You may remember this post from last year. We felt some major convictions about doing Elf on a Shelf in the traditional way. It just didn’t line up with our theology and the way we raise our kids. We still wanted to incorporate it because it’s fun and magical for the kids, but we didn’t want them to feel like they had to earn anything. God does not make us earn anything. God loves his children and so he blesses us with gifts. Naughty or Nice is not something we face with God so there is no reason we should face it with Santa.
Last year, Santa wrote our boys this letter, telling the boys that he loved them and they would be getting gifts. He sent them Alfredo (our elf) because he gets into trouble and makes messes sometimes. He knew the Caney boys would do a great job of showing him grace when he messed up. Overall, it worked out really well. The hope in their little faces when they know that love and grace (gifts) is unconditional is priceless. My boys are still little- 7, 4, and 22 mos. So they still don’t totally get it, but I’m thinking this year will be a little different.
Only one of my boys is in full time public school. Up until this point, my kiddos have pretty much been raised in a perfect little suburban bubble. Our preschool was a private, Christian, upper middle class, 99.9% white school. We attended church for many years at a ‘mega church’ with roller coasters painted on the walls and programs to fit every need they had. Our neighborhood that feeds into the school is all upper-middle class and predominantly white. Do you see this
perfect tragically flawed picture I’m painting? This summer, I heard my oldest make a few comments off the cuff about ‘brown people’. My initial thought was to not pay it much attention so that maybe he wouldn’t realize it was a ‘thing’. I just shook it off and continued on with conversations.
I took him lunch to 1st grade a few weeks ago and I asked him who his friends in class were this year. He pointed out 4 boys– all perfect little clean-cut pre-abercrombie model looking six-year olds. They had brown or blonde hair with product, name brand clothes, and great sparkly smiles. There are about four Indian boys in his class and one Hispanic. I asked him if he was friends with them. “Not really”, he replied.
Two week ago, I picked him up after school like always and this adorable little Indian girl ran up to him and started bear hugging him. Normally he just eats up the cuddles and affection from the girls, but this time he had this look of disgust on his face. We walked away and I jokingly asked him, “Is that your girlfriend?”
“No mom!” he answered like I should have known better.
“Why?” I asked.
“Cuz she’s brown.” he said so matter of factly.
OH. MY. WORD.
Really????? Who was this kid? Had we said something that would make him feel this way? Why would he have that attitude? Where did he learn that? I was completely blown away.
It really troubled me throughout the rest of the evening. He is 7, I thought. We didn’t teach him this.
Then, I started thinking about it even more. I started thinking about my own social circles- church, Crossfit, preschool moms, 1st grace moms, neighborhood moms. It occurred to me that even when I was put in a setting with diverse people, I gravitated towards my own. I often make attempts to get to know the other moms, but after thinking about it, only the ones who I perceive to be like me. It’s rare that I make an effort to chat with the black moms on my son’s football team, or the one Indian mom from my four-year old’s soccer team, or the super young mom from my toddler’s class. If you walk up to pick up after school, you can see how the mom’s all sort of bundle together– there’s the older moms, the younger moms, the working moms, the Indian/Asian moms, the boys moms, the girls moms, etc. It’s not just me. Why do we do this if we ever expect to grow?
What the heck is wrong with me?? I write and preach all day long about God’s love and His grace and yet I fail to show it to the people I meet. I can’t rise above the masses and be a light and be different?? Really?
I was sickened by myself and my passive racism. You know that whole quote about kids doing what we do not what we say? This was a prime example of that. My seven-year old was not blatantly being racist, he was just acting in the only way he knew because of his Stepford-ish bubble that we as his parents only further perpetuated.
So this brought us to Elf on a Shelf. I thought, why not use this as a prime example for my kids to learn to show grace and love to all, not just people who are like them.
Let me introduce you to Jose Patel. Jose Patel is our elf this year. Their job will be to teach Jose Patel about Jesus and show him grace, even when he does things differently then they do.
I don’t expect to be a cure-all, by any means. I am just hoping to introduce them to the idea of ‘different’ in the best and most fitting way I know how for their age. No, I don’t think that all ‘brown’ people look alike leading me to combine two names of different origin. The name was merely for shock value to my kids who would have probably named him something like Poopy Socks given the opportunity. I am not even exactly sure how I will incorporate this into the normal elf stuff, but I am praying the Spirit will guide us through it.
This is the letter that Santa left with Jose Patel. Feel free to right-click and print, copy, paste, etc. I am praying that my efforts with this silly little tradition will make a meaningful and memorable impact to my boys.