He loved it, start to finish. While we were gone in Vegas last weekend, our babysitter said he watched it at least 8 times. His favorite scene? When Ralphie gives his teacher the big basket of fruit in hopes of getting on her good side. Earnest little Ralph had just turned in an essay, hoping and praying for an A.
It's a classic scene. Kid after kid rifles by their nonplussed teacher, making the usual offerings of apples, pencils, maybe a plate of cookies. The camera stays on her face, each gift appearing from a side camera angle. She looks slightly bored, saying "thank you" with a half smile, expecting the expected.
But then Ralphie walks by, plunking a giant fruit basket down on her desk. One wonders where Ralphie procured such a glorious arrangement, due to the family's middle class status in a respectable midwest small town. The teachers sits a little higher, her eyes open quite a bit wider, and she appears truly taken aback. Ralphie, beaming, nods to her with a big goofy smile, imagining her writing a big shiny A on his paper while the music in his mind crescendos. He becomes lost in his reverie, as the teacher behind the basket urges him to take his seat, his classmates snickering.
It is a hilarious scene, one of my favorites as well.
I started thinking about it, though, today while out and about with my huge to do list, listing the names of people to buy for over and over under my breath. My boys have IEP's for their special needs, so the list includes more names than the average. Teachers, teacher's aides, speech therapists, bus drivers, occupational therapists, girl scout leader, resource teachers, and more.
No one wants to miss anyone. Who wants to be the mom who hears "you forgot Mrs . ____________ and everyone else got her something!" There are entire sections of Pinterest (or so I am told. I refuse to go onto the site, in order to keep a smidge of mom self-esteem intact) on teacher's gifts. Some moms make elaborate baskets, handpainted frames of kids with their teachers; there are beautiful bouquets of snacks and clever items suitable for teachers - photo albums, mugs, crafts, you name it.
It's enough to instill a little extra bit of panic - an additional dollop of anxiety - just a smidge more of stress - in any busy mom's mind. Come December 1st, the pressure starts.
What happened to the era of an apple for a teacher? What would Ralphie's teacher think of all the hullabaloo (not to mention extra expense) of modern teacher gift giving? Did my mom, back in the 80s and 90s, buy gifts for our teachers? If she did, I don't remember it being an issue. Granted, I homeschooled from 3rd to 8th grade so my teachers were my parents, and I left for college when most of my siblings went through elementary school. Christmas time for her was always hectic and crazy, so maybe the extra names on her list did include teachers. Even if it did, though, I can't imagine it was anything like today.
Don't get me wrong. I adore my kids' teachers. I have nothing but admiration and appreciation for how hard they work to "get it right," to challenge and encourage my kids, to create invigorating and safe environments optimum for their unique learning needs. Liam would not be where he is without the help of the therapists and specialists over the years. Aedan wouldn't be as comforable in his classroom if it weren't for his teacher's love of his quirks and her constant attention to helping him redirect his attentions appropriately.
But ... for the love of God.
Now, I love buying gifts for my family: I have seven nieces and three nephews, a few who live in England. I always buy a little something for them, as a way to give some auntie love from afar. I am not complaining. I like the challenge of finding the perfect gift. I just start too late and kind of confuse myself . It's the most wonderful time of the year, but sometimes I get too wrapped up (pun intended) to sit back and enjoy the weeks leading up to my favorite holiday.
For teachers and assistants, usually I go the easy route and buy Starbucks cards - $20 for teachers, $10 -$5 for everyone else. They now come in a multi-pack of five that you can program for any amount. Sheer convenient genius. Thank you Starbucks from the bottom of my heart.
This year though I bought some of my mom's unique custom-made flower necklaces from her when she came for Thanksgiving. The kids picked out a necklace for each of their teachers from the group, and we sent them in early - the Tuesday before break! Not the last day, thrown into a backpack ! Or, my favorite, arriving via me making a mad dash to school right before the last bell of the semester!
Each teacher sent me a sweet thank you email, touched by the beauty and uniqueness of the gift, very thankful and appreciate. That alone makes the extra effort worth it, helps to instill a little seasonal joy.
So maybe Ralphie was on to something, albeit his brown-nosing intentions. Going the extra mile sometimes can give someone well-deserving a bit of holiday cheer, put a smile on her face as she counts down the days to winter break. I would be in a straight-jacket in a mental institution if I taught elementary school. Kids, I love you, but I tip my hat and bow down to a good teacher's passion for spending all day every day in a room full of little balls of energy with constantly expanding minds.
We don't have to be Pinterest moms. Practically everybody I know loves a Starbucks card. Even though it can feel like just another holiday chore, it's good to remember that gifts are, quite simply, a way to say thank you. And a gift with heart can make someone's day.
Thanks Ralphie, for the reminder. And thanks Pinterest for the anxiety and the extra kick in the ass.