I couldn’t decide on the title for this post- ‘Our Southern Fathers’ looked wrong…’The Southern Dad’ wasn’t right either, so I went with pure simplicity, which is what most Southern children called our fathers- Daddy. We either said ‘Mother or Momma’…but rarely- called our daddies- ‘Father’. Even grown southern men call their fathers – ‘Daddy’.
Most southern men are not big talkers to their children. Here’s how it goes:
- Southern Mother (SM) – ‘Go ask your daddy’
- Southern Daddy (SF) ‘What did your momma say?’
- Southern Daughter (SD) ‘She said to ask you!’ SD – ‘Well whatever y’all decide is fine with me’.
The most potent tool a Southern Mother has, is not ‘Just wait ’til you daddy gets home’- it’s this: ‘If you get yourself in trouble..it will break your daddy’s heart!’ As far as their daughters’ clothing- Southern Mothers have many opinions on that but Southern Daddies say:
- ‘Well, don’t you look pretty!’
- ‘You’ll be the prettiest girl there.’
- ‘You look just like your momma, maybe prettier.’
Here are some actual examples of Southern Daughters interacting with Southern Daddies:
- SD: ‘Do these shoes look funny?’
- SF: ‘Well they’re not hilarious.’
- SD: ‘My hair looks awful!’
- SF: ‘No worse than usual.’
- SD: ‘Here Daddy, try this, you’ve always liked this casserole.’
- SF: lengthy pause- says nothing-
- SD: ‘Daddy, what do you think?’
- SF: ‘Well, it’s not up to your usual high standards, darlin’
Southern men are more likely to introduce ‘risk’ into the lives of their children. They teach their sons how to hunt, fish, plow, work on cars, drive tractors, start fires, cut the grass, throw baseballs or footballs- at a much younger age than Southern Mothers approve of; with daughters, Southern Daddies introduce swimming in the ocean, going up on high water slides, riding fast and high carnival rides, playing skee ball; they teach play-to-win Dominoes or Monopoly, to develop the killer instinct. In return, a Southern Daddy will allow their daughters to play hairdresser and put rollers, bobby pins, hair clasps even hair bows- patiently putting up with ‘fixing’ Daddy’s hair. Southern Daddies like to show off by tossing their children in the air, or holding an infant in one hand. He will put together swing sets, rope swings – install virtual playgrounds with whatever he can get his hands on. Southern Daddies prefer to teach their own children how to drive cars and impress upon them the ‘rules of the road’.
In the South, watching football begins in infancy- with Daddy holding the baby like a football while the baby goes ‘uh-oh, uh-oh’ every time a player is tackled. Soon the daughters are calling football plays and players’ names and numbers and statistics just as well as the sons are. You must always remember a Southern Daddy wants to do all of this because in his heart, he never got to play as much as he wanted to when he was a little boy.
When a Southern Daughter brings home a young man to meet her Southern Daddy (SF) -here are the questions you can count on:
- SF: ‘Where’d you say you’re from?’ (this occurs at least 3 times during which time, the young man is grilled with ‘who-do-you-know’ questions- just to make sure this boy is actually from where he says he is!)
- SF: ‘So, how much is gas up that way?’ (the young man’s reaction to gas prices are an indicator of his character)
- SF: ‘What kind of mileage do you get with that car?’ (the young man’s knowledge of finance and general information is at stake)
- SF: ‘Now, what kind of work do you do?’ thereafter he will always ask: ‘how’s work goin’? to make sure the young man is still actually working I guess.
- SF: after he has met the young man’s parents- he will forever ask: ‘How’s your momma and daddy doing?’ This also is a test of character, to see whether the young man has actually seen his folks recently.
Southern Daddies come in all shapes and sizes, but their dress code is much the same, or at least was…Khakis were casual, jeans became acceptable casual attire but most older men still wear khakis. Starched dress shirts with ties, whether with a suit or under brand new stiff overalls- depending on the region. A sportcoat and tie was considered ‘casual’- a suit was ‘dress’ attire for church, weddings and funerals. However, if you give him a horrible leisure suit and tell him he looks good in it- he will wear it from here to eternity. Do not ever do this! Vacation attire is…well, let’s just say- convention is almost thrown out the window- an undershirt under a golf shirt, with a pair of ‘short pants’ and tube socks pulled up almost knee high and bright white tennis shoes seems ‘sensible’ to some- while others may sport tank tops and bathing suits though tank tops are sort of frowned on- but the number one rule in a Southern male’s vacation attire that can never be broken- do not-I repeat- DO NOT ever..ever.. wear a Speedo bathing suit! Boxer type, board shorts, even cut off blue jeans but never, ever ‘show ’em everything you’ve got’. It just isn’t done. He might say ‘I love to go swimmin’ with pretty women’…but he knows how to show respect doing it!
A Southern Daddy may have served in the military but he will rarely speak of it, he may have played football- he will keep his letter sweater, football and old photos but he will never bring them out to show you. He is much more interested in working in concession stands, watching his children perform and will even sell the donuts or raffle tickets at work rather than have his children ‘traipsing all over the neighborhood’, begging. Southern Daddies are predictable- at mealtime, he will either give a little speech and say how glad he is you’re there and that he might not be here next year, then call on someone to say the blessing or he will say, ‘Well, do y’all want me to say the blessing?’ One type or the other, but you can count on it happening.
A Southern Daddy will always ‘pay his respects’ to widows and orphans, say ‘yes, ma’am and no ma’am’, he will gladly grill a steak or crank the ice cream freezer out on the porch, and he will sing- ‘You are my Sunshine’ in lieu of ‘Rockaby Baby’. He takes car care very seriously- oil changes, air in the tires, rotation of the tires, tuneups, minor repairs, fills up the gas tank for his Southern Daughters. Southern Daddies will grudgingly give these duties over to his son in law. When asked, he will gladly escort his daughter anywhere, except down the aisle, even if the hand has been properly asked for and given, no matter how much he likes the groom, she will always be his little girl.
A Southern Daddy wishes he could have the chance to raise his children all over again, he enjoyed every minute of it- and where has time gone, anyway? A Southern Daddy will slip his daughter a little money just to tide her over, for emergencies, spending money or just to buy something pretty for her sweet self. He will always try to never let her down; this is a lifetime guarantee.
Southern Daddies want their daughters to be strong and smart, beautiful and brave; they have just a few rules:
- 1) Always make an A in conduct
- 2) Always try for perfect attendance.
- 3) Never intentionally mistreat anyone or anything.
- 4) Have good manners and show them off every chance you get.
So, for all of you Southern Daughters- remember your daddy doesn’t really want anything for Father’s Day- but if you write him a note, give him an updated picture of yourself or buy a sentimental card? He may quietly say – ‘thank you’. Then, one day you will find he has kept every single one of them! God bless our Southern Daddies!
Love y’all, Camellia
*all photographs are private property and cannot be reproduced in any form without permission.