Thoughtful Thank You Gifts for Teachers

First off, I don’t want to discourage you from giving gifts to your child’s teacher. It’s a lovely, thoughtful idea. But please make sure it’s thoughtful. People often seem to forget  that teachers are individuals. A one-size-fits-all gift is not the way to go. The homemade baking may be left on the staff room table at the end of the day due to allergies, food restrictions or preferences. The scented soaps and hand lotions might be left behind for similar reasons.  And almost every teacher I know has enough mugs.

Of course, one might argue that it’s the thought that counts, and this is definitely true, but if this is your argument, then please be thoughtful. If you know that your teacher loves fly fishing, then by all means get her some hooks. But if you don’t know, resist the impulse to lump all teachers together.  Teachers are individuals too. It doesn’t cost much to be thoughtful–the gifts I treasured the most during my time as a third grade teacher were thoughtful cards written by either parents or the students themselves.

For the past couple of years, our children have given their teachers something concrete for the classroom and we have given a donation to a local charity in their honour. Teachers spend an awful lot of their own money furnishing their classrooms. Even things as small as a few new Hot Wheels for the Kindergarten car centre or a couple of books for the classroom library are appreciated. I like this type of giving. I feel like it is a win-win-win-win. My kids have something tangible to give their teachers, I get a tax receipt, the charity benefits, and the teacher has a card to read about the impact they had on my children over the course of the school year.

If  a charitable donation is not something you are interested in, there are other thoughtful ways to thank your children’s teacher. Buying an item for the classroom without the charitable donation is thoughtful as well. I also like the idea of amazon gift cards because this gives teachers the option to buy some items for their classroom or to spend on themselves. And who isn’t able to find something at amazon these days? They don’t just sell books anymore.

And when in doubt, just say it. If your kids are old enough have them write a note to the teacher about what makes him so special. As a parent take a moment to jot a few things down on a thank you card about how your child’s teacher has made a difference. These words will be remembered on the tough days and the good days.

Remember: teachers will love anything a child gives them and will appreciate any and all thank you gestures. In this way, we are alike. But please keep in mind that we are also individuals. But as long as you’re okay with knowing that your #1 Teacher mug might wind up at the Sally Ann, just give’r.

Have a great summer break!

If you’d like to contact me about this post or about anything else you’ve read please email me: judyamy74(at)gmail.com or tweet me @JudyAmy74.

 

Labels for Kids

English: Photograph of a Monarch Butterfly.

English: Photograph of a Monarch Butterfly. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I just finished ordering labels for my son’s school supplies and shoes. Although I have supported Harris in all of his choices thus far, I must admit, I still breathed a sigh of relief when he chose the shark design over the butterfly one. (Without any input from me.) I don’t care which labels he chooses. I just really,  really don’t want him to be hurt by others who aren’t as accepting. We’ve discussed this before and Harris always says that he is okay if people tease him and that he stands by his choices. I hope this strength stays with him as he continues on his school journey. Especially since immediately after I finished processing the order, he decided that he wanted the butterfly labels, not the shark ones. Butterflies are nicer than sharks. I guess I too, would rather have a butterfly, since I phoned the company back and changed my order.

If you would like to contact me about this post or about anything else you’ve read please email me at: judyamy74@gmail.com or tweet me @JudyAmy74

W is for Why? (Part 3 of a Three Part Series)

Somehow when I first started writing my W post about Why, I realized that I couldn’t write it all as one post. I found there were three distinct things I wanted to say about the diversity and acceptance or lack thereof in children’s clothing. However, now that I’ve written Part 1 and Part 2, I can’t for the life of me think of what the third part of my Why question was.

So apologies, friends. I’ve misled you. There is no deep why query in this post. No thought provoking, well thought out, “eloquently written” piece of writing here. (if you are wondering why I am flattering myself, check out W is for Wooed: https://thinkdreamdo.wordpress.com/2014/05/05/w-is-for-wooed-an-extra-w-bonus/) There’s just one word: why.

The why in this post is just that: why. Ask yourself why. Don’t just accept that you have to buy princess dresses for your daughter and steer your son towards the dinosaur shirts. If that’s what they want, that’s fine. But ask yourself why.

Ask yourself why it would make a difference to you if you saw a cute little 2 year-old boy dressed in the super comfortable (and cheap!) leggings that are marketed to parents of girls.

Ask yourself why you would limit your child by steering them towards a gender line they might not be comfortable with, or might not even be aware of. Let them be free. Let them imagine. Let them dream. Let them choose. Let them be.

Why? Because they are individuals. They are who they are.

Paques01

Paques01 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you’d like to contact me about this post or about anything else you’ve read please email me at: judyamy74@gmail.com or tweet me @JudyAmy74

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W is for Why? Boys Don’t Cry (Part 2 of a 3 Part Series)

Why?

I have three children. One 5 almost 6 year old boy and 2 almost 2 and a half year old boy/girl twins. Out of my three children, two are very particular about what they want to wear. The third is largely unconcerned about his garments or even whether or not he needs to wear them.

I’ve written before about my eldest boy’s penchant for female clothing. My twins share a closet and dresser and my daughter will invariably go to Archer’s side of the dresser and pull out “boy’s” clothes to wear. She is not interested in anything other than jeans, sweat pants, and t-shirts. She will refuse to wear any of the lovely sweaters, skirts, or tights that are in her drawers. Thank goodness for friends and hand-me-downs so that at least I am not paying for these unworn items! I did manage to get her into a dress at Easter, but only over a pair of jeans. And this brings me to the “Why”  of this post.

I could dress Tamsin day after day after day in Archer’s clothes. And for the most part, I do. No one blinks an eye. People often comment on how cute she looks in boys clothes. One day we were at our gymnastics class and Archer happened to be wearing a pair of Tamsin’s tights with one of her shirts and she was in sweat pants and an oversized t-shirt. We had been going to this gymnastics class for a few months so I was more than a little surprised when two different people asked me, “What’s up with Archer’s outfit?” Not “What’s up with the way the twins are dressed?” or “It looks like Archer and Tamsin swapped wardrobes” but “What’s up with Archer’s outfit?”

I’ve even heard people with older daughters mention that they buy rain boots and snow boots in blue or black so that they can be handed down to their younger son. This is a fairly strong statement: I will not dress my son in girl’s clothing. I can’t count the number of times I have seen notices on my Multiples buy/sell group asking for “boy/girl items” for their young twins, but that “boy/boy items” would be okay too. Just not girl/girl. Again, that implicit statement that it’s okay for girls to wear boys clothes, but not for boys to wear girls clothes.

Today we went to pick Harris up from the bus stop on our balance bikes–both blue, since they were a gift. Tamsin chose a red spring jacket to wear with green piping, and Archer chose a yellow floral jacket. Perhaps some people walking by thought that Archer was a girl. That doesn’t matter to me. By allowing Archer and Tamsin the freedom to make their own choices, I let them know that these gender lines are largely irrelevant.

Don’t get me wrong–I know that there are lots of challenges facing girls in today’s world, and I am not looking forward to them as my daughter gets older. But one area where girls have it a lot easier is in the clothing department. They can wear whatever they want–princess dresses, sweat pants and t-shirt and no one will bat an eye. But try to put your boy in a pair of pink mittens and watch out!

stripes

stripes (Photo credit: arrowlili)

Harris never referred to pink as a “girl” colour until he started Kindergarten, where there are many kids who like to reinforce social conventions. He still likes pink, but he now tells people it’s a “girl” colour. Boy colours–girl colours–really? Somehow I don’t think Tamsin will have it quite as hard if she tells people her favourite colour is blue. And why is this? In some ways I’m afraid to find out. I’m afraid to ask my friend why she buys her daughter blue rain boots so that they can be handed down to her son, instead of the ones her daughter wants. I’m afraid to confront the people who comment on my son’s choice of wardrobe. Why? I don’t know. Maybe I’m afraid of their answers.

My guess is that if people stopped and thought about it, the reason would be fairly straightforward: Girls are made of sugar and spice and everything nice. Boys are made of snips and snails and puppy dogs’ tails. And never the twain shall meet. Unless, the girl happens to like mud puddles and wants to play hockey. We want our daughters to be strong, and independent. But the reverse isn’t true. Too often we steer away from buying our son a doll or a tea set. What message does this give? The message is clear: it’s not okay for our sons to be nurturing or soft. Boys don’t cry. We’ve come a long way, but I am still shocked by how strong gender stereotyping is, and how so many open-minded, liberal people (subconsciously or otherwise) buy into it. It is easier to follow the crowd and deny our sons certain items then to face the reactions of other (already judgmental) parents and outsiders. But in denying these things we are saying that boys shouldn’t be caring and nurturing.

There have been cases in the news in the last few years about parents who have decided to raise their children in a gender-neutral setting: the first being a couple in the UK, and more recently a couple in Canada. The couple in the UK, Beck Laxton and Kieran Cooper, decided to keep people in the dark about their child Sasha’s gender in order to challenge stereotypes. Laxton says she chose to do it “[b]ecause I wanted to avoid all that stereotyping. Stereotypes seem fundamentally stupid. Why would you slot people into boxes?”¹ Laxton asks a really good question–why would you slot people into boxes? Laxton compares gender stereotyping to horoscopes. “It’s like horoscopes: what could be stupider than thinking there are 12 types of personality that depend on when you were born? It’s so idiotic”¹ We don’t act this way toward adults. Imagine the reaction you would get if you questioned a male friend on his choice of a pink dress shirt. Or your sister-in-law on her preference for blue pants.

I know I couldn’t be as committed as Beck Laxton and Kieran Cooper at raising a child in a gender-neutral environment. (As some of my readers may know, I have a definite problem with commitment.) However, I do think it’s a brave and courageous thing that this couple is doing and I welcome the chance for discussion. A conversation is beginning. One which is not without its opponents. A columnist for the Daily Mail wrote that if people go against gender norms, society could be “brainwashed into pretending that the differences between male and female don’t exist–in order to reconstruct society into some unattainable utopia of sexual and gender identicality. The dual goal is to marginalise men and to upend society’s fundamental moral codes . . . Far from ushering in a better world, this threatens to stamp out the individual right to know what we are, and to rob us of humanity itself.”²

sunset

sunset (Photo credit: split.second™)

I must respectfully disagree with the Daily Mail columnist. I think that by allowing our children the freedom to be who they are, we are embodying the very definition of humanity. I myself would welcome a brighter, more rainbow coloured world fueled and powered by humanity and empathy.

 

Footnotes

1. Higginbotham, Emma. “Why I decided to raise my son ‘gender neutral’.” Cambridge News. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 May 2014. http://www.cambridge-news.co.uk/Home/Hes-pretty-in-pink-to-make-you-think-20012012.htm

2. Phillips, Melanie. “You’ve got to be a few sequins short of a tutu to raise your son as ‘gender neutral’.” Mail Online. Associated Newspapers, 22 Jan. 2012. Web. 21 May 2014. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-2090369/Sasha-Laxton-Youve-got-sequins-short-tutu-raise-son-gender-neutral.html

Notes:

This post took a lot of time thinking and a lot of reading, but it’s finally done. While researching this topic, I came across many excellent websites. I invite you to read some of the articles, click on the videos, and do some thinking. Maybe even start a conversation. Here’s a few places to get you started:

To read an excellent article on the history of colour in children’s clothing go to: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/when-did-girls-start-wearing-pink-1370097/?all

To read an excellent article about the backlash faced by Sasha’s parents go to: http://newsfeed.time.com/2012/01/24/parents-who-hid-childs-gender-for-five-years-now-face-backlash/

To see an excellent and extremely funny video about boy/girl stereotypes go to: http://www.upworthy.com/when-its-done-with-adults-the-gender-stereotyping-we-do-with-kids-looks-as-ridiculous-as-it-is

To see and donate to an excellent entrepreneurial idea regarding children’s clothing go to: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/jennneilson/jill-and-jack-kids-clothes-that-go-beyond-pink-and

Prenatal testing was a big reason for the change. Expectant parents learned the sex of their unborn baby and then went shopping for “girl” or “boy” merchandise. (“The more you individualize clothing, the more you can sell,” Paoletti says.)Read more: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/when-did-girls-start-wearing-pink-1370097/#sBuMsCpjB1VMBQMR.99
Give the gift of Smithsonian magazine for only $12! http://bit.ly/1cGUiGv
Follow us: @SmithsonianMag on Twitter

Prenatal testing was a big reason for the change. Expectant parents learned the sex of their unborn baby and then went shopping for “girl” or “boy” merchandise. (“The more you individualize clothing, the more you can sell,” Paoletti says.)Read more: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/when-did-girls-start-wearing-pink-1370097/#sBuMsCpjB1VMBQMR.99
Give the gift of Smithsonian magazine for only $12! http://bit.ly/1cGUiGv
Follow us: @SmithsonianMag on Twitter

Prenatal testing was a big reason for the change. Expectant parents learned the sex of their unborn baby and then went shopping for “girl” or “boy” merchandise. (“The more you individualize clothing, the more you can sell,” Paoletti says.)Read more: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/when-did-girls-start-wearing-pink-1370097/#sBuMsCpjB1VMBQMR.99
Give the gift of Smithsonian magazine for only $12! http://bit.ly/1cGUiGv
Follow us: @SmithsonianMag on Twitter

Prenatal testing was a big reason for the change. Expectant parents learned the sex of their unborn baby and then went shopping for “girl” or “boy” merchandise. (“The more you individualize clothing, the more you can sell,” Paoletti says.)Read more: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/when-did-girls-start-wearing-pink-1370097/#sBuMsCpjB1VMBQMR.99
Give the gift of Smithsonian magazine for only $12! http://bit.ly/1cGUiGv
Follow us: @SmithsonianMag on Twitter

Prenatal testing was a big reason for the change. Expectant parents learned the sex of their unborn baby and then went shopping for “girl” or “boy” merchandise. (“The more you individualize clothing, the more you can sell,” Paoletti says.)Read more: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/when-did-girls-start-wearing-pink-1370097/#sBuMsCpjB1VMBQMR.99
Give the gift of Smithsonian magazine for only $12! http://bit.ly/1cGUiGv
Follow us: @SmithsonianMag on Twitter
Prenatal testing was a big reason for the change. Expectant parents learned the sex of their unborn baby and then went shopping for “girl” or “boy” merchandise. (“The more you individualize clothing, the more you can sell,” Paoletti says.)Read more: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/when-did-girls-start-wearing-pink-1370097/#sBuMsCpjB1VMBQMR.99
Give the gift of Smithsonian magazine for only $12! http://bit.ly/1cGUiGv
Follow us: @SmithsonianMag on Twitt

Prenatal testing was a big reason for the change. Expectant parents learned the sex of their unborn baby and then went shopping for “girl” or “boy” merchandise. (“The more you individualize clothing, the more you can sell,” Paoletti says.)Read more: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/when-did-girls-start-wearing-pink-1370097/#sBuMsCpjB1VMBQMR.99
Give the gift of Smithsonian magazine for only $12! http://bit.ly/1cGUiGv
Follow us: @SmithsonianMag on Twitter

Prenatal testing was a big reason for the change. Expectant parents learned the sex of their unborn baby and then went shopping for “girl” or “boy” merchandise. (“The more you individualize clothing, the more you can sell,” Paoletti says.)Read more: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/when-did-girls-start-wearing-pink-1370097/#sBuMsCpjB1VMBQMR.99
Give the gift of Smithsonian magazine for only $12! http://bit.ly/1cGUiGv
Follow us: @SmithsonianMag on Twi
Prenatal testing was a big reason for the change. Expectant parents learned the sex of their unborn baby and then went shopping for “girl” or “boy” merchandise. (“The more you individualize clothing, the more you can sell,” Paoletti says.)Read more: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/when-did-girls-start-wearing-pink-1370097/#sBuMsCpjB1VMBQMR.99
Give the gift of Smithsonian magazine for only $12! http://bit.ly/1cGUiGv
Follow us: @SmithsonianMag on Twitte

If you’d like to contact me about this post or about anything else you’ve read please email me at: judyamy74@gmail.com or tweet me @JudyAmy74.