Gospel of the Car Ad: “Got Kids? Need Car.”

Today’s Toronto Star presented a lovingly written first person account, by one Gideon Forman, of his experience bringing up children in Toronto. Here’s the kicker: The guy doesn’t even own a car.

I don’t have a car. I don’t even know how to drive. Nearly every day, I thank God for this situation.

Is this messed up or what?

Actually, it’s not so unusual. Fact is, over half of the households in the core of Toronto are “without access to a car” (in the parlance of the statistical types who compile this sort of info). This proportion is even higher in cities like New York, where density and public transit is that much greater. And the proportion of carfree households grows by leaps and bounds when you leave North America.

Households with cars are an aberation.

Contrary to the Gospel of the Car Ad, The car is not necessary to having a family.

Forman’s story is pretty compelling. On the one hand, he writes about his two children, ages 11 and 8, and his journeys with them, on foot and by public transit, to points near and far across Toronto. On these trips he is able to hold conversations and hands with them, touching their lives in a way someone driving a car is never able to.

When we go walking, we hold hands. I enjoy the warmth and pressure of their fingers pressing my knuckles.

On the other hand, Forman writes with wry sadness about his own upbringing, in New York City, where his father would drive him and his sister everywhere:

When I was a child in father’s car, the search for parking was an activity in itself, a ritual, a category. I remember times we drove downtown intending to visit the Museum of Modern Art. We circled the block repeatedly seeking a spot. We drove a few blocks afield east. We drove a few west. And then we turned around and headed home. There was no place to put the station wagon.

Forman is doing his kids a huge favour in walking them to their varied destinations, and in a way he hasn’t written about here.

According to the philosopher and educator Rudolph Steiner, children absorb knowledge from their surroundings in a specific pattern, one that contributes to the development of their will.

Steiner encouraged parents to model behaviour that shows how one’s actions in the world produce results: sweeping the floor clean is such an action, while plugging in a vacuum cleaner is not. Singing or telling a story is such an action, while turning on the television or the radio is not.

Similarly, we hold that walking or bicycling with one’s child is such an action, while pushing the accelerator pedal is not.

Forman’s article, with its simultaneous air of wistfulness and pleasure, mirrors our own experience. Where he regrets his father using the car as an excuse to not connect, we remember with pleasure our own father bumping us over sidewalk curbs as we sat in the childseat on his bicycle while he rode us to school.

We hope Forman has good memories of his childhood to balance the wistful ones, and we congratulate him on making choices to ensure his own kids’ memories will include much that shows love and commitment.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.