When I was 10 years old, my mom and I went to the local craft fair.
My mom loved craft fairs. The smell of cinnamon and potpourri. The handcrafted goodies. The popcorn…
I, on the otherhand, had a love-hate relationship with them. I loved the people and the smells and the popcorn too. But I always felt desperately sorry for people that didn’t appear to be selling much. I would leave the craft fair with my heart aching for the people that were selling ugly things – or that seemed to be disappointed with how much they weren’t selling.
At this particular craft fair – my mom gave me $10 to go out and do a little Christmas shopping on my own.
I was pretty excited to be set loose in the high school gymnasium on my own. And I walked up and down the rows of tables looking for the perfect gift for my mom.
It didn’t take me long to find exactly what I was looking for.
I bought the ugliest snowman in the entire room. Sitting on a table that was overflowing with equally ugly snowmen. The lady selling them was so excited that I made the purchase – probably the only one that she’d sell all day long. I mean – this guy was ugly.
When we got home, I ran upstairs and wrapped up the ugly snowman, and then I ran downstairs and gave it to my mom.
Mom: Are you sure you don’t want to wait for Christmas?
Me: No. Open it now!
She paused for a few seconds when she opened the world’s ugliest snowman, but she recovered quickly and told me how great it was. And then she proceeded to put him on the back of a high shelf in the dining room – so that neither of us would have to look at him anymore.
About a week later, I was sitting in the living room when one of my mom’s friends stopped by for coffee. I could hear them talking in the kitchen, but I wasn’t really listening, until I heard my mom start talking VERY loudly. Like – so loudly that I almost had to turn up the television to hear my show.
And then I heard what she was saying / yelling:
“Oh my gosh – you’re never going to believe what Anna gave me for Christmas. She picked it out all on her own. Isn’t this the greatest snowman you’ve ever seen? She has such great taste – and she did it all by herself. She’s really growing up, and I’m so proud of her. But isn’t she just a great shopper? I mean – she could be a personal shopper when she grows up – what great taste.”
I couldn’t hear what my mom’s friend said in response – probably because she wasn’t yelling. But I was very confused by what my mom said.
We both knew that it was the ugliest snowman in the world. And while she didn’t know that I only bought him because I felt sorry for the woman that made him – my mom must have known that it wasn’t a good gift. Was she really “proud” of me for picking that out for her?
While I was thinking this over, I went to the bathroom. And there – on the bathroom counter – was one of my mom’s magazines open to an article about how to boost your child’s confidence.
Compliment them to a friend when they can overhear your conversation.
Don’t tell your child how proud you are – let them overhear you gushing about how great they are to a friend or a family member. An overheard compliment goes much further than one said directly.
I stormed out of the bathroom waving the magazine in my mom’s face.
“Do you think I can’t read, Mom? We all know that the snowman I picked out is ugly. I already know you’re proud of me. You don’t have to fake a conversation to build my confidence!”
She tried to deny it for about all of two seconds, and then she just laughed and laughed and laughed.
My advice to parents:
When you find some parenting advice that you think is awesome – and decide to try it out on your kids – don’t leave the magazine / computer / blog out in the open where your kids (that are clearly old enough to read) will be able to find it.
PS – Anyone selling something ugly in an online shop? I’m a sucker for ugly handcrafted things that no one wants to buy. Feel free to post your link in the comments.