Are you done with your holiday shopping yet? We're not. Scott and I have been spending the past three mornings in various stores, our long list clutched in our hands. And although I wish we had done more of it earlier, it's nice that now that the semester is over, the two of us get some one-on-one time together to shop, and talk, and catch up. And kid-free holiday shopping is so much easier to get done. Taking your own children into a toy store right before Christmas is not a fun experience at all, although it can be a useful experiment in the weeks before Christmas, when you can stand back and watch which toys and stuffed animals your kids seem to love the most.
Yesterday, in the checkout line at an evil mega store, I overheard a woman in the front of the line complaining to her mom about the sheer number of Christmas presents she has to buy each year for her children's teachers. This made me think about another rite of passage that marks that transition from preschool to elementary school: You are suddenly responsible for a ton more Christmas gifts for teachers than you were in past preschool years. When it came to compiling a list of all the teachers' gifts we needed to distribute at L.'s school this year, we realized we really had our work cut out for us. We had to buy for L.'s main teacher, the two secondary teachers, for the front desk ladies, for the principals, for the special education office, and for L.'s speech therapist (we also bought a box of yogurt-covered pretzels for T.'s speech therapist).
"How did we end up with so many teachers in our life?" I asked Scott, when we were back at home writing out cards and assembling the gift bags.
I like to buy teachers' gifts, though, because there are just so many choices. This year we bought each of the main teachers a live miniature balsam tree (T.'s head teacher just loved this--"I'll get to watch it grow right along with T.!" she told me excitedly yesterday afternoon), and they each also received a small tin of Dutch stroopwafels from Trader Joe's. Last year I remember we gave the main teachers a scented candle apiece, and a mug filled with herbal tea sachets. Instead of buying each special education teacher a separate gift, this year we bought a large gift box of gourmet cookies for them to keep in their resource room.
I think the best gifts for teachers are of the edible or plant variety. I have a feeling most teachers end up with more mugs than they know what to do with, and gift cards for coffee or to favorite stores are good choices, too. But edible gifts like cookies and teas, or packets of hot cocoa, or muffin and bread mixes, have always been warmly received by our children's teachers in the past. Candles and lotions and bath fizzies or shower gels are also thoughtful, and just the types of things a busy teacher wouldn't necessarily buy for herself (or himself, as the case may be, although buying a male teacher bath fizzies might be a bit strange).
After we had gift-bagged everything and written out the tags, I sat back to soak in my feeling of accomplishment (about eight or nine names crossed off that list), but before long a feeling of doubt and panic began to set in. What about the preschool Spanish teacher? The music teacher? The Discovery Room teacher? I realize that we neglected to buy anything for the custodians at L.'s school, or for the school counselor, or the athletic coach, or the librarian; and we also didn't get a gift or card for the head of T.'s entire preschool program. And what about T.'s teacher from last year, who looks out for T. every morning and gives her the biggest hug when she sees her? Should we give her a little something? The trickiest thing about all this school-related gift-giving is that, as your elementary school child gets older, he interacts with more and more people at the school level, especially when he goes to a small school like L.'s.
So what do you do, wise Internet people with school-age kids? How far does your teacher/school-related gift giving extend? Do you give gifts only to the main teachers who work closely with your child, or do you have some strategy for recognizing and affordably gifting to almost everyone involved in your child's education?