We have two kids. For the most part, age and other factors permitting, my husband and I try to treat them equally. But the fact is that life is not fair, and no matter how we treat our children, we have very little control over their experiences once they step out the door.

Recently, my daughter, who began first grade this fall, was informed by the other girls that her simple stickers were not expensive or fancy enough to warrant them swapping with her. One girl even asked my daughter to pay her a dollar for the privilege of coloring with her markers, explaining that she was saving up for new stickers. This was my daughter's introduction to the fact that even in a world of identical uniforms and hairstyles, small differences, like the value of your sticker collection, still matter a lot.

It was a small investment in her social life that yielded big rewardsWe treated her to new stickers. It was a small investment in her social life that yielded big rewards. Although I was happy that this problem could be solved so easily, I was also saddened by the presence of such rampant commercialism in her school. Is it my imagination, or were my classmates and I really so much more innocent and less consumer savvy?

I never would have dreamed of charging someone to use my crayons. But then, I collected pine cones, and kept a zip-lock bag of rainbow colored eraser shavings. Yet in my daughter's world, already beginning in first grade, status carries a price tag.

We also had ways of measuring status, but it seemed to go by athletic prowess rather than purchasing power. My status went up in accordance with my hop-scotching ability, but stagnated when it became known that I couldn't jump rope.

I went to school with friends both wealthier and poorer than myself. There were things that I had, and things that I didn't. For instance, I still remember the day I discovered that one of my friends owned over a hundred Barbie dolls. I myself owned five dolls, and an extensive collection of clothes. Yet even as a child, I understood that one hundred dolls was too much. My friend couldn't love one hundred dolls, and they lived in a sad state of half-dressed neglect. Each of my dolls changed their clothes daily, usually before I even went to school in the morning.

My daughter's school administration is aware that the school sticker trade has become overly commercialized, and they even considered banning sticker albums from the school this year. However in the end they conceded that this was not a solution, nor would it be appropriate to deprive the girls of something that gave them such pleasure.

It is not a solution because Judaism is not a religion that advocates asceticism. The Torah serves as a guide for how to live in the world, and partake of its pleasures, while maintaining a spiritual existence. Our sages even teach us that Purim has a measure of spirituality not achieved even on Yom Kippur, because on Purim we are fully involved in the physical world whereas the spiritual heights achieved on Yom Kippur are achieved through abstinence (fasting, seclusion in prayer, refraining from wearing shoes refraining from bathing, refraining from marital relations). (Tikkunei Zohar)

She is not ashamed to show off her own collectionYet the indisputable fact remains that for every girl who derives pleasure from the glitter of her sticker collection, there is another girl who suffers from her stickers' own lack of glitz. My daughter falls somewhere in the middle. She is not ashamed to show off her own collection, although there are sticker collectors who are clearly out of her league.

Yet for me, it is not enough to know that my daughter is holding her own in the sticker trade. I want her to know that the stickers which dazzle us when they are wrapped up in cellophane in the store sometimes lose their sparkle when you take them home.

I also want her to know that sometimes girls with lousy sticker collections make great friends. That's because you can't purchase loyalty, creativity, or even fun, along with your stickers. You have to develop them for yourself. And developing these great friendship qualities is not dependant upon the amount of stickers you purchase, or cajole your parents into purchasing for you.

Even more, I want her to know that sometimes trading stickers is not about what you get in return. It's about what you can give. Sometimes, it is worth swapping stickers with someone who won't be able to give you what you really want if you can make them genuinely happy. It's those moments when stickers really can bring happiness that make the trade worthwhile.

It sounds small, I know. But it's the beginning of values. The Torah protects us from crash materialism by giving us values and spiritual principles to employ while we negotiate the physical world. (The Path of the Just, chapter 1) These first grade girls have already learned about the glamour of the stickers, a modest introduction to the world of material wants (not needs). Now, as parents, we need to teach them about the values that will allow them to navigate that world with finesse.