Tuesday, December 7, 2010

In the spirit of giving thanks....

It's that silly season again.  Silly as in, we are drawn by this compulsion to gift things to people that maybe we wouldn't have normally given them anything more than a warm smile and a thankyou.  Is it just me?  I'm thinking I'm about to put a foot or two wrong here...

So back in NZ, maybe it was just because I only had one year in that school system, a lovely tee towel or a scented candle seemed to suffice for a chrissie gift for the teacher.  Admittedly the teacher would end up with 25 of the same thing but hey, you never can have too many tee-towels, right?  Maybe I'm getting more war weary after many years in the pre-school/kindy/school arena, but is it me or are people getting more ridiculous generous with their gifts they buy for the assorted people that surround their little peoples lives.
And just for a moment I will qualify this  - I am very fortunate in both my boys school classes, that clever mums have taken the initiative and pooled money efficiently and purchased gift vouchers to avoid the normal tee towel mayhem.
Not so at kindy.  Maybe I've got a bit of bah humbug-ness, but my youngest's pre-school seeems to be another matter.  So shoot me, I have forked out thousands, nay, tens of thousands to this particular pre-school, fabulous as it may be.  A gesture is all that should be required for each of the 6 teachers that seem to be in his class.  I have a tried and trusted formula - a tasteful christmas decoration for each, and a book with inscription for the kindy.  I can hear a mass, sharp intake of breathe - you're thinking a) cheap, b) underdone c) nice d) where's the rest of it?

Why my angst?
Yesterday I was in a very nice gift shop in a very nice neighbouring suburb.  The woman ahead of me had a pile of stuff on the counter.  It's that time of year when we try to go to one shop and get everything we need there - sometimes it's a little hit or miss, or it goes over the budget a little (and y'all know MY generous budget now!), but we reassure ourselves that the opportunity cost of a not so perfect and slightly more expensive gift is far better than a trip to the mall and trying to get a car park.
 So I'm standing behind a woman and her pile, me with my pack of cards, her with her mountain.  "Actually, I'll just take that pair of earrings too", she said as the shop lady rung up $130 for a very nice pair of earrings, "oooh, add that ring to it too please".  Another $125 for a tasteful costume ring that matched the earrings.  "Great", she sighed, "that's the kindy teachers done!"
What the?  Are you friggin kidding me?  I want to retrain as a pre-school teacher if that's the kind of loot on offer.
Gawd, some of you are probably reading this stoney faced, wondering what the point of this post is.
Then this morning, Smith carried in to Kindy, his lovely Christmas bag, full of tasteful christmas decorations presents and a thoughtful Maori kids book, only to have the teacher say "Is that the teachers presents?  Just pop them in there".  First thing that got me was the presumption.  Second thing that got me was the room full of oversized christmas bags bulging with overly generous gifts.

I'm not sure what my message is here.  I'm feeling a bit defensive maybe.   But when do we say too much is actually too much?  Surely its ok to say thank you for absolutely everything you have done for my son/daughter this year, and please enjoy this..(whatever)...., without spending too much money or effort.  Isn't it all about the thought rather than the reward (and the meaner part of me is thinking - come January, they'll have forgotten about my child and they'll have forgotten who gave them the $125 costume ring)
What's your thoughts and I promise not to be mortally offended if you think I could do with a little help.

Gawd I sound mean and cheap, but I'm not really I promise you.  Just a little confused and trying to hold my line of common sense against the prevailing tide of generosity.

What do you do?


  1. Im with you! your present is thoughtful.
    I try to do handmade for the teachers. This year for the two school teachers it was an handmade apron and recipe book each and homemade fudge, lots of love put in for AMAZING teachers.
    The kindy teachers got a box of cheap chocolates... i guess I give according to how much input I think they've had with my children (obviously not feeling the love at kindy!!)
    I think it is ridiculous people spend huge amounts on teachers, it should be a gesture... especially when in our case we are paying huge school fees for them to go there.
    I too have seen piles of (unopened) teacher presents sitting there.. and I wonder - how do the kids interpret it when the teachers dont have time to even open the presents with them.
    oh and dont even get me started on the kids giving out christmas cards and candy canes...really!

  2. Hi there - just found your blog... enjoying a read. This is a subject rearing it's (ugly) head in our house for the first time - my daughter is having her first proper kindy Christmas, and I am wondering too, what it appropriate and what is not. I guess I will see next week what the other kids have done - but I for one, am going down the "small gesture" route, as I'm sure the teachers will be overwhelmed with all sorts of stuff. You think you're cheap?? This is what I'm doing - I'm using the freebie Christmas crackers from this month's Your Home & Garden mag, and filling them with wrapped chocolates. I'll hand-make a tag for them - with the teachers name (I'll have 4 to do this time round). Can't get cheaper than that - BUT - it's the sentiment that counts - and I think our teachers are very generous and kind people, so will appreciate it. I don't think many will see your post as bah-humbug, but there are sectors of society who will always equate the size of a gift as something that will earn favour or respect.

  3. HI - as a teacher in a past life it was SO amazing when parents pooled and bought a voucher. We just made handmade ginegerbread men for our kindy teachers. My BEST thing to receive at the end of a year was a genuine and thoughtfully written card from a parent/child/both that actually talked about what I had done for them or their child. I would have thought most people would spend $5-10 on a present or do homemade... Certainly the gifts were lovely but the cards made me feel like I had actually made a difference.

  4. Crazy to think some people would waste that much money on a gift - what happened to giving some chocolates in a coffee mug or better still the kids just make something? :S