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Berdine's Corner

Berdines Rules for

by Deborah E. Dennard

berdine dennard
Berdine Dillard Dennard

Life Lessons from a Matriarch

Berdine Dillard Dennard

by Deborah E. Dennard

It is amazing the things we remember about our upbringing. Some are very insignificant, but somehow they remain lodged in our minds. Others are life-changing, and they shape the persons we become. A few editions back, I wrote about the advice my mama gave me as a young lady...rules for grooming, rules for underwear, and where to look for a good man. Those stories have stayed with me through the test of time; however, the guidelines my mama taught me as a child are also priceless. Maybe some of the things she taught me will be of help to someone who is raising a child.

Rule #1: Children are the parents' responsibility. Although my grandparents occasionally kept us when both parents had to work, my mama did not believe in putting us off on other people to keep. She kept us near her. In fact, we had to ask permission to leave the yard, even to ride the bike. Sometimes she would say yes; other times, she would say no, and we would just have to ride the bike in our driveway. To make matters worst, our next door neighbors were our cousins, and we had to have permission to go over their house to play in the yard. Again, sometimes she would allow us to visit; other times, we would have to play at the fence. My mama said people didn't want children running in and out of their houses. In fact, we weren't even allowed to ask to use the restroom or to go into the house while there. I realize now that I am an adult now, she was right. It is okay for children to visit from time to time, but there is a limit.

Rule #2: Everyone in the household has a job. My mama definitely did not believe in waiting on children. As soon as we were able to contribute to the household, we had a job. Roy and I used to have a week each to wash the dishes. Kenney was a little boy and was responsible for emptying all of the small trash cans until he was old enough to be put in the dishes rotation (and washing dishes meant cleaning the kitchen - sweeping the floor, cleaning the stove and table, and wiping everything down). In addition, we each had a week to clean the bathroom. Also, we each had to mop the floors from time to time. When the boys were old enough, they began mowing the lawn and raking the yard. Meanwhile, she and I rotated turns ironing everybody's clothes each week. (I detest ironing to this day!). Today I am a good cook because my mama refused to allow me to sit in a room doing nothing as she cooked. I had to help. As she cooked, she would guide me as I helped prepare food. Eventually, I was preparing entire meals.

Rule #3: Children must be held accountable for their behavior. I think I can honestly say that Roy, Kenney and I were good kids. However, even good kids need to be reprimanded. I guess that's how we continued to be good kids. We would get in trouble for not doing chores, getting bad grades, talking and playing in church, taking something of our siblings' that didn't belong to us, being destructive, lying about it, arguing and fighting with each other. One of my brothers who shall remain nameless was always sneaking and doing something and lying about it. If she didn't know who did it, that didn't stop Berdine. She would get everyone. She said that she knew she had gotten the culprit and the rest of us probably had done something anyway. (I never quite liked that one). Many times, this led to our butts getting beat again because I was definitely going to get my brother back for lying and getting us in trouble. If we were not at home and got in trouble, my mama didn't humiliate us by punishing us there. She would simply say, "I'm gonna beat your butt when we get back home." That was the worst punishment in the world because sometimes we would get in trouble in the morning. We would be good the rest of the day, having a good time, laughing and talking with her, hoping she would forget. As soon as we got home, she would tell the culprit, "Now, come on in here, so I can beat your butt." She never forgot.

Rule #4: Everything has a price. As kids, we were like everyone else. We wanted the latest styles as well as the newest toys and games. My mama never told us we couldn't have it. We always knew there was a budget. For example, we might have $200 to get school clothes. If we were determined to get sneakers that cost $100, then the rest of our clothes, including underwear had to come from that. We learned the value of money quickly. Sometimes it was worth it to have that big price item, other times, we would pass. My mama taught us that you cannot have everything you want, especially if you cannot afford it. We always had what we needed, but she did not believe in spoiling kids.

I've shared just a few of the lessons my mama taught us as kids. These lessons are still with the three of us today. I believe we are better adults because of her and my daddy's lessons. Whether we admit it or not, we all live by rules. I may be biased, but I believe Berdine's rules are some good ones to live by.


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