GUEST POST: An Elf I WANT My Kids to Emulate

We’re absolutely thrilled to have Caitlin Murphy writing her first guest post for Raise a Mother. She is a dear childhood friend of Lindsay and Shannon, and someone we both admired as a parent before either of us had kids of our own. Caitlin is an imperfect perfectionist, empath, and mama to three wonderful wildings – with another on the way! She has a passion for working with children and families, reading, and writing, and lives with her family and husband, John, in London, Ontario, Canada.

I love Christmas. There’s something about the holiday season that makes me feel like a kid again… and now, as a parent, I get to witness that magic through the eyes of my little ones! My family always had a lot of treasured Christmas traditions, and now that I have a family of my own, we’ve carried them on with the new generation. Decorating the house while listening to Christmas carols, making a gingerbread house while listening to Christmas carols, baking delicious treats while listening to Christmas carols (there might be a common theme here…) – the list goes on! But mostly, I associate the holidays with spending time with family and friends, and a general feeling of spreading kindness and the “Christmas spirit.” I wanted to share those same sentiments with my kids – to teach them that the meaning of Christmas goes beyond presents, treats, and holiday sweaters.

A few years ago, when my oldest was a toddler, the Elf on the Shelf became “a thing”. My mom bought one for us as a gift, and without giving it a lot of thought, we followed the basic premise: the elf arrived at the house to keep an eye on things until Christmas Eve, we gave him a name (“Spat” – thanks 2-year-old!), and every day he was in a new funny place for the kids to find (if I remembered to move him, of course!). It’s a cute idea, but parts of it didn’t quite sit right with me… the idea of this little dude reporting to Santa about my kids’ behaviour seems…. A little Big Brother to me. Also, some of the elf antics I’ve seen posted on Facebook or copious Pinterest posts are pretty mischievous or naughty… not really behaviour I want to encourage. As much as possible, I try to practice positive parenting, and my mom (a former child psychologist) has always said one of the best ways to encourage positive behaviour in kids is to “catch them being good.” So we decided to shake things up a little with our elf!

For the last few years Spat has arrived on December 1st to kick off our family’s 25 Days of Kindness. At first, our elf wrote little poems or notes with suggestions of stuff for the kids to do, such as baking banana bread for a neighbour who had just had a baby, buying coffee for the bus driver, or writing a letter to someone we love.


A note my son wrote to stick on the mirror at the library to brighten someone’s day

This year, now that they’re a little older, we did things a little differently. The kids helped me make a calendar of 25 acts of kindness, one for each day leading up to Christmas. It was pretty awesome to see them working together to think of new ways to spread kindness and Christmas cheer each day. Some of the ideas ended up being pretty simple (“give someone a compliment!”) and some are more involved (volunteer with a local organization to hand out boxes of fresh produce), but I think that’s the point… sometimes it doesn’t take a lot to brighten someone’s day, and those small acts of kindness can create a ripple effect. To be honest, it also helped me have stuff planned out a little in advance – no more moaning to my husband at midnight “Wake up! I need to think of something nice for the elf to suggest…. DAMNIT! Why can’t I think of something nice???” So that’s a bonus as well!elf-calendar

This tradition of 25 Days of Kindness is one that I hope my family will continue long after their days of believing in Santa and Spat the Elf have come to an end. Along with our other traditions of opening special Christmas pajamas on Christmas Eve, having a big pancake breakfast after opening our gifts on Christmas morning, and having a raucous Christmas carol sing-along with family and friends. Because it’s those little things, those tender moments, those kind gestures and those feelings of Christmas, that make this holiday what it is. And that’s a tradition worth carrying on.  

Want to share your ideas or stories with the village in a guest post? Write to us at for more information. We’d love to hear from you!


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