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An Open Apology for the Worst Teacher Appreciation Gift Ever

If I could give a gift to my kids’ teachers that would truly convey my appreciation during Teacher Appreciation Week, it wouldn’t be a gift card or a cute coffee mug. It would be an all-expenses-paid weeklong vacation to a destination of their choosing, where they were waited on hand and foot and never had to do anything but lounge while someone fed them decadent snacks. Because after putting up with not only my own four children, but countless others — for days and years on end — while being grossly underpaid, I can’t think of anyone who deserves that level of pampering more.

Unfortunately, not only is my own salary not high enough to be gifting even myself a weeklong vacation, but I usually can’t get my crap together long enough to scrape together even the bare minimum for Teacher Appreciation Week gifts. Usually I can manage something small, but some years (yes, that’s years, plural) I’m just at a complete loss.

One year, though, I failed even more horribly than usual. And every year since then during Teacher Appreciation Week, the guilt still haunts me. Consider this tale both a confession and an apology.

My husband had been out of town on business for a week, leaving me alone with our four small boys, ranging from 8 years to 11 months old. Already, the odds were stacked against me; it was literally all I could do to keep them clean and fed (and, honestly, keep them from killing each other or destroying anything). So doing anything “extra” for the kids’ teachers was pretty much out of the question.

According to the Teacher Appreciation Week paper that had been sent home, Monday was candy day – so I sent a bag of Rolos. A plain, unadorned bag of Rolos. Maybe if I were Pinterest-y, that bag would have had a cute little tag attached that said “You’re On a Roll-O” or something equally pithy, but no. And for Tuesday, which was fruit day? I sent apples that were only slightly languishing in my crisper drawer. No ribbons tied around the stems, no polishing to a high gloss; just … drawer apples. For Wednesday’s handmade card day, I did direct the kids to draw something (I think my science-obsessed 8-year-old drew a picture of a tapeworm, but whatever. It was handmade, okay?!). Thursday was office supplies, for which I sent … a big fat nothing. I can’t even find a pen when I’m looking for one, and if I do, it’s half-dry.

Then Friday rolled around: Bring Your Teacher a Flower Day.

Seeing as I’d been trying all week just to keep my head above water, Friday had slipped my mind. Especially since it also happened to coincide with “Beach Day” in my first-grader’s classroom, and I was frantically attempting to scrape together an outfit that would be suitably beachy, but also weather-appropriate for 50 degrees and rainy, because it was early May in the Midwest. Not to mention the struggle I had in locating his sunglasses and the one and only beach towel we owned, which was — for unknown reasons — crammed inside the caddy that stored all my vacuum attachments.

So when he helpfully reminded me the morning of that it was bring-a-flower day, my desperate Mom Brain kicked into overdrive. Must. Find. Flowers.

The problem was, there were no flowers in my yard (again: 50 degrees). I had no time to dash out to the store for a quick bouquet (and let’s be real, there’s no dashing quickly anywhere with four little kids in tow). Where does one find freaking flowers at literally a moment’s notice?!

Then my eye fell on the bouquet on my kitchen table, which had been there for so long it had literally just faded into the rest of the scenery.

Weeks before — probably more like a month, if I’m being honest — my husband had run to the store for some stuff to make French toast and had come back with a bouquet of those brightly-dyed carnations. You know the ones: the cheap flowers in the buckets at the front of the grocery store that are all sorts of unnatural colors.

I quickly consulted the Teacher Appreciation flier, which said specifically that on Friday the kids should bring their teacher “a flower.” As in, one single flower, right? Not a huge bouquet. So I grabbed my aging bouquet and picked out a few of the freshest. Even those were beginning to brown a bit and curl up on the underside, so I trimmed off the older petals and voila. Good as a flower half its age! (Which would still be like two weeks old, but hey.) I loaded the kids into the car and shuttled them off to school, feeling triumphant.

Until I got to the drop-off lane in the school parking lot, where I noticed lots of other kids also carrying flowers inside.

Fresher-looking flowers.

Entire bouquets of fresher-looking flowers.

Entire bouquets of fresher-looking flowers with bows and tissue paper and cards attached which no doubt said something sweet like, “You deserve only FRESH flowers!”

No one else’s kid, it seemed, had brought used, marginally-droopy, month-old flowers that their mom had trimmed the dead petals off of.

I hope the boys’ teachers knew that despite the barrage of crappy gifts I had sent that week, I did —  and do — appreciate them. Like, a ton. More than I could ever say. It’s just that I was on solo-parent duty that particular Teacher Appreciation Week, and not crafty and creative to begin with, and possibly slightly losing my mind. I was like the flower my kid took to school: OK upon a quick glance, but actually ready to keel over at any moment.

So, teachers, if your students bring you a laughable Teacher Appreciation gift, consider this: it really is the thought that counts in some cases. Because you are the best, and you deserve the best … it’s just that, sometimes, the best is a little out of our grasp. To quote something I saw on Pinterest when I was browsing, with the absolute loftiest intentions: “Be kind – you never know what people are going through.”

Also, maybe — for your own benefit — don’t make Teacher Appreciation Week coincide with Beach Day.


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