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Holiday spending: Where did you draw the line when it comes to gifts for your kids’ teachers/caregivers/swim instructors/music teachers/friends/etc?

I realize the yuletide dust has barely settled (we’re still in our Christmas pajamas here) but I want to poll you guys quickly on the gift-giving-to-your-kids’-peeps thing. It’s something I like to obsess about every year—did I give enough? too much? was my gift appropriate?—and, because I’m still thinking about it, I’d love to know where you all stand. And where you draw the gift-giving line.


First, who do you buy for? One friend emailed me last week saying that all her friends were stressing over the gifts and she told me that she was getting something for her daughter’s three daycare teachers, swim teacher, music teacher, Gymboree teacher, and babysitter. Oy! That’s a lot of gifts. Fortunately my kids aren’t in any extra-curricular programs at the moment so I didn’t have to think about Gymboree teachers and swim instructors (or bus drivers, like my sister who had to buy for four different drivers!). And to be honest, I don’t know if I would have. Ack, I suck. 


As for the people I did buy for, this year I erred on the side of over-generous because, well, I know how challenging my children can be. And I also think there is no better feeling in the world than being able to drop your children at school or daycare or leave them with the sitter and feel 100 percent comfortable. I’m generous with the guys who take my garbage away twice a week, so why skimp on the people who care for my children? That said, it gets to be a little crazy—and pricey.  


For Alex’s two preschool teachers and one aid I went with gift cards to Barnes & Noble (for more money than was necessary) and boxes of fleur de sel caramels from Williams Sonoma that are so beyond good I bought myself one, too. For Nora’s two teachers, I gave a nice card with cash, because they’re young and when I was young that’s all I wanted. Heck, I still get excited when I open a card from Nick’s grandma and 20-dollar bills fall out. I also gave a card with cash to our babysitter, along with a Kodak gallery calendar of the kids and a black and white framed photo of them (she is like family so this was totally appropriate and appreciated).


But that was it. I didn’t buy for the director of either school. I didn’t bake cookies for the helpers (I aspire to be that mom—someday!) I didn’t bring anything to the after-care people who have Alex twice a week (whoops), though in all honesty, it’s often the teachers from his regular class so I guess I’m covered. Oh, and I certainly didn’t buy anything for the 25 kids in his class or the eight in Nora’s. Another friend posted this on FB last week about getting a ton of little gifts and goody bags from her son’s daycare friends and I couldn’t agree more:


“How on Earth was I supposed to know to bring presents for Declan's classmates?? He has a backpack full of cards and treats! We are aiming too high, people!”


It hadn’t even occurred to me that this would happen until I saw my friend’s status. And then, sure enough, Al got a few little goody bags full of crap and I thought, aw, crap. It was sweet, of course, and I will be sure to thank the moms if I ever see them, but it just felt unnecessary and it kind of screamed “I’m a better mom than you because I am so on top of my holiday shopping and planning that I even had time to stuff little plastic bags with candy and toys and tie them with curly ribbon.” Gah!


Anyway, just wanted to hear your thoughts. Who did you buy for? What did you buy? And did you go the homemade, crafty-it’s-the-thought-that-counts route or opt for cold hard cash?