The buck stops here.
I didn’t make that up, just so you know. When I was a kid, I figured that phrase had to do with making money. I thought, “Woohoo! That’s right—let the buck stop right here, Baby! In fact, make it lots and lots of bucks!”
I have since learned that the phrase has an entirely different—and less pleasant—meaning.
One of the jobs that comes with the Head of Household Hat is that of Decider. It is my role to make the final decisions that no one wants to make. Now, don’t get all equal rightsy on me. Cathy is a full partner in the decision-making process, and the kids get their votes as well. We go around the room, and each person gets a chance to speak his or her mind on the issue at hand. Usually we go around the room several times, in the fashion of a Tilt-a-Whirl. Often we come to agreement as a group. Still, when everyone can’t decide, someone has to decide. I get to be Someone.
Case in point: Should the Burns Family audition for the Christmas play at our local community theater? You may remember that not long ago Carissa and I were part of the show The Sound of Music for this same theater. It was a great experience for both of us, and Carissa was chomping at the bit to get back in there. I can’t be involved this time around because of my work schedule, but Cathy and Alec were potentially involvable.
So, round and round we went.
Pros: This is a great theater, and they put on solid shows. There are wonderful people involved there who we would like to get to know better. It would be a fun, happy holiday memory.
Cons: It would suck up the entire holiday season. It would run my family ragged. It would suck up the entire holiday season. It would separate me from my family for the months of November
and December. It would suck up the entire holiday season.
The vote was shaping up as follows: Carissa in favor (no surprise), Dad against (it would suck up the entire holiday season), Cathy and Alec on the fence. The more we talked about it, the more Alec swung to the negative side.
Then Cathy started to twitch.
It was time to be the Decider. I drew on all the guidance that my childhood mentors could provide. How would Charles Ingalls handle this? Or Mike Brady? What would Ward Cleaver do? It’s at times like this that I wish I smoked a pipe. So, after the conversation died down, I sat for several moments with a thoughtful look on my face. Then, I took my imaginary pipe out of my mouth, gazed lovingly at my daughter, and said, “Sweetheart, the answer is, ‘No.’”
She smiled at me, said, “O.K.,” burst into tears, and fled the room.
Sometimes this job reeks.
Soon after this, my bride, who was now in tears because her daughter was in tears, came up with a hitherto unmentioned point in favor of auditioning for the show. Long story short—letting them audition now seemed reasonable to me.
Problem: Does changing my mind shove me into the land of the Double-Minded Man? Would Charles Ingalls change his mind?
In the end, I took the manliest path of all—I let Cathy decide. After all, she is the one who would have to audition, and drive, and rehearse, and drive, and perform, and drive. I get to be firm, yet sensitive and flexible. My daughter is happy, and my wife gets to be the hero. And, if I’m really lucky, they won’t get cast, and it won’t suck up the entire holiday season.
Sometimes this job rocks.