Sunday, December 07, 2008

Holiday Gifts

I celebrate Christmas, very secularly.

But even if I didn't, at this time of year, we give gifts, not just to family and friends, but to all the people who are in our lives once a week. Here is my list of "small gift recipients":

Mail carrier
Miss T
Miss M
Tom the guitar teacher
Jim the milkman
Newspaper delivery person (unknown name)

And then there are my kids' teachers:
Mrs. K
Mrs. M

Now, I don't mind gifting the first group. The mail carrier is so nice and once when we forgot to hold mail delivery, he figured out the situation and took care of our mail for us. The newspaper deliverer comes out and asks for tips, and we always do. Tom the guitar teacher has to deal with my non-practicing, joke-telling son once a week, and he deserves a little extra something. Miss T and Miss M are my daughter's dance teachers; you couldn't pay me enough money to hang out with a dozen 9-10 year olds, much less teach them dance moves. In a strange coincidence, Jim the milkman is married to Mrs. M, my son's teacher.

But strangely enough, I resent having to get the teachers gifts. My father was a teacher (ok, junior high school level) and never got gifts, afaik. When growing up, we never gave the teachers gifts. But I find myself at odds with the other women on the parenting e-mail list I'm on. I mentioned that my daughter's teacher and the other 4th grade teachers all asked the kids to donate gift cards and necessities to the local Human Services organization to help people in need. I thought that was wonderful. My fellow parents were not as impressed, much to my surprise. They feel it's taking away from the children's need to give presents.

My mom used to work in a thrift store. She said she saw so many tchotchkes that were so obviously teacher gifts that had never been used.

I am thrilled at not having to buy one more present I know won't be used. My daughter would go for a tchotchke over a gift card any day. This way I can take her to the store and we can buy useful stuff that will mean something to someone, and it will mean something to the teachers as well.

Plus, when do students stop giving presents to teachers? Middle school?

Am I a Grinch, an anti-materialist/anti-consumerist, or a sensible person?

ETA: Many WSJ Juggle readers agree with me!


Susan said...

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MH said...

You have a milkman? Old school. We had one when I was a kid, but I haven't even heard of one since.

Wendy said...

Oh, it's wonderful. The thing I hated most about grocery shopping was buying and carrying 1/2 gallons of milk. Now I just order it online every Tuesday night and it shows up at my door by 8:30 am on Wednesdays. We can also order all sorts of other stuff, like bread, English muffins, frozen meats, Eggos, juices, desserts. It's a little more expensive, but it's worth not having the hassle of grocery shopping for those things. Plus the food is mostly local/fresh.

Jackie said...

See, this is where cookies come in for me! Teachers, babysitters, friends, co-workers-- they all get cookies or treats from us. I'm thinking of also making a few pans of cinnamon rolls to give to closest friends.

For my girls' school, each year parents have pooled cash and given the teacher gift cards from the whole class. I think it's silly to think kids need to buy presents for their teachers. All the teachers I know would much rather prefer a gift card with a nice note or card from the kids.

Also, my mother taught high school for decades and *rarely* got presents, whereas her gentleman friend, a former fifth-grade teacher, got showered with presents each year. I think middle school is the cut-off.

Wendy said...

What you say makes sense, but we are so discouraged from sharing "unhealthy" foods at the elementary school level. Then at work, I work with a lot of women, most of whom are watching their intake of sugary foods. It's a hell of a bummer. :( Maybe for the milkman/teacher (I'll just give it to the milkman and avoid the whole school thing ;).