One of the the things that almost all human beings share is the hope that their lives will have an impact on the world; even the most humble of us hope, that on some level, their lives are not being lived in vain, that their presence has a lasting effect on the world. The fear that this is not the case, that they as people do not matter for anything is, as I said once a while ago, the engine that drives the Pattersons’ less lovely behavior. So far, we’ve seen:
- Elly’s non-stop dread that all she’s good for is wiping up runny noses, laundering socks and baking cookies. The notion that all her hopes and dreams are for naught terrifies her and makes her lash out at the symbols of her fear: her children.
- Mike was consumed with the dread that since Lizzie was there, his parents no longer needed him around; rather than be shoved into a corner like an afterthought, he struck back at what he thought was the cause of all his problems: his baby sister.
- When Elly was pregnant with April, Liz was convinced that with the new baby on the way, everyone would forget about the old baby.
- April’s main concern about the Housening was the legitimate fear that her opinion about the move didn’t matter.
You may no doubt have noticed that their fear of being shoved aside and forgotten blinds them to the emotional needs of others; on the occasion that it does register, they’d tell the other party not to make them feel bad. This came into play when John shot down Elly’s proposal to take a part-time job when Mike entered grade school. Unlike other men who either thought that they were protecting their wives from the cruel world of Big Business or the lads who didn’t want to be thought of as bums that needed the little missus to cover their asses instead of being able to give them the life they deserved on their own, John’s reasoning is based on the fear of not being necessary. Unlike Don Draper or Max Klinger, John’s reasoning was based on fear of his wife, not a warped sort of chivalry; he seems to me to have believed that if Elly was able to support herself and the kids, he was more or less obsolete; instead of his home, it would be Elly’s. This is because he's afraid of being obsolete as the rest of them and doesn't care about his fellow panicky idiots.