Are you feeling overwhelmed this holiday season? Did you lose your temper when little Johnny poured gravy on the pumpkin pie at your Thanksgiving table? Are you over the disapproving looks from Grandma Ida and the whispering among your aunts?
Well friends, it sounds like you need a little escapism—and a little ego boosting. Grab a bowl of popcorn, turn on one of these Christmas movies, and put your kids on mute for the next 120 minutes. These characters are so dysfunctional that they'll make you feel great about yourself and your parenting skills, even during the most stressful time of the year:
1. Cousin Eddie of "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation"
Why he makes us look good: Cousin Eddie is, well, less than refined. He walks outdoors in only his undies and empties the family waste on the lawn. But it's the example he sets with a month-long mooching and—oh yes!—a kidnapping that really do him in. Parents take note: if you have not (yet) kidnapped your brother-in-law's boss, you are parenting like a boss.
2. Doris Walker of "Miracle on 34th Street"
Why she makes us look good: Doris is an all work, no play kind of mom. Christmas is cool when it brings in the business, but don't let her catch you believing in Santa or getting into the spirit of the season, because she'll just get ol' Saint Nick fired. Somehow she still manages to make the nice list and finally, reluctantly, believes.
3. Walter of "Elf"
Why he makes us look good: When Buddy shows up with a big announcement—"Surprise! I'm your son, and I want to hold your hand and be best friends and snuggle and eat lots of candy, and I love you, I love you, I love you!"—he gets more than ignored. Walter tells his own kid to leave town—for good. Luckily, oblivious Buddy's persistence pays off, and Walter learns to love again.
4. Peter and Kate McCallister of "Home Alone"
Why they makes us look good: Look, these folks headed to the airport and didn't realize their 8-year-old son, Kevin, was missing until they were cruising at 30,000 feet and halfway to Paris. You'd like to think Pete and Kate would never make a mistake like that again. But you'd be wrong. Just one year later in the sequel, Kevin ditches the family and a flight to Florida for his preferred destination of New York City. His parents, of course, take a while to catch on.
5. Mr. Parker of "A Christmas Story"
Why he makes us look good: The Old Man is a grouch who cares more about his leg lamp, a fritzy furnace and the Bumpuses' dogs than he does about his own sons. He rants and raves. He shouts and swears. But, grumpy parents be encouraged! Mr. Parker comes through when it really counts, with the one and only Red Ryder, carbine action, two-hundred shot range model air rifle.
6. George Bailey of "It's a Wonderful Life"
Why he makes us look good: George looks at his beautiful wife and says, "Why do we have to have all these kids?" Okay, okay. We've all thought that a time or two, but George really means it. In fact, he can't see much good in anything. It takes an angel and an alternate universe to set the guy straight.
7. Neil Miller of "The Santa Clause"
Why he makes us look good: We must start with the sweaters—and the hair. Is Neil even trying to connect with his new stepson, Charlie? The answer is yes, through psychobabble and an attempt at removing visiting rights from Charlie's dad, a.k.a. the new Santa. Neil talks more than he listens, but he means well. And when a weenie whistle falls from the sky, he finally lightens up.
8. Mr. and Mrs. Brown of "A Charlie Brown Christmas"
Why they makes us look good: This couple keeps the comparison simple. Do you allow your elementary-aged children to wander the streets after dark with no adult supervision? You don't? Bravo! Mr. and Mrs. Brown do. Gah, cartoon characters get away with everything.
9. Clarice's dad of "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer"
Why he makes us look good: We don't know his name, but we do know this: Clarice's dad is a bit of a judgmental, shallow fella. When Rudolph's red-nose cover is blown, Clarice comes to his defense, like any good person...er, reindeer...should do. But her dad sees things differently. He forbids the friendship because of Rudolph's looks. Maybe an attitude like that would fly in the '60s, but today? No way.