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Analysing Lawrence H. Fuchs’s essay “The American Way of Families”

Is the Dream Really as Sweet as Apple Pie? There were a few aspects of Lawrence H. Fuchs’s essay The American Way of Families that I found extraordinarily interesting. He discusses influences of the modern American family that I found quite bizarre. Fuch also labels the key component to the American family as being none other than the gratification and pursuit of one’s own self being. The most bizarre thing that overcame after reading this piece was that I found myself to be in total agreement with Fuch. That is what scared me. I realized that something that is supposed to be so stable in one’s own life is really as “cut and dry” as we would like to believe. In essence, the main premise of human existence is satisfying yourself; at every level down to your basic foundation. We fight to make our own lives better at times even at the cost of others. This holds true in almost every arena of society that I tried to imagine after reading Fuch’s essay. The only area of life that this struggle to satisfy yourself above and beyond all does not pertain in my opinion is religion: it is impossible to worship a being and try to overcome that being at the same time. Whether it involves fighting to be on top in the workplace or playing dirty to win a sporting event; almost all Americans have the fire burning within them that compels them to reach their goal or self satisfaction. In reading The American Way of Families, it occured to me that the struggle for pleasing one’s own self existed even in the family. I don’t think that after reading this piece that anyone can deny the existence of this urge in themselves. The urge exists in every form. No matter how picture perfect the family may be perceived, each member of that household wants to please themselves. In this quest to satisfy the appetite of happiness we often overlook the feelings of others. For instance, suppose that in a family that consisted of two college graduates in the role of parent, were faced with a child (that they brought up with all of their values and good intentions) that suddenly decides that he or she wants to move to Hollywood to become a rock star. It is almost by instinct that these parents will not approve of their child’s decision. They do not want to lie about what their child is doing when their friends(who coincidentally all have children in college) ask, “Hey, what’s Johnny and Sally up to theses days?” Quite to the contrary, most parents want to be able to tell their friends straight in the eye that their kid is going to school to learn to be a doctor just like them. When Fuch mentioned in his piece, “In America a new kind of family system emerged, based on the search of individual members for personal independence.”, I realized that he was talking about my family and every other family in America. It soon dawned upon me at this point that in America each member of a household has his or her own agenda and we set out to fulfill it any expense; even by going astray from our very own blood. Another aspect of The American Way of Families struck me as very odd. Not once in all of Lawrence Fuch’s essay is the word “love” implied or written. I believe that this emotion does not exist the same way today that it was in generations past. Now in the nineties, love has its terms, limits and even legal boundaries. No longer in America is the love between a mother and child sacred. This was evident in the past year when a judge in Florida granted a child there a divorce from his parents. The word love was not mentioned in this essay because it is not able to be mixed with independence. Love in my opinion is a codependence between two people. At this point I began to wonder if love even existed anymore in the American Family. Here I was reading an essay on the modern American family written by an esteemed expert on the subject and he happened to forget to include the meaning of love in a family. Its importance must have fell wayside to the philosophies of great poets such as Ralph Waldo Emerson And Henry David Thoreau and their respective contributions to the mannerisms of the modern American family. Personally, I am only familiar with the little portions of these poet’s works that I was fed in high school. I questioned my parents of these men’s influence on their parenting and they were aware of none. Then, I asked myself, “How does my family play into the “American Way of Families”?” It is true in my own family that each of us is ambitious toward our own self – satisfaction. At times we will hurt or offend each other in order to pleases ourselves. This usually occurs when my brother and I used to fight over certain responsibilities; feeding the dog for instance. Just as Fuch noted about the importance of self-satisfaction in the American culture, my brother and I would follow that in this case. He would be satisfied if he didn’t have to do the chore, likewise I would have been equally as satisfied if he had to do it. Our satisfaction would come from the sheer labor and grief of the other feeding the pet knowing that we both shared distaste in this job. One day it all changed. I offered to feed the dog. My brother was having a bad day and I, OUT OF LOVE, fed the dog for him without a battle. I ignored my own satisfaction to enhance his own. In the longrun though, I found gratification because we began to take turns without fighting thus we came to terms. that is why I don’t agree with Thoreau or Emerson on the importance of independence. From the experiences that I have had with my family I believe that life is much more fulfilling at home by living the philosophy, “Give a little, take a little.” This Fuch’s essay almost made me believe that no love existed in the American family; that life centers around one’s self. if this were true the word “family” would mean nothing to the average American. To me it means a home that I can always turn to and a place were people care about my troubles. Of course independence and personal agenda are vital to each and every one of us but in order to say that “we love” or “are loved” that independence must be compromised. Two key components of a family were missing from Lawrence H. Fuch’s, The American Way of Family. They were sacrifice and love. With the absence of these two very important words comes the absence in my agreement with his views.

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