The Material Doesn’t Matter

I live in Palo Alto, which is a pretty wealthy neighborhood.  Add in the fact that there are a lot of only children, and you have a lot of kids whose rooms look like an FAO Schwarz showroom.

Under those circumstances, a lot of parents are tempted to make sure that their kids get all the same toys as their friends.  After all, they don’t want their kids to suffer the “hardship” of not having their own iPad.

I don’t subscribe to that philosophy, and not just because I’m a cheap bastard (though I am).

When I was growing up, I lived in Santa Monica, which is a pretty wealthy neighborhood.  And while I certainly didn’t lack for anything growing up–after all, our family got our first personal computer (an Apple II+) when I was 7–it’s also the case that I had fewer toys than most of my friends.  Much of my childhood was spent scheming ways to get to go over to other people’s houses so I could play with their toys and video systems.

Yet while I was somewhat jealous of my friends who had Super Nintendo systems (we never upgraded from the Atari 2600, and I spent a *lot* of time playing the text-based “Tuesday Night Football” game on the Apple II+, the fact that I didn’t get everything I wanted didn’t bother me that much or affect my happiness.

Beyond a certain point, the material doesn’t matter.  The bigger house, the expensive toys, the luxury car–none of that actually makes your kids any happier.  In some sad cases, unlimited wealth only causes misery.

Your kids need your love, not your money.

P.S. Let me again emphasize that I’m solely talking about the “first world problems” of kids; anyone who’s suffered real deprivation understands that the material is all that matters when you don’t have enough of it.

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