Irrational fears are a parent's stock-in-trade (we're good at rational fears too, but they're so much less interesting).
I know from irrational fears, because I was raised by the queen of the hive. If you actually heeded my mother's advice, you would never:
1. drive at night anywhere that had trees;
2. get gas with a child in your car;
3. stand within 18 feet of a television (which explains why the volume control on her TV is set on Stun);
or 4. answer your own doorbell.
I am amazed that I survived my own adolescence, but floored that she did.
Worry is a useless, destructive emotion, made all the more curious because it's so very compelling. It produces all the anxiety of sex with none of the pleasure. But garden-variety worry--about flunking tests, getting fired, losing a kidney--is dust in the gale-force wind of parental worry.
Right now things are relatively sane, as my kids are so young that I almost always know where they are and who they're with. There are, however, exceptions, like the time my then-3-year-old daughter Alison raced out of a hotel restaurant, into the lobby and had disappeared in the 2.7 nanoseconds it took me to get there.
I spun around like Kristi Yamaguchi before fixing on the bank of elevators. Trapped in some deranged "Let's Make a Deal" spinoff, I pushed the button and held my breath. Door No. 2 opened and there she was, smirking in a way that reminded me once more how cruel genetics can be. I resisted the temptation to demand my smirk back, and gently but firmly ushered her back to our table while trying to dislodge my heart from my throat.
When I think back on Alison's early years I am convinced I've watched too many TV courtroom dramas--I remember her as the quintessential flight risk.
My son produces worry of a different sort: Whatever he does, he manages to find the most perilous way to do it. He should be a toy tester at the Consumer Product Safety Commission. If Max can't find a way to hurt himself with a product, it is by definition safe.
Sometimes, being 2 and not particularly sophisticated, he gives himself away. He'll say with a grin, "Want me to show you something?" then follow it up with a stunt that could headline an episode of a "Most Harrowing Kids" TV show.
One day we were at the local YMCA pool and Max walked himself into a corner bounded by a highway sound barrier and a chain-link fence. So I took the rare opportunity to rest while he figured out that he'd have to backtrack.
As is increasingly the case, my calculations were a bit off. In no time he'd scaled the fence and was deciding whether to add a full twist to his dismount when I managed to grab him by the Little Swimmer and pull him back to safety.
I fear this is all pretty much Little League stuff, however, compared with the wall-to-wall panic of parenting an adolescent or two. Intellectually I understand the need for a certain amount of teenage rebellion and disconnection from parental authority, but just thinking about it makes my guts wobble.
If you even dip your toe in the pool of all the things that can happen to them, you drown instantly. So in order to survive the horrifying inevitability of their growing up, I'm counting on my own increasing maturity (hey, it could happen), a generous dose of my old friend, denial, and home video from their childhood.
I'm saving all the videos I've shot of them under the pretext of family history, but in fact I plan to use them as a hammer of potential embarrassment when they reach the age where they're easily mortified, like about 8 on up. "Call if you're going to be late, or I'll show your friends the video of when you danced naked with Barney."
That's what I call taking hold of technology.