When I was a kid, magician Uri Geller thrived on the talk show by claiming he could bend a spoon with his mind. I thought this was impossible until I became a parent, when I decided that sometimes fathers could nudge their children just by the power of their minds.
I first used my amazing talent when our daughter was learning to ride a bike. As she rolled away from me to slide down the driveway for the first time, I jogged a few feet behind her, my arms swinging like the sides of a scale.
Like a puppeteer manipulating the strings of a marionette, I hoped to keep it in order and safe from harm by the magic of a few invisible strings between father and child.
Fluttering as my daughter navigated her first few moments without training wheels, I shouted words of encouragement across the yard, “Keep it up. Don’t be afraid to stumble. You will find your balance. It’s going to be a great ride.”
After some scraped elbows and scraped knees, our daughter triumphed on her tiny bike. She learned to navigate many other milestones as she grew into a young woman. Then one night she introduced us to a young man who appeared to be real.
He looked like a life partner, something I felt but avoided saying too loudly. A dear friend and co-father once warned me against promoting favorite games for your children, since children tend to do the opposite of what you want them to do.
By default, I turned to the old technique I once put together to help our daughter master her bike. If I couldn’t persuade these two people into a lifelong bond, maybe I could quietly bring them together through paternal willpower.
I had my work cut out for me. After graduating from college, my daughter and her boyfriend moved to opposite ends of the country. Promotions and subsequent moves brought them closer together, but expanding careers continued to mean living in different cities.
A global pandemic came along and brought its own complications. But the rise of remote work ultimately allowed the two lovebirds to nest in the same city. Last year my daughter’s boyfriend proposed to me.
I’d like to think that my silent desire made it all possible, but like Geller’s magic trick, the power of fatherly guidance involves a good dose of illusion. It’s every parent’s conceit to think that you’re pushing your kids where they need to go. Eventually you will find out that they really move themselves.
That came to my mind this month as I walked down the aisle with our daughter and hugged the man who loves her as much as I do.
As they sat in the pew while exchanging vows, I quietly uttered an old piece of advice: “Keep moving. Don’t be afraid to stumble. You will find your balance. It’s going to be a great ride.”
Email Danny Heitman at [email protected]