Let me start by admitting, between Thanksgiving and Christmas, I’ve been waking up in a 4 a.m. panic for over 10 years now. Why? You know why. We have an elf named Chip and I’m a mom who drinks wine.
After you’ve woken up (after said wine) to a full deposition about why the elf didn’t move, some natural alarm you don’t even know about gets set and eventually, your body clock pulls you out of rare and glorious REM and reminds you that you forgot to do the thing. Why my invisible clock is set at 4 a.m. is a mystery. Why we need a new tradition is not.
I’ve been a fan of the elf since 2005 when he first showed up for my now college freshman daughter. I had a ball delighting her with our Chip’s creativity and general mischief. He made messes in the kitchen. He hung from disco balls. He got rowdy with all the Barbies. He lived his best life with glitter, paint and silly string. I never got into the part about ‘tattling back to Santa.” That part didn’t appeal to me, but the rest was a recipe for laughs.
We needed him at the time, and I have nothing but loving memories.
But that was 14 years ago. Fast forward to today - we have a son, who eagerly awaits Chips mischief. Unfortunately, Chip is getting remarkably less creative. He moves slower and he definitely repeats his dad jokes.
As much as I love the fun parts of this tradition - and believe me - it’s not going anywhere anytime soon - I think Dwelling Boxes is the ‘low maintenance’ answer to family tradition that will actually serve us all year long. Here’s why:
You don’t have to remember to do it after everyone is asleep. This is the most obvious reason. Moving something every night when you’re an exhausted parent takes its toll. My max on participating is 3 weeks and if you do the math, that’s not exactly perfect. Because if we put the tree up after Thanksgiving - well, that’s closer to a month. By the end of it, we’re lucky if he moves more than twice a week.
Dwelling Boxes sit patiently wherever you put them, and simply wait for you to put your thoughts in them - whenever you want to. Especially after coffee.
You don’t have to be creative. I’ve had friends tell me they don’t “do the elf” because they simply can’t think like that. When I answer - “but Pinterest”, they come out with the real reason - “it requires a lot of work and I don’t have time.” I get this. After a few glasses of wine I am both the wrong kind of creative (bad Chip, stop wearing the Tito's bottle sweater!) and definitely lazzzzzzzzzz.
Dwelling Boxes require nothing more than you and your loved ones thinking about what you are grateful for and what you’d need to let go of. There is no Pinterest for that - just your honest thoughts.
You don’t have to trick your kids. I’m not judging here - but whether you are pro or anti-elf there are ramifications to teaching our kids that good behavior = presents. What happens when the Elf takes off?
Dwelling Boxes encourage kids to focus on what they are grateful for and simultaneously offer them a healthy way to “let go” of what may be driving misbehavior in the first place. Again, I’m not judging, but if the “tattletale”angle of this tradition has ever concerned you (as it has me), here’s a chance to use the elf for fun and find a different way to drive better behavior all year round.
You can touch them. Just raise your hand if the elf has face planted on the floor after a failed staging - smooth move magic crusher. Now what? Now you have to cook up some elaborate story for why you can move it this one time with oven mitts that you froze to keep the elf from bursting into flames. You are raising kids who question everything, who value truth, who are smarter than we were - because Google.
Dwelling Boxes are meant to be touched and even decorated. We made them to feel like soft canvas so you and the fam can make them your own. Paint, glitter, red wine stains - go crazy. You can open the positive box to read the good stuff and you’ll eventually burn, bury or recycle the negative box. Feel free to be as touchy feely as you like.
You can use a tradition to build a lifelong mindset. The elf has a shelf life (hallelujah!), from late November to Christmas morning. After that, we all go about our business, forget where we hid it for next year and then buy a new one (wait - is that just me? We’re on Chip 3.0).
Dwelling Boxes are a tradition you can start anytime, anywhere. Whether it’s the holidays, a birthday, a wedding, an anniversary or even moving into a new place - there are no dates or rules. There is are only opportunities. Opportunities to build a healthy habit of actively acknowledging gratitude. Opportunities for learning what we love about each other and making random acts of kindness something that happen more frequently. Opportunities for letting go of unhealthy thoughts fester anxiety, waste our precious time and dull our spirits.
No matter where you stand on the elf, I hope you stand on traditions that encourage positivity. I believe we live in a time where we can’t do enough to help our kids and ourselves stay focused on the best version of ourselves that we can be.
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