I am fairly certain that there has been discussion about the deterioration of society for as long as mankind has been able to sit around a fire and communicate. The next generation has been the older generation’s scapegoat for thousands of years: The young and rebellious are the ones to be held responsible for a loss of decorum, of family values, of sharp dressers — in short, for society’s cruel demise. In an attempt to prevent this inevitable doom, the older generations within society set out to educate and inform their inheritors — to impart upon them the vast wisdom that comes with life experience.
Today, wisdom is passed on through a variety of avenues: Teacher-to-student, mentor-to-mentee, peer-to-peer, friend-to-friend. But perhaps the most formative relationship is that of parent to child. Society understands that it is the onus of parents to familiarize their children with the ways of the world, to help them seek out their place in it and perhaps even to raise children who will preserve their values.
This is certainly true of my own experience. My parents were my first teachers, and as they are quick to remind me, their lesson plans are far from complete. But they are good at what they do, and as I’ve grown up I’ve often wished that I had kept some kind of running record of the lessons they have taught me, whether those lessons were intentionally conveyed or not.
Enter Walker Lamond. He has created a kind of movement in the business of imparting wisdom. Since beginning the blog “Rules for my Unborn Son” in 2009, he has posted 485 rules and compiled them into a book now in stores. The blog is aptly named, for it is just that: A collection of rules for “raising a thoughtful, adventurous, honest, hardworking, self-reliant, well-dressed, well-read, well-mannered young gentleman” before the author gets “old and uncool.” In short, a tall order.
An additional sentimental sucker punch is to learn that Lamond started jotting down ideas for rules after his father passed away and then began the project in earnest when he was, in fact, awaiting the arrival of his own son.
It is unsurprising that many of Lamond’s rules are distinctly of the “father-to-son” variety: No. 49, “Call your mom”; No. 36, “If you absolutely have to fight, punch first and punch hard”; and No. 22, “Girls like boys who shower.” Preach it, Mr. Lamond.
But there are also plenty of caveats to be found in that seemingly inexhaustible stream of parental admonishments. Timeless classics include rule No. 3, “When shaking hands, grip firmly and look him in the eye.” No. 169, “Be nice to your sister. You are her confidante, cheerleader, and bodyguard,” No. 16, “You are what you do, not what you say” and a personal favorite, No. 261: “Admit you are wrong. Be convincing.”
Despite the often negative connotation that comes with the word “rules” (e.g., unfair, limiting and inconvenient), Lamond’s blog is far from a tedious series of mini-lectures. Instead it reads like one man’s attempt to document everything others have taught him and what he has learned on his own (two very different animals), and then to synthesize those lessons into something manageable and entertaining. And it is very entertaining. He offers these witticisms with wry humor and candor. The entries are often rife with supplementary songs (dubbed “required listening” by the author), photos and quotes from the wise and famous. In this sense, the blog doubles as a kind of crash course in culture.
Perhaps best of all, the blog is open to suggestions. Readers are encouraged to submit their own maxims. This contributes to the feeling that while the project started as something rather personal, it has evolved into an engaging, collaborative forum for people to share their life lessons.
It doesn’t bother me that Lamond has yet to release a set of rules for his daughter. I find the vast majority of his rules to be entirely applicable to my own life. Take, for instance, his rules that prove particularly relevant for college students, gems like No. 384, “All drinking challenges must be accepted”; No. 375, “Don’t pose with booze”; and No. 99, “Nothing good ever happens after 3 a.m. I promise.” And finally No. 252: “If you attend a late night after party, have an exit strategy.” I feel it’s safe to say nearly everyone’s freshman year self could have benefited from any one of those.
Lamond’s rules are doing the older generation proud. The range of subject matters he covers is impressive and speaks to the larger idea that, as a parent, your primary motivation is often to protect your child; to save him or her from hurt, from embarrassment, from an often daunting world. As my own dad told me when I mentioned I was writing this column, “[Lamond] is covering all the bases. That’s what being a parent is all about.” Well, that and telling your son or daughter “A suntan is earned, never bought.” That’s rule No. 434, by the way.
Margaret Delaney is a junior in the College and a community member on The Hoya’s board of directors. I KNOW THIS MUCH IS TRUE appears every other Tuesday.