Last year, my sister-in-law and I were talking about all the odds-and-ends we still needed to get, even after our holiday shopping seemed complete. We were making a last-minute trip to pick up stocking stuffers and gifts for co-workers. As she was checking off her list, she mentioned a gift that made me do a double-take. She was still looking for a gift for her son’s bus driver.

“Wait… you get a gift for the bus driver? Seriously?” I was honestly shocked.

“She gets my son to and from school every day safely. That’s worth a $20 gift card to me.” She replied. And when you put it like it, it made plenty of sense to me.

Last year, my daughter still hadn’t started school. The only gift I needed to by on her behalf was to my daycare provider, who I have an extremely close relationship with. Honestly, long after my daughter attends that daycare, I’ll be buying Annie a gift, because she’s become a part of our family. But buying her a gift feels very different from buying a holiday present for the school music teacher. I don’t really know all these people, but my daughter does. Should their interaction with her automatically necessitate a little something once a year? It doesn’t seem like too much to ask.

When I was a kid, I remember walking in to school one in day in December with my book bag so stuffed I could barely carry it. Sometimes, I had to bring a separate grocery sack just to fit all my teachers’ gifts in. It wasn’t just my own classroom teacher. My mother got a gift for the principal, secretary, drama teacher, P.E. instructor and janitor. Every adult that I saw on a weekly basis got a small gift. And I know that I wasn’t the only child with that load of presents to carry.

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Now that I’m an adult, I find myself inclined to fall into the same pattern. I’m not sure if I’m just following my mother’s lead, succumbing to social pressure or just really generous. (It’s probably not generosity if I’m debating it this much.) Honestly, I appreciate that my daughter has a wonderful group of people who help her learn and grow every day. I don’t mind spending money to say thank you for all their hard work. But holiday gifts seem like such a personal gesture.

In Alabama, gifts to teachers were recently ruled illegal. That’s right, accepting a $20 gift card to Starbucks to land your child’s teacher in jail. I definitely think that this is going a little too far. But where should parents draw the line when it comes to gift-giving at school. How much do you give out, whether it’s due to a generous nature or social pressure?

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