Mum shunned for refusing to pay for pricey teacher's gift
BATTLELINES have well and truly been drawn in the schoolyard.
But disturbingly it's not between the kids this time - instead, it's their parents who are setting a fine example in the lead-up to the festive season.
Now, when poor *Sophie does school pickup she feels the waves of judgement coming from other parents.
She sees mums she once considered close friends standing on the other side of the playground, blatantly ignoring her.
The NSW mum lives in fear of the conflict affecting her son - that the six-year-old will stop being invited to birthday parties and playdates.
To her, it seems crazy that this drama has started over something so small and extremely petty, she told Kidspot.
Did she usurp the president of the P& C? Nope.
Did she cheat on one of their husband's? Not even close. Brace yourself - as it's a cracker (pardon the pun).
Sophie decided not to give money to send her son's kindergarten teacher for a gourmet weekend away at a winery for Christmas.
"It seemed very excessive to give teachers such expensive presents, so I said no," Sophie tells Kidspot.
As the end of her son's first year of primary school approached, getting a present for his teacher was the last thing on Sophie's mind.
At preschool, some parents did give presents but it was much more low-key, with kids often making the gifts for their teachers.
"If you did it - then you did. But if you didn't - it wasn't the same pressure, it wasn't about the money," she explains.
"But now there is all this pressure on parents to come up with the perfect gift - or spend a lot of money."
Sophie is talking about an unexpected Facebook message that went out in October asking parents to give money for a weekend away for the kindergarten teacher and her partner which involves a three-course fine dining meal.
"I'm surprised I'm in the minority of people who think this is not normal, the majority of people are just going along with it," she says.
"I'm just absolutely gobsmacked this is a thing in school now."
It's not that she doesn't think teachers deserve a gift - it's more that she thinks parents have gone overboard in how much they give.
Not only are parents giving around $50 towards the group gift - but Sophie says many are also purchasing individual presents including spa vouchers, musical tickets and movie passes.
"It's just crazy," she says.
"I've never experienced anything like this before.
"I don't know whether we are competing to be seen to be good parents or whether they don't want to miss out because of the peer pressure."
Sophie says she also thinks some parents might be going overboard in the gift department to give their kids an edge in the classroom.
"I think that teachers will then favour people who have given them expensive presents," she said.
"It is more competitive now, where people want the best for their child in that they want that extra attention from the teacher and the way to do that is buying gifts."
If that's the motivation then Sophie is seriously concerned where this all ends.
"If you give it to one teacher one year then you've got to do it for the whole of their school life - and that gets really expensive for parents," she says.
"I know the teachers work hard but I don't think they deserve a $500 pamper pack at a spa.
"I know people who are doing it just to be in the group, to be included, but I'd like to think I'm being a role model for my son."
So despite the juvenile treatment from other parents, Sophie is sticking to her guns and recently went to Kmart to purchase a small present for the teacher.
"I'm not going to give in to the peer pressure," she says.
"Putting in big wads of cash is not giving him that experience - that joy of giving - so we got a little gift that he picked, that he can wrap and he can give to the teacher himself.
"It shouldn't be the expectation that they get expensive gifts every year."
*Name has been changed