Welcome to an extremely “home for the holidays” edition of The Beehive’s parenting advice column: Remotely Answered. As I am deeply entrenched in Princess Diana sweater research and The Crown’s fourth season — which I chatted with Meg and Eli about on Hive Mind this week — I was reminded of a term I learned about this time last year when the third season was released.
On one of my British history Wikipedia dives, I read a speech Queen Elizabeth gave in 1992. In 1992, two of her children separated from their spouses, one of her nephews died from suicide, various salacious media gossip plagued the royal family, and there was a fire in Windsor Castle. In this speech, the queen called this year an annus horribilis — a horrible year. You see where I’m going with this.
I’m not the first to note that 2020 is an annus horribilis. Horrible to say the least. What’s Latin for shit year? I’m tired. My husband would be disappointed if I didn’t quote Bilbo Baggins here: “I feel thin, sort of stretched, like butter scraped over too much bread.” I consider myself a resilient person, but this year the universe has tested my hubris in this regard.
Despite, or in spite, of it, my kids wake up at 6:45 each morning. They want to watch Wild Kratts before school. They want cold cereal or what they call “snack waffles” for breakfast. A snack waffle is simply a toasted Eggo Waffle that the children are allowed to eat plain, without syrup, in the living room in front of the TV. It’s an efficiency delicacy. The two older girls put on their coats and masks, give me the best hugs in the world, and hobble into school with their enormous backpacks weighing them down. It’s very cute. Every single day it’s cute.
The kids know it’s a weird year. They don’t know it’s a bad year. They have a whole life ahead of years of plenty, years of famine, years that feel like an annus horribilis, those that feel like an annus mirabilis, and years that feel like nothing at all — sometimes the days just come and go.
Knowing the queen had a really bad year 28 years ago somehow makes me feel better. My mom’s side of the family sometimes talks about 1982 when everything turned bad. Divorce, loss of an infant, suicide, and everything really bad and sad in between. Almost thirty years ago, almost forty years ago, people had bad years, but they got through them and lived to tell the tale. I learned about their bad years, but I never considered I would have my own. And yet here we are — hopefully at the end of one.
And with that, we’re going to take a hard pivot from emo year-end reflection, to some practical pandemic-holiday advice. We have a couple reader-submitted questions that consider what it will be like to be more home for the holidays than ever this year — and how we can make the best of it.
Q: We’re not getting together with family this year. How should we fill the time?
I got one answer for you — lots of holiday movies. I’m talking around the clock, eyes on screen, asses on couch. If you haven’t already, put up that Christmas tree, change into a fresh loungewear outfit (because I know you’re already wearing one), and start working your way through your own personal catalogue of favorite Christmas classics.
Everyone has a different core group of Christmas movies. The way I see it, there’s a few different categories of holiday movies, and a Christmas movie core catalogue has about one movie from each. Here’s a not-at-all comprehensive breakdown:
It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)
White Christmas (1954)
A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965)
How the Grinch Stole Christmas! (1966)
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964)
Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town (1970)
Home Alone (1990)
Home Alone 2 (1992)
The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)
The Santa Clause (1994)
Jingle All the Way (1996)
A Christmas Story (1983)
National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989)
*Four Christmases (2008)
For the Feels
Meet Me in St. Louis (1944)
Love Actually (2003)
The Family Stone (2005)
The Holiday (2006)
Polarizing Christmas Movies
Die Hard (1988)
The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
The Polar Express (2004)
*Asterisk denotes Christmas movies only my dad loves.
My core group of Christmas movies must include A Christmas Story, The Santa Clause, the weirdo stop-motion TV specials, and Jingle All the Way. It ain’t Christmas if I’m not quoting Arnold in a terrible, and probably offensive, Austrian accent.
Whatever your holiday movies are, find them on the millions of streaming devices God has graced us with and find your happy.
Q: What is the right amount of Christmas presents to give children?
I have spent 90% of my Christmases with my parents, siblings, grandparents, cousins, aunts, uncles — and now my husband and own kids — and I love it. It’s loud and full of tradition and because there’s so many people, Christmas seems to draw out in this lovely way that feels like I can savor every bit of it.
But for the first time this year, me and my husband and our three kids will be holding down our own little fort without traveling to be with family. I really, really, really, want to be done with Covid ASAP, and if staying home can help it go away any quicker, give solidarity to others choosing to stay at home, and save more lives in the process, I want to help.
I’m not one to overindulge in terms of Christmas presents for my kids, but I’m a little afraid that the simplicity of opening presents with just the five of us means that “Christmas” will be over by 8 a.m. and then what? Because I grew up having a busy Christmas morning with so many people and their likely too-many cumulative presents, how am I going to feel about Christmas Lite?
I can’t say how many presents is the right amount. There’s no right answer. So much of that is circumstantial and personal. We’ve found what feels about right to me and my husband. We try to go for: simple and festive without being gross. But I will admit there’s a part of me that wants to overcompensate this year.
But I suppose we can overcompensate in other noncommercial areas, though. We can make way too many treats, put up too many decorations way too early and leave them up way too far into January, watch way too much TV, stay up way too late, and other harmless indulgences. It’s really the least we can do.
Submit your questions for January’s Remotely Answered via Twitter @thebeehiveHQ, or hit me up directly @lindsey_nope. You can send in your questions by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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