NPR logo The American Family: Oh, The State We're In

Opinion

The American Family: Oh, The State We're In

Pat Dunnigan updates us on the State of the American Family, just in time for Obama's State of the Union. i

With all the dysfunctional communication, unlimited texting, and pre-teens coming down with Bieber fever, this year has been a wild ride for the American family. Edward J Bock III/iStockphoto hide caption

toggle caption Edward J Bock III/iStockphoto
Pat Dunnigan updates us on the State of the American Family, just in time for Obama's State of the Union.

With all the dysfunctional communication, unlimited texting, and pre-teens coming down with Bieber fever, this year has been a wild ride for the American family.

Edward J Bock III/iStockphoto

Commentator Pat Dunnigan records her musings on suburban culture at her blog, SuburbanKamikaze.com. Pat lives in the Chicago area.

Mr. Husband, Family Members, Neighbors and Distinguished Pets:

Tradition requires that, from time to time, we submit to the household information about the state of the family. Families have always done this, in good times and bad, even when no one is actually listening.

But if you could stop texting for just a minute, we are confident that we can come together in recognition that our common interest in a workable plan for managing laundry and trash pickup is stronger than the problems we face.

If the state of the family over the past year could be summed up in one word, that word would be "disarray." It's true.

From our finances to our cell phone plans to our completely dysfunctional system of communication, it's obvious that this family faces challenges our forefamilies could not have imagined.

It didn't help that Wall Street pulled the rug out from under the economy just as our children were hitting their teenage years. In hindsight, it probably wasn't such a good idea to get them used to the idea of regular meals or unlimited texting, but in our defense, no one could have foreseen the consequences of having invested the bulk of our savings in orthodontia.

It has been a tough year. No one knows this better than the man who juggles our bills, changes our light bulbs and strenuously avoids getting dragged into our disputes. We're talking about Dad, of course, and no State of the Family would be complete without acknowledging his tremendous contribution to our ongoing near-viability as a financial concern. Thanks to his efforts in an industry that is not yet completely obsolete, we are not yet living out of our car.

Dad teaches us that, no matter how strongly we may disagree with one another on the issues, he does not want to hear about it while Antiques Roadshow is on. He is still hoping there might be something in the basement that could make up for our lack of a college fund.

No matter how difficult things may be, there is no institution as resilient as the American Family. Just ask anyone who has ever tried to get out of Thanksgiving with the in-laws or spend the holidays on a cruise "just this once."

Essayist Pat Dunnigan lives in the Chicago area. i

Essayist Pat Dunnigan was named one of BlogHer's 2010 Voices of the Year in Humor. Fallon D. Kidwell hide caption

toggle caption Fallon D. Kidwell
Essayist Pat Dunnigan lives in the Chicago area.

Essayist Pat Dunnigan was named one of BlogHer's 2010 Voices of the Year in Humor.

Fallon D. Kidwell

Yes, the challenges are great, and the teenager is never going to remember which day to put the garbage out no matter what color Post-it note we use, but that does not dilute our faith that one day those ingenious folks at 3M will come up with one that children can actually see. Or that the Justin Bieber phenomenon won't last forever.

Keeping hope alive in the face of futility is the essence of the American Family. It defines us, along with our unwavering belief in home storage systems and our determination to give our children a better Internet connection than the one we had.

But that doesn't mean we can't do better. We know you have complaints. You've told us that there is never anything to eat in this house. That your friends have way better gaming systems. That you don't want to be our friend on Facebook.

We recognize that we have disappointed you. That is why we are setting up a Blue Ribbon Task Force charged with Setting the Bar Even Lower in 2011.

With diminished expectations and a generous supply of laundry additives, there is nothing we can't do.

Thank you. And God bless the American Family.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.