During the last month and a half I have heard more guys share their views and wisdom regarding maleness, fatherhood, and husbandry than I have heard in the previous thirty-one years. These views were shared with me at social functions such as New Year’s celebrations and children’s birthday parties. You won’t believe how toasted people can get at a one-year-old’s birthday party! I cannot quote each person word for word as I had hoped because I wrote most of the original notes on napkins, which ended up being those little wadded pieces of paper that you find in your jeans after washing.
The best quote that I can attribute to one person, however, came from my sister-in-law’s father, Mr. Robert Cluff. Mr. Cluff is a kind, amiable man, and as he and I stood in the kitchen of his daughter’s home, he shared these thoughts about life and parenthood. “There are, very simply, three phases of life for men. I call the first phase the me phase. Everything that you do in the first phase of your young life usually affects you, and you alone.” Smiling, he added with a devilish sparkle in his eyes, “It was a pretty good time wasn’t it, Grant?” I remember reeling from the blow of the knowledge that I had, in fact, left the first phase of my three-part life behind, and was firmly rooted in the second phase.
I interrupted Mr. Cluff to find a pen, something to write on, and another adult beverage. As I could only find a red pen and a red napkin to write on, I am still laboring to decipher my notes.
“But then you get married, settle down, and nine times out of ten, start a family, thereby entering into phase two, the them phase,” he continued, not missing a beat.
“Now you have a wife and perhaps a child on the way, as you do now Grant,” he stated, “and every little thing, and any little thing that you do affects and effects them. You begin to realize that your options are becoming less abundant, as you worry about them. You try to provide for them; you must set up a college fund for them; everything you do centers around them. This period of your life lasts approximately twenty-five years, and will make or break most men,” he paused ominously for effect, “but if you make it through that phase, and give it your all, you progress into the us phase. I believe this to be the best phase of all. If you have planned it right, you are free from almost all debt. Your children are grown and beginning families of their own, whom you get to see and contribute to as you see fit. Having worked and planned, you can do almost anything you want, within reason. You are happy, as you have led a fulfilled life, and are free from most of the social constraints that a young man must adhere to. It is just you and your spouse, free to do whatever you want to do.”
It is kind of sad to admit outright that the first phase of a man’s life is slipping away, and that he is entering the second phase as Mr. Cluff sees it. It would appear, however, that Mr. Cluff is correct, given that everything in this book lends itself to the them phase, to doing what is best for them. It is not that we are getting old, it is that we are growing up. Thank you, Mr. Cluff.