Elf Therapy


The elf is back!

Buster, our resident “Elf on a Shelf” has returned for another year of jolly fun and mischief…

and trauma.

Buster has been a beloved member of our family every December for the last seven years. He moved into our home in December 2008 when my Mom gave Gracie, Molly and Rusty their Christmas elf. At the time we were the only family we knew with a magical elf. Now you find elves and mischief ideas all over Pinterest. Buster no longer has to work so hard to be creative with all sorts of fun ideas only a click away. (Do they have wifi at the North Pole?)


For years my older three would eagerly jump from bed every morning in December, determined to be the first to spot Buster who would move into a new location every morning after returning from Santa every night to report on the behaviors of the kids that previous day.

Over the years he has become more creative in his holiday antics. My kids always found Buster fun and entertaining…then Tyler moved in.

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Tyler just found him creepy.

The first year Tyler was with us Buster returned home to the North Pole early as a result of Tyler’s heightened anxiety levels over the idea of an elf watching his choices and reporting back to Santa daily.

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The next year relations improved and he came to look forward to Buster’s antics, but only from a distance. He was ever wary of that magical doll that came to life at night. (Ok, I can see his issue. It does sound like the plot to a horror film.)

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By the next year he had fully embraced Buster and all was well. I think the addition of Ozzie into our family, and Ozzie’s complete enthusiasm for, and devotion to Buster, helped soften Tyler’s heart.

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And then my two little helper elves (the ones who help Buster make the magic every night while the boys sleep) made a grievous mistake. They had some fun with googly eyes and in the process scarred Tyler forever.

Any fear he had overcome was back 100 fold. He woke in the night and walked into a dark kitchen to get a glass of water. When he flicked the light on he saw this:


And began to scream.

The family woke to his screams of terror.

This year, as we counted down the days to December, Tyler faced the return of Buster with mixed emotions. He was SO excited but also SO nervous. I suggested that perhaps we could tell Buster to stay in the North Pole this year but Tyler wouldn’t go for that. He said he was fine but I suspected that wasn’t really the case by the struggles we were having at bedtime each night.

And then the REAL TRUTH came out at therapy this past week. Both my boys attend therapy sessions each week to help them address the abuse and trauma of their past. Never in a million years did I think our therapy session would be spent addressing current trauma brought on by Buster. (And the momma who brings him to life each night)

Yes, in therapy, we spent 45 minutes discussing Buster, our magical elf.

You know, as parents we often wonder whether our parenting choices or mistakes will result in expensive therapy for our child down the road, but it is not to often you get to actually sit in on the therapy sessions you caused.

It’s humbling 😉

At therapy Tyler shared with Tina his history with Buster. He explained what he liked about Buster and what made him nervous. Like myself, she suggested that maybe Buster should spend this December in the North Pole, an idea which Tyler quickly shot down.

She then asked him what he thought they should do. Tyler suggested they make a list of rules for Buster. Tina thought that was a wonderful idea so there in therapy Tyler dictated a list of rules for Buster that I wrote down.

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Tina then sent us home with the assignment of reading the rules to Buster when we got home and posting them where he could see them and remember them.

Ok, I’ll admit I felt a bit silly standing in front of a toy elf, reading a list of rules written to myself, but I did it…

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and it made Tyler feel better.

He seems much more at peace with Buster now that Buster scrawled a note at the bottom of Tyler’s list of rules apologizing and promising to follow the rules Tyler set forth.

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Note to self…

In the future avoid googly eyes,

always avoid the googly eyes!

4 responses »

  1. Ok, somehow I missed this the first time around. If Hannah hadn’t told me I had to read it I never would’ve heard this story. It’s so fun and sweet. And as a parent who is too old to have ever participated in the Elf on the Shelf tradition, I understand the idea of finding him a little creepy 🙂 Sometime after all emotions over Buster are benevolent you should watch Studio C’s Christmas Elf sketch!

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