An Ugly Snowman and Parenting Advice

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.

12 comments on “An Ugly Snowman and Parenting Advice

  1. Well…..first of all, it was NOT that ugly as I recall, and I did NOT put it up on the back of a shelf so we couldn’t see it! I would never do that. I might have put it there until it was time to get out all the other snowmen…..but anyway, I’m sure I wasn’t yelling…you were probably eavesdropping as usual. And it was good advice. Still is. I remember this incident. My friend was a tad shocked as I recall…..thought I came up with all the good ideas on my own probably. And that was also the last time I dragged you around to craft shows….you got too depressed. And I didn’t need anymore crocheted towels. (that you made me buy….)
    Love You!

  2. I have that problem too! I feel so bad for people that have things that don’t sell!

  3. That’s hilarious. :) I used to buy a tube of lipstick for my mom every year for Christmas. Even though, she didn’t really wear lipstick. Or even like it. She only wore it because I bought it for her. And it took me until I was 10 to realize that she didn’t like lipstick. However, I think I made up for it last year. :) I bought her an awesome stereo so that her TV can sound like the movie theater any time she wants. Also, loud music helps my mom clean house.

  4. I know this story is supposed to be about your mother’s parenting, but what I got from it was that you were a sweet and thoughtful child that had compassion on someone else even at the expense of your own mother’s gift…probably because you knew your Mom would be proud of you and love your gift no matter what. It speaks volumes of a person’s character when they are so willing to try to reach out to someone else. Don’t think of it as being a sucker. Think of it as kindness and compassion. More people should strive to possess these qualities. Kudos to you Anna…and to your Mom for loving your gift even though it may have been less than desirable.

    • Yes! Exactly this!! I would be so thrilled & proud if I found out that one of my kids did this.

  5. Loved the story!! I always feel badly for people at craft shows when their stuff isn’t selling well…because I have been there! You have to make a ton of inventory, so your table doesn’t look empty & sad & then, you may only sell one thing! …I don’t think my stuff is ugly, BUT, I haven’t been selling anything in a while…so…I’ll just leave my etsy shop right here…

  6. I have a clear memory of my mom ironing floral decals to sweatshirts and then outlining them with puff paint. Horrible! I used to make fun of this so much when I was growing up …until I put together the pieces that we were flat broke and my mom was trying her best to drum up some cash so we could eat. So for those of you out there that so buy the ugly crafts, maybe you are blessing them in ways you don’t even know.

  7. All your stories about your family make me want kids! I’m 21 and still in college, but you’re making me not want to wait! Thank you for all the great stories. And your mother is laugh out loud hilarious! It seems like you guys have a lot of fun!

  8. My husband and I have an inside joke at our house; whenever we find ourselves at any type of vendor sale, we always chuckle and say to each other in an old man voice, “Everybody’s samplin’, but nobody’s buyin’. I used to have a soap business and sold at the local Farmer’s Market and on the craft show circuit for years. One particular market, the crabbiest man you ever saw was grilling sausage and slicing it up into the tiniest pieces for people to try. He must have had 400 pieces of sausage on toothpicks. We came up to sample and small talk when he said those dreadful words. I’ll never forget, he was the epitome of the disgruntled craft show vendor.