I Guess I’ll Be “That Mom”

I’m 27. Everyone around me is pregnant, just having babies, getting engaged, getting married, or having a birthday. That’s a lot of ka-ching coming out of my bank account, y’all. In my playgroup alone there are 25 “members.” If I regularly interacted with (or knew) all of them and their children that’s around 49 gifts for kids I’d have to buy each year. Not including my own children. That’s 25 women, most of whom are still adding babies to their family. I can’t be a good steward of our family’s money by buying gifts to celebrate every person, party, or life event I’m invited to.

Which brings me to this concept I’ve witnessed creep up all around me: End of the year teacher gifts. Is this a new concept? Is this something that’s been happening and I’ve been oblivious? Please tell me this is a new phenomenon.

I am absolutely supportive of those who give selflessly of themselves day after day with little to no encouragement or known appreciation. I am forever thankful to those who pushed and encouraged me through high school, college, and my work in graduate school. I earned mostly A’s through all my schooling (with the exception of math because even then I knew that knowing anything about Pythagorean’s Theorem or the quadratic formula would in no way impact my life as an adult. And what’s this Common Core math stuff? Why can’t 35-20=15 and everything be OK? Why must we try to reinvent the wheel?!?!?) I was (mostly) a blessing in all my classes, polite, had my work finished, and attempted to be minimally disruptive. I never bought my teachers gifts. And after talking with my mom this morning, she didn’t either. Phew. Maybe all the other mom’s were in this secret group of gift giving awesome mom’s and all the faculty hated us but I’m going to assume that’s far fetched.
If anyone understands the joy that is receiving  gifts it’s me. My love language is material gifts. I love me a surprise latte, being taken to lunch, or brought a special something or other for no real reason at all. What makes this special, however, is when it’s done out of the pure goodness of the givers heart. I can assure you if I’m Mommy-Pressured into buying for K’s school it will not be out love. In hindsight I’d love to have thought to give gifts to those who made an impact on my life like Mrs. Bowles, Mr. Goering, Rhulen, or Hoppes. People who were not necessarily educators, but people who cared deeply for those around them who looked up to them as role models of the strongest form.
Perhaps I’ll be  That Mom who bypasses gift cards and other treats in exchange for a handwritten note from me and my child. If my season of life when K is in Kindergarten mimics the one I’m in now, the likelihood of that happening is minimal.  I can hope that my raising a respectful, responsible child will be a “thank you” enough. I can’t help but feel like this is another Battle of the Mother’s to see which family gives the best gift at Christmas and the closing of the year; a time when there’s just another item to add to the endless to-do list. My thankfulness as a mother will likely come in the form of my helping in the classroom, following up with daily assignments each night with my children, generally being pleasant, and sometimes, baking delicious treats.
I spent my morning looking at the school K will enroll in, their academic report cards, and supply lists. I’m just two years away from this being a very personal situation. I’m well aware that my stance could change because perhaps I’m both old school and rude. This cannot be time where mom’s are suddenly less than when they pick their kids up from school in the last week empty handed. I’m still reeling at the thought of having one more person to buy for. Where does it end? With her dance teacher? VBS teachers? Soccer coaches? Creating a line item in our budget for gifts that we “should” give is overwhelming.
If it’s a faux pas to give gifts only out of love, thankfulness, meeting another’s need, or simply “just because” then I’ll come to terms with that. In the meantime perhaps a note of gratitude to those who shaped my academic journey years ago is long overdue. I’ll extend myself some grace and go the extra mile to thank and encourage those pouring into my child simply because I want to, not out of guilt. Can we do a good deed for someone else, pass on the skills that were shared with us and report back our successes, or otherwise be a good person because of the impact you’ve made as an instructor in our children’s lives? Can this be enough?
For you Mama’s dropping the cash on cute gifts I applaud you. I sincerely hope your heart is in the right place and you’re not falling victim to the pressure of society around you. You are a blessing to those teaching your children and I assure you your gift is a fantastic token of appreciation. There will probably be many of you in my kid’s dance class this summer who will elect to give gifts as well. I’ll probably feel a twinge of “why didn’t I do that” but will remind myself that I’m That Mom and that’s just fine.

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