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Make memories and make magic this Christmas

Bundle up and be present

Since it’s December, I thought it’d be super swell if I could randomly pick a question out of the ol’ Grab Bag o’ Ask A Dad Questions and hope that it’s holiday-related. Here goes!

Q: Should I feed a baby chili?

A: What? No. Never do this. Let’s try that again.

Q: What can I do as a dad to make the Christmas season more magical for my kids?

That’s better.

OK, I’m going to start with some things you should NOT do. First one is let your kids read this column, because that will give away the magic. If you are nine years of age or under, please stop reading this now. Go outside. Build a snowman. Ride your bike. Fly a kite. But bundle up!

Are they gone? OK, let’s talk about Elf on a Shelf.

I totally get that there are a great many of you who believe in this Elf on a Shelf game. My wife is one of you, and I married her, so obviously I carry a certain fondness for you all in my heart. But that heart is two sizes too small, much like the Grinch’s, and I don’t get it. I don’t understand the allure of Elf on a Shelf, and I am recommending you not do it.

Please don’t hate me. Especially if you’re married to me.

Elf on a Shelf is a responsibility, and I don’t care for being responsible. Every night during the Christmas season, you, as a parent, are expected to move this doll around from clever hiding spot to cleverer hiding spot. Not so clever that the kids can’t see the elf doll, but clever enough that they can’t reach them. If a child touches an elf, it loses its magic and can’t fly back to the North Pole to tell Santa about what a good child your kid is.

That’s how I understand the legend of Elf on a Shelf. I might be wrong, but I might also be too lazy to research it on the Internet, too.

We’re already fibbing to our kids about Santa Claus (please accept my apologies, Virginia, if I just ruined Christmas for some child young enough to believe in Santa, but old enough to be able to read; in all fairness, though, I explicitly told you to stop reading a few paragraphs back, and nobody thinks I’m that great of a writer that they’re recommending me to children) but I can’t keep up with all these fibs.

Here’s a thing you should do: Don’t just buy your kids presents; be present! Spend time with your kids. Sing songs with them. Bake sugar cookies in the shapes of pine trees. Eat those cookies with your kids, because sugar cookies are amazing.

Go ride a sled down a hill with your children! Build a snowman! Ride a bike, fly a kite, but also remember how I already told you to bundle up! It’s December in North Dakota where you are probably, and that means it’s probably cold outside, at least until the dreaded Climate Change finally kicks in. You’re liable to catch a cold.

Until then, happy holidays (including, and especially, Labor Day) from all of us at Ask A Dad.

Kelly Hagen is a writer and communications director for North Dakota United. He lives in Bismarck with his wife, Annette, and their two young children. If you have a question you’d like to Ask A Dad, send an e-mail to, or leave a comment at the Prairie Parent Facebook page,


Written by Kelly Hagen


Kelly is the Director of Communications at North Dakota United. He has been with NDU since merger in 2013, and worked previously with the North Dakota Public Employees Association since 2011. Kelly is in charge of coordinating and distributing print and electronic communications between members and with the public, is the editor for United Voices magazine, administrates the website and social media properties, and works directly with local leaders to build their own communications infrastructure. Kelly is originally from Wilton, ND. He received an Associate of Arts degree in journalism from Bismarck State College and a Bachelor of Science degree in mass communication from Minnesota State University-Moorhead. Prior to his employment with NDU, he worked for the N.D. Department of Health, the Fargo Forum and the Bismarck Tribune. He lives in Bismarck with his wife, Annette, and their two children.

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