Joe, my 4-year-old preschooler, demonstrated that he wanted to talk seriously by being silent and then speaking in a quiet voice. "I'm trying to figure out . . ." he said one evening before bed.

I bent closer, wondering what mystery had engaged the boy who could say "quetzalcoatalus," what problem was troubling him -- his mom in bed having chemo for breast cancer that week.

"I'm trying to figure out if I should marry Cindy. Cindy might not go to my elementary school." Mom and I didn't go to the same school, I reassured him. He sleeps peacefully now at 5.

Jim Ball

Falls Church

"Children grow up fast," we are told when we become new parents. "Enjoy them while you can." As toddlers, our two children eagerly took our hands when we crossed the street. "Hold hands for safety," my wife and I would announce. They loved to play along.

Years later, picking up our son from a middle school dance, I whimsically brought the old phrase out of retirement. "Hold hands for safety," I cautioned as we stepped into the roadway, and playfully extended my hand. My son was aghast. "Dad," he replied, "I'd rather get hit by a car."

Richard Stark

Lake Ridge

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