is horrible.

After all, we should be building our kids up to learn, expand, and try new things to see what they like, right? Or are they only allowed to work within our pre-approved frame of reference? We should support their exploration and growth, not confine it.

Just like we shouldn’t apply our sad and pathetic adult ways of seeing the world to something so innocent as a bloody elf on a bloody shelf.

And it’s hard to teach our kids to look for all the greatness this world has to offer when we spend so much time, as a society, teaching them to infer ulterior motives wherever possible.

But that’s one of the greatest things about having kids. They help you renew your view on life. They help you find the wonder in the world and help you explore life with amazement. They help you recapture some of what you’ve lost, and make you appreciate the simple-but-wonderous things in life.

So why are we so quick to take it away from them, again?

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