Growing up there were certain house rules which were common in most house holds. Our family was not unique. And in hindsight they were clearly all for our own benefit and were put own place to make sure we grew up safe and responsible. Some of the House rules we have adapted for our own family. I have translated most of the rules into Shona my mother tongue because most of these rules were delivered in the mother tongue I guess so nothing would be lost in translation!
1. Corporal Punishment
Being christians my parents firmly believed and practiced the ‘’spare the rod, spoil the child” principle. That duty was my fathers! Certain offences resulted in a belting the biggest being disobedience, stealing, breaking window, lying. But the last time we got a belting was when I was in grade 6. From then on my parents never belted us. For all the times I was belted I never felt we were unjustly punished. One time I pretended to sleep when I broke the window and my father had traveled. I was asked to wake up got my packet of Things he had brought for me and my belting and went to bed! I am grateful for the discipline we got. It taught us that there are physical consequences for our actions.
2. No Watching TV before bathing (Hakuna anona TV asina kugeza)
When we grew up TVs were a luxury and we were fortunate to have a TV in our home which also meant that all the friends who came to play with us would also join us when it was time for TV. Then TV only started at around 4pm so we would spend the better part of the day outdoors playing so when TV time came we would rush to switch on the TV. And without Fail my mum would be there to ask us if we had bathed. No Endai munogeza! (go and bath!). My friends would run home to bath and be back in a jiffy. There was a lot of cheating which my mum easily caught out! Clearly as much as personal hygiene was one of the concerns my mum also didn’t ant to have to do any extra work in cleaning the house.
3. Strict Curfew
The sun going down behind Mount Sheni was our cue to get home. We had no watches and that was a clear sign that we couldn’t miss. We had to get back home. Breaking curfew was punishable by a belting so sometimes we would be running to make sure we got back in time. A bleak reminder that a belting was pending was when we were coming from where ever we were and the street lights would be on! The only time we were allowed to break curfew was during the rainy season when we went out to catch ishwa (edible flying ants). The curfew was for our one safety as night time is generally not a safe time to be moving around, for kids or for adults!
4. Working the Fields
Going Kumunda (Fields of maize etc) was compulsory . The whole family had to go. Being raised in the city meant that we didn’t have large pieces of land to farm, but most families always tried to have a small patch where they could grow maize, beans, sweet potatoes and other agricultural products. The labour for these was our responsibility. My father used to say munoda kudya asi hamudi kushanda (You like to eat but you don’t like the work associated with it). Some families would wake up really early and did the work before the sun came up but my father was more flexible as he would allow us to go anytime so long as the daily quota was met. These were early lessons for us to install a sense of hard work and to eat to enjoy the fruits of our labour.
5. No Fighting and Swearing (Hakuna kurovana nekutukana)
Fighting and Swearing were not tolerated. My dad did not allow us to even use the word pfutsek (A word which we thought was Shona but is actually Afrikaans and is spelt voetsek). He said that word was only used on dogs. I grew up not swearing and but in form two when more and more boys and girls were using profanities regularly and candidly in moment of frustration I used the F word. And one of my friends said your swore! And he laughed. It felt awkward and I am glad my friend laughed at me because I knew that just wasn’t for me and ever since that day I have not seen the need to use profanities
6. Supper Time was Family Time
Supper time was family time. At a time when prime time TV was truly family friendly everyone sat down to have dinner. No one was allowed to eat on their own or even eat in the kitchen or bedroom. We all had to join each other at the table at the same time. The last to sit would be responsible for bringing to the table any extras left out like salt sauces etc. To switch off the TV for grace. This only applied to the children off course. We got to understand the importance of quality family time.
7. Daily Chores
Chores were never a form of punishment, they were mandatory and part of our lives. whether we were good or naughty the chores had to be done. the boys did everything and there were some chores the girls didn’t do. From washing dishes, feeding the chickens, sweeping the yard or gardening. Chores were always a prerequisite before we went out to play. Though at times we asked if our friends could help it, more hands, less time spent on chores, more time to play! Chores helped us to understand that there were basic responsibilities which we had to take care of.
8. Leaving the house to go out
Before you left the house to go and play we had notify someone. If it was far we had to seek permission first. We could not just leave the house and go out without saying anything. Even if it meant we informed the next door neighbours if there was no-one present at home. But the main reason for this was to ensure that somebody always knew where we were. Even as an adult I still inform my wife even if i am going outside to just sit and sketch.
My father was a pastor so going to church was not negotiable. If we were under his roof we had to go to church. Sunday mornings had some exciting TV programmes which we only heard about at school. We felt like we were missing out but we grew out of that. I give credit to my dad because he was consistent with what he believed and practised what he preached. That played a big role in my own faith and my parents set a good example for me of what a good marriage should be. And I put it down to their fear of God. By the time we were in high school my parents were working in another city and we continued going to church without the need to be forced. It was our choice. My parents insisted on that because they knew it was good for our moral upbringing.
9. Pets Welfare
We had lots of pets! Rabbits, dogs, cats, guinea pigs sometimes all at once and also at different times. I respect my parents for their patience in allowing us to have so many pets! If we were to have pets it was our responsibility to ensure that they were fed, if we needed to go for jabs we had to do it. Guinea pigs and rabbits meant we had to go to the forest to get the grass and various plants that they ate. When the pets started making noise cos of hunger my dad always threatened with taking them away and giving the away or setting them free. It helped us to value all lives, whether they were animals or humans.
Our bed time was ushered in by a soundtrack, the 8’clock news theme with the drums. Once that came up it was time to sleep. Only on fridays we could stay late where we watched Friday the 13th and Tales from the Dark side. Sleeping early ensured we got the rest we needed to grow up healthy and to be fresh for the new day!
These were the main house rules we had. Other families had some which we would hear about, one being musadyire kumaraini (don’t eat at the neighbours house). I guess it was mainly to keep track of what the kids ate in case of sickness. We never had that and my mum was very generous and wouldn’t have kids spend the whole day at our house without eating. These rules raised us and we certainly duplicate most of them. Most of these rules naturally fell away as we got older. I think if you reach late teens and have to have more than half of these rules still being enforced then as a child you might just be a problem! As a parent I also realise the importance of these house rules, and its an everyday practice to enforce them as we live by the proverb train a child in the way he must go and when he gets old he will not leave it. Training that brings desired results is consistent and requires persistence.
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