ALERT TO PARENTS: This is going to be a discussion about Elf on the shelf. I repeat, Elf. On. The. Shelf. So make sure the kids are well away from the newspaper and back on the screens. The Switch, YouTube, Fortnite, TikTok. Whatever works. LOL. As if they are anywhere near a newspaper. But, you know, the digital version at least. So, here we are. December 12. Another 12 days until the little buggers, I mean the elves, leave for another year and I HAVE OFFICIALLY RUN OUT OF IDEAS. For those who have a life and don't know anything about Elf on the shelf, it's basically a tool to torture parents. The little blighters have become a Christmas "tradition", dating all the way back to 2004. They started as a picture book written by Americans Carol Aebersold and her daughter Chanda Bell which sought to explain why Santa knows who's been naughty or nice - the Elf on the shelf tells him. That's right, they are spies for Santa. The elves, traditionally, visited children between Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve and reported back to Santa nightly. The book came with the toy elf; parents placing it in different locations around the house each night to prove it had, indeed, been to the North Pole and back. Some Christmas curmudgeons reckoned Elf on the shelf was harmful to children - all that spying and so on. Others reckoned it was just one big old load of fun. Then, the Pinterest brigade got involved and the elves not only had to be moved but they had to be doing something amazing which would delight the children each morning. Like doing a snow angel in some flour on the bench or, maybe, I don't know ... bungee jumping? Changing the oil in the car? Redecorating the house? Or something. This year, oh, I started so smugly. I read an article before I started urging parents to just move the damn elf. Don't dress them up. Don't get them engaged in any fun activities. Don't giftwrap the entire lounge room and blame it on the elves. No. Just. Move. It. Did I listen? No. So far, our elves - [we have the "proper" trademarked Elf on the shelf and a cheapo one from The Reject Shop; two proper ones would require a house remortgage] - have outdone themselves. They've arrived by parachute, hit a miniature pinata, had a spa day dressed in fluffy bathrobes, toasted marshmallows, enjoyed a bubble bath, eaten lolly hamburgers ... should I go on? Can you smell the insanity? (My personal favourite was the elves reading their manifesto of how to take over the world to an army of baby elves. Yes, in the end, I do it for my own amusement). As I write, this morning I resorted to them toilet-papering the Christmas tree. And there is almost a fortnight to go. So here I find myself not wanting to Google Elf on the shelf ideas but wanting to Google Elf on the shelf ideas. The elf reign of terror is real. Do you know the sheer horror of waking up at 5am and realising you have NOT DONE ANYTHING WITH THE ELVES AND CHRISTMAS WILL BE RUINED IF YOU DON'T SHOW THE CHILDREN THAT SOMETHING MAGICAL HAS HAPPENED DURING THE NIGHT? I think my kids are on to me already, regardless of what effort I make. I, apparently, did not disguise my handwriting adequately enough when making some of the "props" like the elves' shopping list. Still, there must be a hint of belief left because they are much more willing to be good and follow orders. Those beady little elf eyes are still watching. And that, my friends, makes it all worthwhile.