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The Lesson of the Fake Cabbage Patch Kid


The Lesson of the Fake Cabbage Patch Doll

The year was 1983. Cabbage Patch Kids were all the rage. I was two years old with four older sisters. And we ALL asked for a Cabbage Patch Kid for Christmas (along with thousands of other children).

Money was tight for my parents, but they really wanted to pull through on this one. Marketers played the game so well that dolls couldn’t stay on the shelves. People were camping out all night and rioting just to get a Cabbage Patch Kid. The holiday supply-and-demand hysteria was born!

My parents asked all my extended family across the country to help look for dolls. Relatives searched in Tennessee, Virginia, California. They didn’t care if the doll was a boy or a girl, wearing an outfit they thought we’d like or what. They just needed a legit Cabbage Patch Kid.

Their perseverance paid off. As Christmas neared, they had gathered four. They just needed one more. And then a solution appeared: my mom was at a bazaar when she saw a knockoff Cabbage Patch-ish doll that was pretty darn close. She bought it immediately and planned to give it to me, their tiniest and least observant child.

On Christmas morning, we came out to see that Santa had lined the dolls up for us on the couch (pointedly out of the boxes so it wouldn’t bring attention to the fact that mine was different). My mom had even sewn little blankets and pillows with matching fabric for our dolls. We were all in love. I had no idea I had a fake one, and my parents were high-fiving.

I named my doll Kelly, and she quickly became my right-hand gal. We did everything together. I started telling wild stories about things Kelly and I did together. We saw a tiger in the backyard! We went to the mall just the two of us!

Kelly was so loved, however, that the threads holding her head on began to wear out. Apparently I was heavy on the head-hugging. Without the security of high-quality machine stitching, her head eventually fell off completely. OH. THE. HORROR.

Fortunately, my mom sewed it back on. Only to have it fall off again. So she attached it again. Repeatedly.

Kelly losing her head became a key feature of my childhood. The worst part was every time her head fell off, my sisters would set it on their shoulders and sing, “Put your head on my shoullllderrrr.” It would send me into a RAGE. My sisters can still laugh to tears talking about it. Poor Kelly!

The Lesson of the Fake Cabbage Patch Kid

But here’s the kicker: I still have Kelly. My kids play with her. Sure, she still pops seams. I resewed her shoulder recently (surgery went well, thanks for asking), and I texted my mom a picture. She made a joke about “Put Your Head on My Shoulder” (et tu, Brute?), but then said, “You sure loved that doll. I bet none of your other sisters still have their doll.”

And she’s right. None of them still have theirs. My cheap, fake Cabbage Patch Kid outlasted and outloved the real ones.

When it comes to gift-giving, we put pressure on ourselves to make things perfect. Marketers feed into that. They create crazes and the feeling of scarcity. Especially after such a rough year, we all want to feel some holiday magic. But the reality is there is nothing I can buy for Christmas that will heal the mental pain of this pandemic. And there’s no amount of money that will create the elusive perfect Christmas.

I think there’s a lesson with this faux Cabbage Patch Kid. Showing people you thought about them and care about them? That matters. Staying under budget and not stressing yourself out matters. As much as your kid wants a crazy expensive or impossible-to-find toy, they want your calm even more.

Let’s not lose our heads this Christmas season. (Sorry, Kelly… I couldn’t resist.)


  • Reply Ann |

    Such a great story!
    It is absolutely wonderful to be able to give your kids what they want for Christmas, but over-spending is never worth it.

  • Reply Cheryl |

    Very sweet story and love the picture. I bought my daughter a Elmo that talked the year it was so popular. She didn’t ask for one, I just didn’t want her to go without. How dumb was I.

    • Reply Sara S |

      I’m honestly not sure, but I think I knew from really early. I have a feeling my older sisters were happy to let me know mine was different… the prerogative of the older sibling. 😉

  • Reply Lisa |

    I remember the Cabbage Patch craze, my sister and I had knock-off dolls as well. What a great story.

  • Reply Lindsey @ Big House in the Woods |

    I love this story!!! I grew up not liking Christmas. I mean, we got AWESOME gifts. My parents spent loads of money (that we didn’t have) on each of us kids. Santa even brought me REAL jewelry starting when I was 12! But it made for a very stressful time. I always felt guilty when I didn’t like the presents I was given. I knew my parents had spent so much money but none of it made me happy. I never understood why they would ask us what we wanted then not buy EXACTLY WHAT WE WANTED. Don’t hand me the Sears catalog and tell me to circle what I want if you’re not going to buy it! …that was my childish mind
    Anyway, by the time I hit college I was anti-Christmas. The funny part was that I met Jesus in college. I became a believer when I was 18. Personally, Christmas meant so much to me but not the Christmas my family had created.
    Now, I have three sweet children of my own. Christmas is different here. We build traditions and memories. They get three gifts and that’s it. They are over the moon every year about their three gifts…and none of them are “name brand.”
    You learned a valuable lesson that I hope to pass on to my children as well. It’s not about the gifts and the hysteria, it’s about Christ, traditions, and memories.

  • Reply Beks |

    Oh goodness! I love this story Sara! It makes me feel better about the upcoming Christmas and my lack of ‘decent’ gifts. Have a wonderful Christmas!

  • Reply Sarah St Martin |

    My comeback to the sister with the bald one doing that to my doll would of been “at least mine has hair!” Lmfao

  • Reply Tina Brewer |

    Does anyone know the names of the fake cabbage patch dolls. I didn’t have the money for Cab Pat doll so I took a doll who was permentally made to sit. I even wrote Xavier Roberts I think was the name, on the bottom.

  • Reply Graciela Hernandez |

    Reading this brought tears to my eyes. I, too got a knock off Cabbage Patch doll for Christmas in 1985. I still have it almost 40 years later. I called her Elizabeth. My daughter plays with it. He head fell off as well. My mom sewed her again and again. I could not care less she was a knock off. She was also my bestie. My mom made her dresses from my old bed sheets. Even booties! I still have all that. It all survived emigrating to TWO different countries!

So, what do you think ?