Jason Davis: God bless the wife of a young man

Sep. 16, 2013 @ 10:53 AM

I read in an article recently that men reach emotional maturity later than women, and that the average man hasn’t “grown up” until around age 32.

I’m not sure how many thousands of dollars were spent studying the behavioral patterns of specially chosen, hand-selected “specimens” to come up with these results, but had the researchers come to my wife, she could have saved them a lot of cash.

We married 12 years ago next month. I was 23 and she was 22 — a relatively young age for people to get married these days.

Already a responsible, level-headed, contributing member of society, my new bride was the picture of a burgeoning professional. Rising early to commute to her new office job in Knoxville from our home in Oak Ridge, Leigh Ann already had well-developed plans and budgets constructed for our just-teetering-over-the-brink-of-poverty family to survive. She’d already reached the grown-up level. I, on the other hand, wasn’t much better off at age 23 than I was at 15. Our first four or five years were spent mainly arguing about money and household duties.

Having been a dirt-poor college student for years and now finally having a little money in my pocket, if I wanted something, I’d buy it. My wife, always frugal and thinking of the future, wasn’t pleased with my cavalier financial endeavors.

Buying a $60 video game was the roughly the equivalent of clubbing a baby seal in her eyes. A $10 lunch out was milder, but still on par with a minor war crime. In the meantime, having spent time in a fraternity house just a few years before, my housekeeping efforts were hardly stellar.

My laundry was everywhere, routinely strewn in the most un-routine of places. Looking for dirty socks? They’d just as likely be lurking in the hall closet as in the hamper.

Dirty dishes were also a sticking point. Raised mainly by a single father who was fond of paper plates, I had moved on to college, where younger fraternity brothers were usually relegated to handle dish-duties. By the time we married, I was more likely to win the Publisher’s Clearing House Sweepstakes than scrub a pan.

Looking back, I’m fortunate Leigh Ann didn’t push me down the stairs of our third-floor apartment.

Finally, sometime around age 25, something just snapped inside me. Responsibility kicked in. I don’t remember feeling any different, or even realizing it was happening.  I think it may have began with our first home purchase. 

With a lawn to mow and a designated “man cave” — the over-the-garage bonus room — I began to take pride in “our” stuff. Almost on cue with the study I read, my next step in the grown-up conversion occurred at age 31, with the birth of our son. With my wife physically exhausted from a nearly day-long delivery, I had to step up quickly to care for our eight-pound bundle of joy.

In the early months of his life our little handful was a handful in every sense of the word. He rarely napped and never slept through the night. It quickly became my self-imposed duty to care for the baby anytime he woke up after the adults’ bedtime. It only made sense — with my job working as the Press sports editor, I often stayed out late and woke up late — I was a night-owl. As Rogan grew into a toddler, I realized he noticed everything I did, and I felt an even greater responsibility to not only try and be a better dad, but a better husband. After all, the best way for boys to learn how to be a man is by watching their father be one.

While I’m far from perfect, I think this grown-up thing has almost settled in for good.

Last week, while attending my niece’s wedding, I saw much of my younger self in her groom — a 24-year-old who still possesses many of the boyish charms that no doubt attracted her when the pair met years ago. In a private moment, I advised her of the patience she’d need over the coming years.

After all, she’s mounds of dirty clothes, and eight years, away from living with a grown-up.