When it comes to the Elf on a Shelf tradition, Justin Kelly is about involvement, and thinking of unique ways to hide “Shippy.” Photo by Justin Kelly

COLUMN: Have yourselves a very Shippy Christmas

The fun moments of being a dad during Christmastime, and embracing the Elf on a Shelf

Being a Dad at Christmastime is easily one of the greatest gifts one could ever have if you ask me.

Having said that, Christmas can be a lot of different things for a lot of people. Christmas can be stressful and depressing for many — or, it can be the greatest time of year for many as well. For me, it’s been all that, and everything in between.

Growing up in the oilfield working on drilling rigs, I, like many other Albertan’s spent many a Christmas away from home. Christmas dinners were eaten in the Doghouse of the drilling rig on the drill floor where we tripped on wet pipe, froze our faces off, and busted our butts in minus 30 temperatures while eating our turkey dinner “on the fly” keeping the operation running.

It completely sucked.

In September of 2015, the oilfield as you all know, came crashing down. Long story short, the drilling company that employed me as their field safety supervisor was making cuts to many departments to save money and I knew it was either me, or the manager who’s head was on the block. It turned out to be mine, which in the end, worked out good for me I think, as I was able to re-educate myself and become a realtor, and I am now able to plan around my kid’s important things — like Christmas concerts. Everything happens for a reason they say.

Hello, Shippy…

So there I was, an unplanned stay at home Dad with a lot of time on his hands raising a one-and three-year-old at the time while my wife worked. I have never worked harder in my entire life. I had a ton of fun with it — I would take my kids down to our amazing Ponoka Parent Link Centre, started a blog to document my adventures with my kids, and even found myself on Global News when they found my blog online that I had started. I would never have guessed that I would ever do something like that, but I guess I needed a creative outlet. I was even more shocked that people seemed to enjoy reading it and that it caught the attention of Global News. Anyway, they asked to spend a day in the life of IamMisterMom.com as they were doing a story about the thousands just like me who were now unplanned stay at home Dads.

The Christmas before, we received a gift: “Elf on The Shelf.” Little did I know our family’s lives would change forever — or at least for the foreseeable future.

“Shippy” as he is affectionately known in our house now comes every year starting Dec. 1st. Like what Robin is to Batman, Shippy is to Santa. His right-hand man, or girl. He dutifully watches my kids, Sloane and Brock, everyday up until Christmas Eve from wherever he sits, and he magically flies back to the North Pole every night to report back to Santa if good behaviour has been observed, or not.

When my kids wake up in the morning and they start hunting for Shippy, it’s one of the greatest things I have ever witnessed. For these early years of my children, while they are completely full of the belief, magic, and wonder that Christmas brings, it is simply amazing to watch and makes your soul feel happy and full.

I hear many parents on the fence with Elf on The Shelf. Yes, it’s a commitment. Yes it might be something that doesn’t interest you, and yes, you may perceive it to be just another Christmas commercialization gimmick, but to my kids, and to me, it’s 100 per cent magical.

If you take the plunge, and I think you should, be organized! Planning will go a long way with this. You don’t want to end up making the mistake we made when getting out the Christmas decorations and our four-year-old wanted to help, but discovered Shippy in the plastic Rubbermaid container that was under the stairs all year looking like a victim under the rubble of a Haiti earthquake.

She rescues Shippy, then suddenly remembers as she holds him that he is not to be touched or he will get sick and lose his magic.

That was a bad scene. All bad. It took a lot of creative thinking to smooth that one over. Somebody call the DOCTOR!

For me, as a Dad, I am now acutely aware that my time with these little guys before they grow up is so very limited. And because of my circumstances now understand what I could be missing if I was back on that drilling rig. I don’t want to miss a thing. I want to have as many memories with them as I can, and hopefully in return, give them great memories of their Dad in return because I know there are no “do-overs.” One thing that has been important to me is that I won’t have to look back in their later years and think or say of me, “Hey, my Dad wasn’t around much, but he sure made us a lot of money.”

One day, these memories will be all I have left of this time period.

Having said all of that, I have nothing but respect to anyone who can’t be with their families over the Christmas holidays, and equally so to those who must celebrate without their husbands, wives, or any loved ones not being home, so they can keep the home fires burning. It’s a hard thing, and sometimes it just must be done for the better of the family.

The old cliché is Christmas is for kids, but I don’t agree with that.

Christmas is for all of us. It’s to find that kid that still lives somewhere deep inside of all of us adults too — and it gives us an excuse to take ourselves back to a place in our own distant past and remember the magical feeling that was Christmas for us when we were young.

That’s why you will find me happily watching the old 1964 version of Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, singing along with Burle Ives, and National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation while sipping on my spiced rum and eggnog — because it takes me back to a time in my life when things were simple. No adulting — just being a happy and excited kid.

So this Christmas, my wish for you all is to enjoy it, make things special for your kids, and for yourself. Listen to the music, hang the lights, decorate the tree, eat the cookies, eat the turkey, drink the drink, and watch those Christmas shows you loved when you were a kid, and maybe most importantly, allow yourself to be a kid again — even if it’s just for a day.

And one other thing — just take the plunge and buy the flippin’ elf already!

To all of you, thanks for reading and I wish you a very safe and Shippy Christmas!

Justin Kelly

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