Today is Black Friday here in the U.S. Traditionally, this is the day that Americans, groggy from their obscene over-eating, head out to malls and Target and Costco where they indulge in obscene over-purchasing. The naysayers would have us believe that this year we are all too freaked out by the economy to actually do any holiday shopping, but somehow I suspect a few of you are about to fire up the old Pontiac and head over there, anyhow.
While you are at the mall, strolling past tween-targeted displays of skimpy clothing and kiosks filled with useless electronics, you will come upon a Yankee Candle. Actually, you will probably smell it first, that distinct mix of fake spice and wax. You will look down at your list of obligatory gifts, and you will see the names of several of your children’s teachers on it. You will think to yourself, “If I go in here, I can cross three gifts off the list all at once.”
As a former teacher, as a mother, as an environmentalist, I beg you: Please, do not give in to temptation. If you buy that teacher a scented candle, here is what will happen. The cellophane wrapper and ribbon will end up in a landfill. The candle will go onto a shelf or into a box with all the other scented candles the poor woman has received over the years. There, it will gather dust, forgotten except for once a year when the teacher opens the box to shove in the latest installment of holiday gifts. Decades from now, her heirs will find the stash as they clean out her house to put it on the market. And, unless someone has found a use for scented candles by that time, it too will end up in a landfill.
Step away from the Yankee Candle.
Your child’s teacher does not want another vanilla-pumpkin-spiced candle. She knows it, I know it, and, deep down, you know it, too. While we’re at it, let’s go over a few other things she does not want. She does not want a coffee mug. She does not want yet another $5 picture frame. She does not want a gift book of sweet platitudes to put in her bathroom. And, I am so sorry to inform you, she does not want homemade cookies, although in that last case she’ll appreciate the effort before throwing them away. Because, you see, you were not the only one with that idea, and if she eats all the fudge and cookies that parents prepare for her, she will not fit her teaching clothes anymore. On her salary, she really cannot afford to buy new ones.
This person (who I have gendered female for simplicity’s sake) spends all day trying to educate your precious offspring. Please, please, get her something useful. Get her a freakin’ gift card.
“But,” you protest, “that’s so impersonal.” To which I answer: who gives a shit? If it is the thought that counts, show the woman that you think enough of her to give her something to help make up for her pathetic salary.
And, please, spare me the argument that you don’t want to spend very much. I know times are hard, really I do. But, the first place to economize is not your kids’ teachers, nor, for that matter, is it your postman, your trash collector, your place of worship, or your favorite charity. The first place to cut is the gifts you give immediate family. I’m not suggesting you deny your children holiday gifts, but do they really need as many as you have on that list? Can they do without a fancy video game so you can instead show gratitude to those around you? And, if the budget is tight, can you and your spouse agree not to give one another gifts this year?
Of course, many people have already made these cuts, and I am certainly not suggesting you must spend a lot on teachers. For those who really cannot afford to spend anything, I promise the teacher will know that and be grateful for simply a kind word, but the rest of you can funnel the cost of baking ingredients into s small gift card that will not go bad in a few days. If all the parents in the class gave a very small contribution, you could probably get a pretty nice gift card, which I guarantee the teacher will appreciate more than twelve scented candles, eight batches of cookies, and a couple of coffee mugs.
If you don’t want to organize the class or perhaps all the parents in the group despise one another, consider a small gift card to a place where $5 can actually buy something: a coffee shop or a card store. Or, if you must buy a tangible gift, how about stationery? After all, she will need something on which she can compose thank you notes for all those scented candles.