Dr Stephen Glenn stated in a lecture at Michigan State University in 1982 that the American family has changed as the American dream became a quest for each individual. As people immigrated during the turn of the 20th century and into the first three decades of that century the family was a clan of people. A typical house or several houses on the same street would have aunt, uncles, grandparents, cousins, and your own personal family all together. It was a coop type environment for of growing up where parents would interact with their children but aunts and uncle would share in the raising of each other’s children. Cousins and second cousins often would play together and create close bonds with each other. The relationship between brothers and sisters was also very close. Post WWII the housing boom of people moving out into their own independent dwelling began a shift in the dynamics of families in the U.S.
The term family values appear in the newspaper and are discussed on television particularly during election years. Everyone in some way would say they have strong family values yet comparing what we discuss in the U.S. as family values and the value of family throughout my experience in Pakistan I now wonder if in the U.S. we really understand the value of family in the manner that the Pakistan family is valued. Asim stated to me “I love cousins and second cousins, they are better than friends since they are family. There is a family bond of trust that is innate in the relationship of being cousins and second cousins that allows me to be able to share with them at a level that building a friendship with someone takes time to get to that level. I can actually talk more openly with my cousins sometimes about thing then with my brother because he is too close to the situation.”
I really admired the sense of family and the interdependence that the family plays in the daily lives of the people in Pakistan. I personally was the benefactor of the family system as I stayed in Pakistan. I would be introduced to one family member after another to the point of confusion of who was who and related to one another in what manner. With each new member of the family came the acceptance of that individual and the introduction of their entire connection of family members. My initial relationship level of being a guest suddenly would then transition into me being part of the family. In Pakistan with age comes a distinguished role that even a new outsider receives in the family clan as Auntie or Uncle. I felt the honor of being introduced to the children of various people in the family as this Uncle. Kerri and I have not had children in our lives directly yet indirectly through being aunt, uncle, teacher, and nanny. Being an uncle in a new family is a sense of real acceptance.
My entire experience in Pakistan began due to the family love Naeem has for his mother and father. Rukhsana’s sister’s son, Naveed, has ensured my care and my wellbeing during my time in Pakistan. Naeem, Naveed, and Rukhsana all enlisted a number of family members and family friends to spend time with me during my stay in Pakistan. Mujtaba’s bother Mustava took me into the fold of their family and accepting me as a brother in such a short period of time was really a process that was beyond the norm of acceptance in the United States. I was invited to Naeems in-laws where each member of the family arrived as I was there to say hi and spend time conversing with me in a manner of being part of their family system.
The family is a precious aspect of our existence. I like many U.S. citizens seem to only see family in rare instances for holidays and birthdays. Family is hardly involved in knowing what is happening in my and Kerri’s life. Families in Pakistan are not judgmental, though they may have differences of opinion; they simply accept one another’s points of view and manner that they choose to live out their lives. Family is always there for you. It is the system that is the net that allows no one to fall through the crack. It is the bond that keeps people from fading into anonymity.
I think the United States really needs to value the family and the family values will become more prevalent in our society as a whole through the family and not through the legislative and governing process.