Caroline Moss is an author and host of the podcast "Gee Thanks, Just Bought It," which helps people find the products they need to make life easier, better and more productive. Now with this column, "Asking for a Friend," she's helping people get the advice they need to make life easier, better and more productive. To submit a question, email us at email@example.com.
My parents, especially my mom, want me to come home for Thanksgiving. I would not need to get on a plane, but I would need to rent a car and drive about six and a half hours from where I live to where my parents live.
My parents know that COVID-19 is real, and they have been pretty good at quarantining and staying home and safe, even in the summer as the case numbers were relatively low for their area. As we all know, cases are exploding all over the country, but my parents still feel cheated out of their holidays. My mom said to me that she doesn’t see the point of trying to follow these rules if COVID deniers are not going to follow them. I told her that the point is that she, a 68-year-old woman, is safer if we follow the rules. But she still wants me to come home and “chance it” for the holidays, using her age as a reason why I should and not why I shouldn’t (“I’m not going to be around forever!”).
I tell her that if I go home during a pandemic and she ends up getting sick, she’ll be around even less than forever. We joke about it but I know there’s a part of her that feels like I am doing this to hurt her. Obviously, I am trying to do everything in my power not to. It’s six and a half hours in the car and then a day at my parents house and I would come home the next day. I am very close to giving in and just saying we can eat Thanksgiving dinner outside in the driveway 6-feet apart.
What do you think?
Turkey with a side of parental guilt
Hello guilty Turkey,
Oh boy! Parents can really be something, huh? Not mine, in case they’re reading this. Mom, Dad, you guys are absolutely perfect and I have not ONE COMPLAINT. OK, have they stopped reading this? Yeah, parents be crazy, man! It feels like the older people get, the more like toddlers they act. They throw tantrums and develop incontinence problems and the only reason we can’t throw our hands up and yell at them is because such is the circle of life, and one day we’ll be the ones in adult diapers and our kids will be mad at us.
Here’s the deal: No, you shouldn’t go home and see your 68-year-old mom for Thanksgiving. I can’t go home and see my mom either. It sucks and I am sad about it, as is she and as are you. But like you said: Case numbers are exploding. You know what’s going to make it worse? A holiday where the country gathers together indoors with family and friends. You can guarantee that no matter what you or I do, Thanksgiving is going to be somewhat of a superspreader holiday all over the country. Plenty of people are going to ignore the rules and put themselves and others in danger. You and I could absolutely say, "If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em." But I think you know better and I think deep down your mom knows better, too.
Over and over again the experts say that the worst of this pandemic is yet to come. It sounds crazy (How could it get worse?), but I am inclined to believe them because they have so far been basically right about all COVID-related matters. You mentioned driving home to have Thanksgiving dinner in the driveway from a distance. I mean, you could. That is determined to be as safe as possible, but, uh ... do you want to do that? Where will you sleep? Your car? Where will you pee? On the side of your parent’s house? I’m only sort of joking, but really think it through. Is your mom the kind of mom who’s going to be like, "Well, you’re here already you might as well come inside." Be honest.
This holiday season is going to be weird but it doesn’t have to be bad. You are so lucky your parents are still with you; plenty of people will not be celebrating holidays with family members who died from COVID this past year. It's certainly disappointing to have a Zoom Thanksgiving instead of an IRL one, but maybe your mom can see this as a time to count her blessings. Hopefully Thanksgiving 2021 will still be in play.
Hold your ground and come up with some alternatives. Maybe a family Zoom game night while you all eat your dinners? My family is apparently putting together a slideshow of photos from Thanksgivings past. (We notoriously put 60 people in one house for Thanksgiving every year, so we knew back in May that this holiday was never going to happen for us.) I know some families who are going to Zoom as the Black Friday sales begin online and shop together. Whatever floats your boat!
You know and I know that this is temporary. We will all be with our families soon. Let your mom know you love her too much to risk her safety over and over again, like she used to tell you when you begged to do something dangerous as an 8-year-old.
Wishing you a happy and, most of all, safe Thanksgiving.
Do you have a question for Caroline? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.