Just when I think I’m doing okay as a mother, some soul-sucking invention launches itself in my face and screams “Oh no, bitch. You’re still wrong. You’re never gonna get this right.”
For example, BACK TO SCHOOL TEACHER APPRECIATION GIFTS.
I saw those five horrid words strung together for the first time a few days ago and thought “Wait. That can’t be a real thing.”
It must just be some bullshit created by Target or Walmart to sucker us (through guilt) into buying useless crap for people who are probably wishing we’d all stop buying them useless crap. It’s an invented thing like “Sibling Appreciation Day” or health insurance company customer service. It’s not real. It’s an idea that nobody actually gets behind.
But then I see real live grown-up humans talking about ideas for Back to fucking School Teacher Gifts and I die a little inside because now I have irrevocable evidence that at least a few people think it’s a real thing.
Which means, of course, once again, I’m the freak.
Check it out. I’m gonna say this once and I hope it’s clear: I will never, ever buy a goddamn Back to School Teacher Appreciation Gift.
Because I’m a horrible human being. Let’s start there.
You know how my mind goes?
Why the fuck would I buy an “appreciation” gift for a teacher I do not yet appreciate? I mean seriously, how does that make sense? She could be like the worst teacher in the world. She could play favorites and my kid could be the non-favorite.
Or wait. Maybe that’s it: Is this gift to butter her up in advance so my child is undeservedly favored on account of the cute wooden apple paper weight I gave her on the first day?
Fuck that noise.
If my kids are loathed or adored it’s gonna be at their own hands. Master of their fates and whatnot.
Oh, come ON. I know it’s a “nice gesture,” and I know teachers are working way before the first day of school, and I know they don’t get paid enough and are doing some of the hardest work imaginable. Some of the teachers in my life were life-changing. Wonderful. I actually just tried to email my 5th-grade teacher a couple months ago to thank him, because he told me I had a talent in writing, and that I should always follow it, and he sent a story I wrote called “The Pig Family” into a local newspaper and it got published, and for the rest of my youth I thought in the back of my mind “I’m a writer. I’m a talented writer. Mr. Zuniga said so.” It’s like he said it and I believed it and it never left me. And look what I’m doing now, folks. How do you thank somebody for that? I love that man.
And some of my kids’ teachers have blown my mind with what they were willing to do for my kids. My daughter had a teacher last year who stayed after school on Fridays to read freaking Charles Dickens with her. Every week when it happened I just wanted to stare at her because I couldn’t believe the patience, devotion and kindness. My son’s teacher last year made my boy with dyslexia feel safe, protected, capable and confident in the classroom, and she did it purposely and knowingly, and he blossomed because of her, her insight, her gentleness, her care for my son. How do you thank people like that? My heart explodes. You better believe they got a letter from me at the end of the year.
Incidentally, I once threw a slumber party for 7 girls and had to sleep for like 9 days after it to deal with the shock of the annoyance of that many children. I have no idea how they do it.
But let’s be honest: Some teachers are mediocre. Some teachers totally fucking blow. Some show up every day dragging their scowling asses to the classroom because they are 7 years from retirement or have no better career ideas. I had a teacher in junior high taunt me for being the slowest runner during P.E. Honestly it was cruel. She did it front of the whole class, told me she had heard good things about me and was excited about having me in her class, but now she knows I’m nothing special. Ouch. And in 7th-grade, when my face was full of pimples and I was already a geeky poor kid.
What a bitch.
I’ve had teachers drone on endlessly about NOTHING, day after day after day, so clearly not giving a shit it’s ridiculous. I’ve had teachers only pay attention to the athletes or cool kids. I’ve had soul-sucking teachers.
So why do I have to get all excited about the possibility of a person doing their job well? I have an idea: How about you do your job well and then I will express my gratitude for it once I’ve developed a genuine respect for you?
Shocking stuff here.
See, I told you. Horrible human being.
Now, let’s back up.
Even if I had a heart, even if I could theoretically get behind this whole Back to School Teacher Gift nonsense, there is no way I could handle that shit logistically.
I had a hard time getting all the stuff on the four-mile-long, brand-specific, color-inch-line-spacing specific $100 supply list. [It was really only a page, but it felt like four-miles and it was definitely $100 for the two kids.]
Do you really think I can handle some “thoughtful little something” in addition?
I’m just trying to remember to make lunches, people. WORK WITH ME HERE.
Oh just buy a Starbucks gift card, you say?
Right. Yes. Easy. Except that we’re broke, and it’s rude to get something below like $10.00, right? I mean $5.00 buys a coffee, maybe two, but not even enough coffee for two people. So it’s really gotta be $10.00, because if we’re showing appreciation, what the hell does $5.00 say? “I almost appreciate you?”
“I sort of appreciate you?”
“I appreciate you but not enough to spend actual money on you, which brings us back to the whole ‘almost’ thing?”
But if I get $10.00 cards for both of my kids’ teachers, I’m $20.00 IN THE HOLE and them I’m just bitter, cause I can’t really afford that, particularly since I just spent $100 on supplies. So now I’ve started the year off spending money on a human I’ve never met in HOPES that he’s a decent teacher and won’t abuse my child or turn him into a Republican (That was a joke. Come on it was FUNNY. I’d much rather my kid turn into a Republican than one of those elitist, out-of-touch privileged yuppie liberals who think they’re all enlightened and against-the-system when actually their whole life is founded on the system they learned to hate in that liberal private girls’ college. I mean honestly. Is there anything worse? You’re right. Rush Limbaugh. Actually, nevermind. It’s up in the air.)
Nope. Rush is worse.
Back on track, Janelle.
I hope their teachers teach them to FOCUS.
So then I tell myself “Rage against the machine!” Fight the system! Live on the edge! Reject the Back to School Teacher Appreciation Gift!
And I think I’m secure in my decision, until it pops up again on my newsfeed. Again there’s an advertisement. Again there’s an Instagram of these super cute Mason jar cookie mix things with a paper-bag tag that says “Thanks, teacher!” and some raffia and a joyful mother exclaiming in the comment “I saw it on Pinterest!”
And I feel like a total asshole.
And I wonder what the hell is wrong with me. I mean really, “Why am I such a dick?”
I think I was born without the appropriate mothering gene, or at least the one required to participate in illogical activities grounded in niceness and generosity.
My God, there is something wrong with me.
Rage against the Back to School Teacher Appreciation Gift!