Douglas MacArthur was a man of routine, as most military men are. So it shouldn’t surprise us that he built a family life around routine. But unlike far too many fathers who make routine a form of control, MacArthur’s morning routine was about fun—it was about starting the day off right.
As the peerless William Manchester details in his book American Caesar, the morning time was one of the best times at the MacArthur household. In fact, it was kind of scheduled crazy fun:
When Arthur began to walk, and then to talk, father and son developed a morning ceremony. At about 7:30 A.M. the door of the General’s bedroom would open and the boy would trudge in clutching his favorite toy, a stuffed rabbit with a scraggly mustache which he called “Old Friend.” MacArthur would instantly bound out of bed and snap to attention. Then the General marched around the room in quickstep while his son counted cadence: “Boom! Boom! Boomity boom!” After they had passed the bed several times, the child would cover his eyes with his hands while MacArthur produced the day’s present: a piece of candy, perhaps, or a crayon, or a coloring book. The ritual would end in the bathroom, where MacArthur would shave while Arthur watched and both sang duets.
And it didn’t just happen when Arthur was young. As he got older, while his father ruled post-war Japan, Arthur would wake at 7am, and according to Manchester, “rush into the General’s bedroom and pummel him.”
We talked before about Ulysses S. Grant’s evening wrestling matches with his kids. We talked about the epic games in the yard that Harmon Killebrew’s father knew was killing his grass but helping to raise his kids. Well, we shouldn’t just be talking about this, we shouldn’t just be thinking it was cute that MacArthur and Grant let their guard down at home.
We have to do the same thing.
No one is too important or too busy to have some crazy time at home. No one is above getting pummeled by their kid in bed. No father should hesitate before singing at the top of their lungs while they shave. These moments are the best moments. If they’re rare, you’re doing it wrong. They should be regular. Maybe like MacArthur, they should be scheduled every morning for 7:30.