Where We Messed Up: Battling Materialism in your Children

Admitting that somewhere along the line you have messed up is hard.

Admitting that we’ve said something hurtful, done something hurtful, or just intentionally done something to someone for reasons unknown…is hard.

Accepting the mistakes. Admitting your flaws. Asking forgiveness….is hard.

But, I don’t know that there is anything quite as eye opening and as difficult to acknowledge as the moment when you realize that you have let down your children might be the toughest pill to swallow.


Don’t get me wrong. I knew before Noah was born that I would never be the perfect parent. And I fashioned myself before I ever gave birth to never say never where he or any other children we might have were concerned. We made the best decisions we could for him early on. Choosing to attempt breastfeeding, but going with the best formula we could afford when that didn’t work. We bought “the best” bottles, all of the right baby toys, we didn’t cry it out when we transitioned him to his own bed…choice after choice, we did what we thought to be the best for him.

Then we moved to Kodiak.

Let me pause here and say that I’m not one of those people who places blame on my circumstances or situations when something isn’t right. Truly I’m not. But for anyone who has ever lived in Kodiak…lived in the dreariness and isolation. Lived with the ridiculously long winters and the never ending precipitation of some sort…lived with the obnoxiously long hours of extended darkness or the even more frustrating hours of daylight, you know that it’s a lot easier to talk about being able to “hack it” than it is to actually do it.

Kodiak was a big change for us (obviously) but an even bigger change for Noah. He was barely two when we moved. He’d had relatively easy access to all of his grandparents since he was born. The whole family for the most part was there when I went into labor. He had access to plenty of outside play time, lots of sunshine, the beach, the pool, and even just plain ole’ dirt that he could mess with. Kodiak, offers none of those things. We are 6,000 miles from family. There is gravel here but next to no real dirt. The beaches are made up of rocks and the water is too frigid to swim in. It’s not the norm that he was accustomed to.


We had hoped to get Noah involved in some extracurricular stuff out here, but since he was so small there was nothing he could partake in. No baseball. No football. He was too young for soccer and karate and swimming and even the gym here on base is restricted for free play several times a day.

So Josh and I slowly, but surely, began to buy his happiness with toys and material junk.

And with that, we began to unknowingly instill in him a sense of materialism.

And we’ve slowly fallen trap to the same things that I always said I hoped I would never succumb to…giving into our children’s every want to keep them pacified and keep them happy; only to learn that their “happiness” is short lived and when you jump on this gravy train, it’s a battle to get off.

We’ve made the transition into less “stuff” and more quality toys and games and more family togetherness…the things that matter. We donated and sold off almost everything Noah had in terms of toys. The action figures, the majority of the MatchBox and HotWheels cars, the plastic stuff that breaks within weeks of putting it together. It’s all gone.

What we are left with is two boxes of different sized building blocks, a variety of legos (both the Duplo style and the regular ones), a handful of cars, and some Lincoln Logs. We kept two or three action figures (small, Imaginext style ones) and that’s it. Jonah has his few Little People toys and then he shares the rest of the toys that his brother has.

We have seen a HUGE difference in Noah’s behavior, how he interacts with and entertains his brother, his interest in learning new things, and his willingness to sit down and let us read to him. There are no toys allowed at the dinner table anymore and we don’t take toys in the car with us. The only exception to the “in the car rule” is his puppy…who has gone everywhere with us since he was one.

Our whole family and our whole existence is less stressful and more engaging than it has been. My house is not nearly as cluttered and overrun with junk and the bedtime “put away your toys” routine is quick and simple with no whining.

We realize now where we messed up and how we were trying to compensate for being away from so much that seemed normal to Noah by buying him toys. Instead of compensating, all we did was instill a sense of materialism that we have finally done away with.

Have you and your family ever struggled with materialism? Have your kids? How did you handle it?



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