I wrote something very similar to this about six years ago. And then about two weeks after, I wrote an column I called “Grandma had her rules, too.” So, this week, it will be about Daddy’s rules and next week about grandma’s.
Yes, Daddy had his rules. They were probably Mother’s rules, too. At least she adopted them and helped enforce them. She might have formulated some of them as far as I know. There was no “divide and conquer” in the Walker household. The rules were the rules, and we four children were expected to abide by them. And we did.
You didn’t wear a hat inside the house, much less at the meal table. Today, I see wedding announcements in the newspaper, and the picture of the grinning couple shows the “man” wearing a baseball cap. It wouldn’t surprise me to see the bride-to-be with a cap emblazoned with a large Atlanta Braves “A” on her pretty head. Perhaps my revulsion to this grows out of Daddy’s rule.
We didn’t slam doors in our house. Well, that’s wrong. I should say that if we slammed a door, we were admonished.
You didn’t eat before the blessing was asked. You could sip your tea, but you didn’t start eating until someone returned thanks. No exceptions. This was the rule.
I wasn’t allowed to play marbles “for keeps.” It was gambling, according to Daddy, and I was forbidden to gamble. Good thing. I wasn’t a very good marble shooter and didn’t own a very good toy. Marble shooters who played for keeps will understand. Maybe if I had played for keeps, I would’ve gotten better.
Daddy (and Mother) saw to it that I kept my hair cut. And woe unto me if I dyed my hair or tried to grow a ducktail. I won’t even get into tattoos or body piercing. I might as well have tried to rob a bank.
“Strong” language was a big no-no. Probably I was the only child in the family who ran afoul of this rule. The last spanking I ever got was when an aggravating (and he was) youngster reported to my parents that I had used the word “damn,” by telling them: “Larry told me they would take my ‘d-a-m’ pants off if I didn’t leave them alone.” His exact words and spelling.
My brothers, sister and I were expected to work. Around the house, yes. But as we got older, for the public. And you should know this: I was expected to get to work on time, regardless of whether I had played football the night before or had gone to the prom, getting home at a late time -- like, midnight.
The Bible says we (meaning good, God-fearing Methodists) were to keep the Sabbath holy. Daddy took this literally, as well he should, and we followed suit. We didn’t go to the movies, fish, hunt, work or wash the car on Sunday. We could watch television, when we finally got one. I generally don’t bird hunt (the only hunting I do, today) on Sunday. And when I fish on Sunday (which I frequently do) or go to the movie (which I have done, but seldom), I still have a feeling that I am violating one of Daddy’s rules.
Now, do I have to tell you how Daddy and Mother may have felt about drinking alcohol or smoking or pre-marital sex? I don’t think so. We shouldn’t violate the little rules, much less the big ones.
I’m not saying we didn’t ever break the rules. What I am saying is that there were rules. We understood them, and we knew that we were expected to abide by all of them. There were consequences for rule-breaking.
Am I complaining? Absolutely not. I am proud that my parents had rules -- set the parameters, explained the rules and expected us to do what they said. And there was much love and support and, in retrospect, tolerance. Isn’t that the way it is supposed to work? At least, isn’t that the way it works best?
‘Fessor Staples had discipline and rules. He became the winningest basketball coach in the country. Bear Bryant was a good coach and a great disciplinarian. Look at his record. The Roman army ruled the world for thousands of years. They knew about discipline. What about the United States Marines? I could go on and on. But the point is: You can’t have anything of much value without discipline. You need rules and discipline to have a successful football team, army, government, church, school or family.
We’ve lost lots of discipline in our society. It’s scary. But perhaps my view is a little distorted. For, after all, Daddy had his rules, and I was expected to abide by them. Thanks, Daddy and Mother. You did good. Better than I did, at times.
Larry Walker is a practicing attorney in Perry. He served 32 years in the Georgia General Assembly and presently serves on the University System of Georgia Board of Regents. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.