Remember that thing Mr. Spock did on Star Trek, the Vulcan Mind Meld, where he read the thoughts of some imponderable being? I used to do that with my children. I remember it so clearly with Cord, my oldest. Beginning when he was five or six, when some difficulty would come up, we would sit down together, maybe over pancakes, and I would be able to see into him. Like Spock, I felt like we were almost a single mind in those times. With my gentle probing, interspersed with long patient silences, there was no problem we could not solve. (The patient interlocutor is how I remember my part. Cord might say it was more like a breakfast lecture, although I am quite sure he liked the pancakes.)
Spock hasn’t done his mind trick in a long time now, and neither have I. My youngest, Nick, is twenty. It’s tough to get any of them to sit still for a good probing. A pointed silence from me over a meal today is more likely to prompt not a revelation of inner turmoil but a worried look: “Dad, are you okay?”
Adapting, I try to be craftier. On a walk, I might toss off a casual anecdote (never too long) with a thinly veiled moral. To their credit, they rarely roll their eyes anymore. I fear they may no longer feel they need to keep their guards up. They know that I’m toothless, that, as Bob Dylan put it, my sons and my daughter are beyond my command. They usually smile and put their own comic spin on my desperately earnest point. “Yeah, I heard about that guy, Dad. Isn’t he the one who [ended up in jail; flunked out; joined a Satanic cult]?”
I haven’t lost my power to see into my children’s thoughts, to guess their plans and schemes, hopes and dreams. What I have lost is the illusion that I have the power to alter them. When Spock came out of those mind-meld trances, he always seemed stunned. He would look gravely at Kirk and say: “I could see his thoughts, Captain. He’s planning…”
Kirk always knew what to do. Maybe he’s the one I should be emulating at this point. The good-hearted man of action. Kirk wasn’t a brooder. I’m sure Spock is on Prozac by now.