When I was a teacher at Sunday school for high school and college students, one day I had them do a little writing exercise. We were covering the topics of materialism versus contentment so I asked each of them to think back to when they were younger and write down the happiest times in their lives. Can you guess what they did NOT write down?
I do not remember a single one writing things like “when I got my first iPhone,” “when I got my first barbie,” or “when I was left alone to play my video games.” Nope. They wrote things like “that time dad and I did this” or “the time we spent it together doing this and that.” I think back to my own childhood and the happiest times all have to do with spending time laughing and enjoying the company of someone that I loved. That was especially true for the time I spent at Rolling Timbers (a campground) where we would run around and have fun with family and friends. Interestingly enough, it was also the time in my childhood when we were the poorest.
Now that I am a mother, my husband and I have made a decision about how we are going to invest our time and money. We decided to use the lessons from our own childhoods and invest our time interacting with our daughters even if it means working less and making less money. What money we may have, we try using it to help build relationships with our kids. If we buy material things, it is to help them enjoy the relationships with their friends, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. The smiles on my daughters’ faces makes it all worth it.
So, if you are going to buy your kids material things, buy them things that will encourage them to spend time with somebody: a baseball to play catch with dad, a book to read with mom, a board game to play with the family. If you are going to splurge, splurge on vacations or trips together to help build memories. God created us to love and to be loved. It is no wonder then that when we feel loved is also when we are the happiest.