Editor's note: This is the first in a series of holiday essays from GoodHousekeeping.com contributors that will run throughout the month of December.
Sometimes it's hard to tell your children the truth. Last Christmas, when my daughter asked if the Elf on the Shelf ever stops coming to visit, I didn't.
"I think this will be the last year...," I hinted. She was simply getting too old to believe in the Elf on the Shelf (hers was lovingly named Jupiter). Besides, after all these years, Pinterest could not possibly have an original, cute idea I hadn't already tried ... or ruled out as completely ridiculous.
I knew it saddened her to think her beloved Jupiter was just going to fly off forever.
I, meanwhile, rejoiced that I would never have to wake in the wee hours of the morning in a total panic because I forgot to move him again. No more excuses of bad weather, or sickness, or a broken leg (okay, one time I wrapped his leg up in a bandage so he could stay in the same place for a week — it wasn't my finest moment...) to explain why he was in the exact same place as the day before. So, believe me, I get the .
The thing is, the elf brought so much joy to my daughter. I decided Jupiter needed to go out with a little more meaning. So, here's the letter she found on Christmas Day. Maybe it will help someone else find a good way to say goodbye to their elf:
This is normally the time of year that I fly back to the North Pole and return home with Santa. The good news is that this year I won't be leaving. The bad news is that next year, I won't return, at least not how I have in the past.
See, you will be (age) next Christmas so this is the last year I will have the honor of being your magic elf. It is not, however, the last Christmas I will spend with you. I know it sounds confusing.
Here's the thing: My magic is nothing compared to the magic that is inside you. I was just a reminder that Christmas is about joy, surprise, and mystery. Of course, you know that it's actually about Jesus' birthday, but joy, surprise, and mystery are all symbols of that most special event.
I want to thank you for being a great elf owner. I have totally enjoyed watching you grow up. I hope you continue to treat others as you have me over the years. It is a great example of how we all should act all the time.
Always be kind and thoughtful. I loved the notes you left me asking how my trip went. It is a true gift to make someone else feel important and special. That's how you made me feel when you gave me little things you made or left me things you thought I would like.
Give to people when they need it. You gave me snacks so I wouldn't be hungry and bought me clothes to keep me warm. You even made me a house so I would have a place to rest.
Forgive. Remember when I tee-peed the house? What about that time I had too many Cheerios and left a mess in the kitchen? Surely you haven't forgotten when I marked up your school picture with a marker? Well, every time I made a mistake, you forgave me. We all make mistakes sometimes.
Remember that sometimes you just need a different perspective to figure things out. Think back to the mornings you looked for me but couldn't find me. What did you do? Your mom taught you to go a different corner of the room and be still and look again from a different viewpoint. Panic doesn't solve a problem but sometimes a different perspective can make all the difference.
Have fun and be curious. I hope you always approach new adventures with the excitement you had every time you looked for me!
Starting today, I no longer have my elf powers. You can touch me and nothing will happen. In fact, I'd love to have a hug after all this time.
After Christmas, keep me in my box where I will be safe. You can sit me out at Christmas but I will stay just a stuffed elf until you have a child one day. Then I will once again fly off to the North Pole to report on what I see.
Thank you for being my friend.
I love you,