It happened. It finally happened. Our kids now know that the elf is fake.

Recently, I have been testing out the kids’ reactions to the elf. The closer I got to it, the more terrified they became. At one point, my daughter broke into tears. It confounded me.

She’s six-years old and is an incredibly rational person. When the elf first showed up at our house as a gift from the grandparents, she immediately questioned the veracity of its story.

“Why doesn’t it have a name already?”

“If the elf is real, why does it have a tag?”

“How does it actually move from place to place and get back to the North Pole so quickly?”

The questions did not stop and an intricate but delicate web of lies was constructed to put a bandaid over the obvious flaws in elf conspiracy.

The lies continued when the elf fell from its resting place or when we forgot to move it and as they asked more questions about it.

None of it felt real and it felt wrong to tell these stupid little white lies to our children about some freaking stuffed toy from which some asshole is making millions of dollars.

Why were we doing this and to what end? At some point in time, our children would find out and everything would unfold like the end of The Usual Suspects. We were lying to them. The. Whole. Time.

I started to feel guilty and began dropping hints to them that started out subtle but quickly escalated to the level of, “Oh, Peter Pan, you silly, fake elf!”

Last night the charade came to a screeching halt when I grabbed the doll and my daughter broke out in hysterics. It probably sounds evil of me that I would make my daughter cry but, in reality, it is the stupid fucking web of lies we needed to build up because of some stupid marketing scheme and peer pressure that ultimately elicited that response.

Our children were terrified by the thought of touching the elf. They worried what would happen if he told Santa about their missteps. It felt like we were living with the Gestapo.

I didn’t want that for our kids and, quite frankly, neither should you.

This morning — after I did not realize my wife told my daughter that I personally apologized to Santa for touching the elf — I sat them down and told them the elf was a toy and that it was a fun thing that parents did with their kids to get them excited for Christmas. I told them that it made me sad that they were scared of a little toy and that it was not right for us to lie to them about it. Naturally, they had some questions and were a little disappointed but it all worked out in the end. We decided to make it a fun game in which everyone participated. Our kids will now take turns hiding the elf as well.

They are excited about this and my daughter already has her first hiding spot planned. We joked about the crazy spots where my son would hide the elf. Quickly, my daughter laid out some ground rules for him. The first one was that he could not hide it on the roof. We laughed about this and all became excited about the prospect of this new holiday family tradition.

So, the pressure is gone. The kids are no longer terrified of the doll. Instead, they are excited to think of new places to move it. Best of all, we don’t have to lie to them anymore about this dammed thing or make them feel like they are being policed by plastic and cotton.