My daughter Emily has bought herself a car.
Aside from the scary implications of having a daughter let loose on the open road, it has raised some interesting questions about how we relate to our possessions. Emily had decided not to put any pictures on FB as she had seen too many other ‘look what I have got, look at my lovely stuff’ kind of pictures.
We rehearsed the arguments; it is 13 years old, and you saved up to buy it and are working to run it. Living between Dunoon and Stirling, it makes economic sense. etc., but Emily still felt uncomfortable enough to want to shrink from public celebration of acquisition- she often makes me proud and hopeful like that…
Our intimate relationship with the stuff we own is rarely more intense than with our first car. Not just the fact that it is OURS, but what it represents- freedom, adulthood, the wide horizon of life. Forget the practicalities of insurance, running costs, repairs. Some of this feels good, wholesome, worthy even. It is symbolic of watching our children spreading their wings, making the world for themselves, setting off on their own adventure.
Like most of human endevour, good is shadowed by not-so-good.
There is the environmental impact of car ownership, and the fact that it is a normalised expectancy of all of us that our modes of travel should be individualised motor boxes.
There is also the seduction (soon to become an addiction) of acquisition. It is the means by which we make ourselves feel good, or to feel acceptable, or even to be a valuable member of our societies.
Our children have learned these things from us. And they start young. Check out some of the research here.
It is my hope, and my experience, that my kids have learned other things from us too however- including how we see ownership as responsibility. So if you have a car and others do not, there is a responsibility on you to use it not just for your benefit, but also for the benefit of others. I have not a shadow of a doubt that Emily will do this, and this makes me happy…