When Did Saying Thank You Stop Being Enough?

Posted by on June 19, 2012

First let me start off by saying that I appreciate all you do, teachers, coaches and scout leaders. Really, I do.  By and large, you have all been truly wonderful.

Okay, now that I’ve told you that I appreciate all you do (and I mean it), I’m going to put myself out there and risk being verbally crucified by saying that I’m OVER the gifts I am constantly being pressured to pony up for on your behalf.

When your kids have 7-9 teachers between them, the holiday gifts, teacher appreciation week gifts and end of the year gifts get expensive. I know I live in a nice part of town (in a very small and unimpressive house in a meh neighborhood, mind you) so all you people that plan these gift-giving extravaganzas think I’m made of money but guess what?

I’M NOT.

I’m a middle class work-at-home mom with a shit ton of bills, two college funds to grow and a retirement account that has NOT been contributed to in over two years and has definitely seen better days.

Then we have the end-of-season coaches gift donations, which are, of course, optional (but we all know they really aren’t because the alternative is to be the jerk that didn’t pitch in). This gift is usually in conjunction with a party that you also have the “option” to donate to…

And then we have the boy scouts/girl scouts…same thing. Lather, rinse, repeat.

So let’s do a little math, shall we? Let’s just say we’re going to give, on the average, $15 per person plus another $15 for each party.

It adds up fast…

And the grand total? FIVE HUNDRED AND FIFTY FIVE DOLLARS!

What I want to know is when do I get a present for all the shit I do?

If you read my previous post, you know I do a LOT. Too much, really.

Where’s my booty?

Ha. I kid.

The fact is, I don’t want gifts.

A simple thank you or a card saying that what I’ve done is appreciated is enough for me. I’m not in it for the stuff and you know what? I don’t think anyone else is, either, which begs the question…

When did saying thank you stop being enough? Why must teachers get Amex gift cards that total in the hundreds for the holidays, teacher appreciation week AND the end of the year?

Now, the folks who volunteer? They don’t get anything and really, I don’t begrudge them a token of appreciation and I don’t have a problem with collecting a couple bucks from every family to cover that but when a gift and end-of-the-year/season party costs each child $20-30? I take issue with that not just for myself but for every family.

You see, despite my grousing, we’re not so bad off that I can’t find the money if need be (even though it would be far more prudent to save it or pay down my credit cards) but I will tell you that there are kids on these squads/teams/troops that DO come from families where money is a real problem, where there just isn’t enough of it every month and I just don’t think it’s right to put that pressure on them.

They paid their registration fees and dues and that’s where it should end because don’t forget that they’re being asked to pay for parties and teachers gifts, too.

Let’s not even mention the money for field trips, fundraisers, yearbooks, banquets, school improvement donations and donations in the form of food, party supplies, craft supplies and classroom supplies.

I know I sound like some kind of scroogy killjoy with a lump of coal for a heart that doesn’t appreciate anyone’s hard work and if I do, then so be it.

The bottom line is that while I deeply appreciate everything you do for my kids, being asked to come up with $500+ a year for gifts and parties laden with throw-away crap from the Oriental Trading Co. (when they’d be fine with an extra hour of play time with some cookies, juice and a few organized games) is unreasonable.

It is.

(And if you don’t agree with me, that’s fine. You’re free to politely spout-off in the comments.)


39 Comments

  • Kim W. says:

    I totally agree with you.

  • Kim W. says:

    The truth is that I cherish my son’s baseball coaches, and am sad that my boy is moving up in the league and won’t have the same coaches next year. This same coach might not coach in this league long enough to coach my other boys. So I have a very strong feeling that I’m going to invite the coaches and wives (and team and family) over for a party. That’s how much I appreciate them. I mean, one of the coaches always quickly responds to my text messages about my boy’s emotions and troubles, and has not only been a mentor to my son, but has helped me parent him better.

    There have been just a couple teachers like that over the years. And I really really appreciate them.

    But the pressure to donate to a huge gift certificate to an expensive restaurant? Not my style.

  • magpie says:

    Hell yeah. I just don’t do it. I will contribute to the group gift for the elementary school – where the PTA enforces a cap of $5 per person. This year they took that and made a Snapfish printed book for the teacher, with scanned in notes from kids and who knows what else. That seemed just right to me.

    Black-hearted skinflints! Unite!

  • Michele says:

    I am poor. My husband was unemployed for two years, and switched careers (to work at something…ANYTHING), and makes 1/3 of his previous pay. So – He’s now worked there for two years, so that’s 4 years into the saga. We live in an extremely well-off community. We, however, live in the ghetto portion in the falling-down house I grew up in. Top Ramen is a staple in our diet, because if it’s not, I can’t afford fruits and vegetables as well for our kids’ diet. We cannot afford extra-curriculars even though one kid is extremely talented musically, and the other in art. Someday, maybe I can get them lessons. To top it off, they’re both medically challenged, so a lot of our “disposable” income goes to copays. So when I get a phone call from the “Educational Foundation” to pony up $365 per year PER CHILD to supplement the budget – and then I’m told that I need to pony up another $2500 PER CHILD – $5,000!? – to supplement the budget cuts for next year… I’m less than enthusiastic. Then the pressured “optional” gifts throughout the year. The fundraisers. The last phone call, “You’re telling me you can’t even give $10?” I answered, “I can if you pay for the ramen.” Call me an asshole, but I’m done. I no longer participate in any of it. Period. I only pay for book drives and the field trips now. Apparently I had more to say than I thought.

  • Traci says:

    I boycotted the end of year gifts this year and completely blew off the Teacher Appreciation Week stuff. We didn’t have the extra money for 3 school teachers, plus dance teachers, etc. We just simply didn’t have it. I felt bad for about 5 minutes. I figured it would be better to pay the bills on time than to what amounts to teacher bribery. I mean some people give, $50 gift cards! The heck? We had to send in money for end of year parties, not to mention the deposits for NEXT school year activities that are already due.

  • Sarah Piazza says:

    It has gotten out of control.

  • Melinda says:

    Amen, sister! A little tokens of appreciation and birthday parties have grown into a monster of entitlement. When I was a kid, the teacher got something we (the kids) made them as an end of the year thank you and kids birthdays included ice cream, cake, and playing. Now it is gift collections, grand gestures, and parties with fancy themes and sky high budgets. How did this happen to us? I’m so over it as well!

    • when my co-worker told me all the things she’s bought for other kids, teachers, end of the year parties, birthday parties and all that for her kindergartner… i was shocked. when i was a kid, birthday cupcakes (made from box mix) were optional for birthdays and no one got teachers presents. i can’t believe how much money parents are expected to shell out each year!

  • Headless Mom says:

    I constantly feel like I’m hemmoraging cash. I hate it.

  • JayMonster says:

    I know… you saw my name, and figured, “Here we go” He NEVER agrees with me. Well…SURPRISE!!!

    You are 100% on the ball correct. Now, I don’t mind chipping in for a gift at times. Particularly for teachers, who these days wind up dipping into their own personal funds to pay for things because the schools aren’t funded properly any longer.

    But the “Stepford Wives” (and husbands) have in most cases taken this way out of control in an effort to one up each other. The whole idea of chipping in was a good one. Because rather than (using teachers as an example again) a teacher getting 15 $3.00 World’s Greatest Teacher Mugs… AGAIN, that money pooled makes a nice $45 gift card so that they could get something they really want. Win-Win. But then somebody always has to “up the stakes” more to outshine another class or parent, and the money goes up, and up, and up… until it is just plain silly.

    Enough is enough.

    • IzzyMom says:

      Ha…you’re right! That’s exactly what I thought. But I agree with the coffee cup thing. Nobody wants another coffee cup and I’m *not* opposed to a group gift of gratitude for teachers etc…just on a more reasonable scale.

  • Diana says:

    So glad we don’t live in your community. I appreciate our teachers and coaches, but damn. There’s just no way. I’d have to be the bitchy mom that just straight up said no. And I would. But no one wants to be her.

    • IzzyMom says:

      I agree, I don’t want to be that mom either…mostly because I feel like somehow it will be held against my child. I hate to think that anyone would do that but it’s always in the back of my mind.

  • Miss Britt says:

    I totally feel you on this.

  • Jared Karol says:

    I wish we never had to give or receive material gifts for ANY occasion. . . As a former teacher who used to receive gifts, I can honestly say it got old fast, and it was totally unnecessary. I tried to give away as much as possible, and I never wrote thank you cards because I didn’t want to remember who gave me what. . . Great post!

  • Gus&Otto says:

    Ah hell yes!!! This gift giving is insane and totally expensive. Add to this in our area, the holiday gift, and as we both are managers, we have holiday gifts for our staff. Last year more than 60% of our Christmas budget was spent on people who were not a part of our immediate family!

    • IzzyMom says:

      60%? That’s crazy! But I imagine I know just how you feel…like you don’t have a choice; that it will be held against you or your kids if you don’t do it.

  • Sarah says:

    I feel like I am constantly giving people $20 or $25 gift cards. I honestly do appreciate them, but HOLY COW. It adds up fast.

  • I don’t mind giving gifts. This year? 27 total. I made gifts for the Holidays (under $80 for all) and contribute to the group gifts. I did small gift cards for the end of the year and contributed to group gifts. I know our teachers don’t make enough. Do I feel differently because my kids have special needs and are served mightily by the schools?

    Probably.

    I also know that in leaner times for us, I’ve done less for less people. I think it is absolutely your right to say no, and no one should be made to feel bad about not doing/not being able to do. My sister is a teacher and told me she especially loves heartfelt notes if parents or kids feel so inclined. So, yes to thank yous!

  • Apryl's Antics says:

    For years I felt the pressure to make an extra effort for all of the school-sanctioned gift giving opportunities. This was the first year I let it all go and, man, was it liberating. I think a nice note to the teachers letting them know how much you appreciate them holds a lot of value.

  • My kids have a teacher budget – they get to choose two teachers each. Some years it’s home made cards and some years it’s $10 chocolates.

    But before I put this into effect, it might’ve got out of hand.

  • Ash has, on average, 14-17 school staff members that work with him all the time, and that doesn’t include the nurse, the school’s admin, or his array of rotating bus drivers and bus aids. No, that includes his GenEd teacher, SpecEd teacher, TAs, classroom aids, Music, Library, Art and Gym teachers, as well as his school-based OT, PT and ST. That’s all for ONE CHILD, who isn’t even in any extra-curricular activities yet. Even if we didn’t have medical debt about twice the size of my husband’s annual income, there is no way in hell we could afford to give each person a somehow-it-became-standard thank you gift that was actually worth the money spent on it.

    Still, we want to do something. Ash is a delight, but an extremely challenging one, and we’ve been very lucky in that he got into a program where most of the staff have gone above and beyond in helping him thrive at school.

    So, every “holiday” season and every end-of-year, we bake up some brownies and cookies and the like. A sandwich bag filled with these makes a very cost-effective token. It’s even a vaguely personal one, since we’re known for always bringing in fresh baked goods (if, again, for the cost-effective element) for the day each month we’re responsible for bringing in enough snack for all the kids — and those are always looked forward to and enjoyed by all. I’ll tie up the tops with some ribbon, and put on a thank-you card that I’ve had Ash make with some short, written message and a picture, and which I’ve then scanned into the computer, copy/pasted until one sheet of paper can be cut into at least half the needed cards, and then printed and cut, etc.

    Thankfully, no one at his current school has tried to pressure us into doing things differently.

  • Liz says:

    I remember blogging out my frustration at having 4 kids attend 4 different schools (yeah, in the same district, believe it or not) years ago. I put a $5 cap on the donation request when I was class mom and still had people sending in 20 bucks. Which is fine, but dayum! Also, the $$$ dropped on book fairs, flower sales, school store, etc… ridiculous. I’d send my kids in with a couple of bucks and they’d be all, like, but there wasn’t anything I could get for less than $10. We just waved goodbye to the elementary school — you know, the one I’ve had a kid attending for the last 13 years — but I won’t miss this part of it AT ALL!

    • IzzyMom says:

      I’ve had the same experience..I send my son to school with a $5 for a book fair or something and they can’t buy anything except maybe some novelty erasers. And a minimum of $35 for school pictures?!!! DUDE.

  • Brianna says:

    As a middle school teacher, I thought I’d throw my 2 cents in. I teach at a fairly affluent private school where gifts are fairly common.

    However …

    The most meaningful thing that I received this year was a letter from a Grade 9 student thanking me for being their mentor. Nothing could have meant more. Gratitude is so appreciated. As all of the students rush by you to get out of the room and start their summer vacation, it is so nice when one turns around and says “Thank You” … and they mean it :)

    • IzzyMom says:

      Thank you so much for sharing your experience. I was hoping a teacher would ring in and perhaps confirm what I hoped was true…that a sincere show of appreciation in a card or note can mean just as much as a gift.

  • Rita Arens says:

    This is making me feel much better about the fact my daughter has one activity and despite us asking and asking has never wanted to play any sport.

  • Jeff says:

    Agreed. And well put. Our kids made cards, and we bought the 2 school teachers one $10 gift card each to the local grocery store. The dance teachers and others got just a handmade card. These folks aren’t waiters and waitresses, they make a liveable wage. The inflation in these kinds of gifts as well as the tooth fairy money is outrageous.

  • It’s been my experience (and I’m talking 12+ years of experience) that the teachers with whom I have worked appreciate the fact that I volunteer my time helping them. In the past it was in the classroom, but for the past five years, it’s been in the school office, making copies for teachers, laminating their “special projects,” binding their materials, etc., etc. My volunteer time all year long is my gift to them, and if a teacher gives ME a gift like a Starbucks card or homemade baked goods, then that’s cool, but frankly a thank you works just as well.

    As a bonus, though, the school secretary gave ME a $25 AmEx gift card for my birthday this year. TOTAL surprise.

  • Kim L says:

    I couldn’t have said it better. I have seen this as an ongoing problem for years having raised 4 kids and still have one at home.

    Gift giving should come from the heart, not out of obligation.

    Thanks for putting into words what needed to be said.

  • HeliMom says:

    I also agree and really don’t need more stuff. I’d love a simple THANK YOU, I appreciate that!

  • Clark H says:

    Sometimes we tend to disregard powerful words like thank you and I’m really grateful that someone saying that to you means more than accepting any gift cash..

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