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What more can a mother do when normal precautions are not enough?

April 24, 2007|by Lyn Widmyer

My kids didn't know what a hot dog looked like until they were 5 years old.

That's because I always cut them up into bite size chunks. I read somewhere that sometimes kids gag on hot dogs served whole. Being an overly protective mom, I hacked hot dogs into smaller parts so my children would be safe.

I did the same with grapes. After a friend warned me whole grapes are a choking hazard to young children, I became an expert at slicing grapes in half a handful at a time.

I was the only mom in our mothers' group who offered kids platefuls of diced hot dogs and chopped grapes for lunch. Peanuts were never an option.

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The killings at Virginia Tech brought back these memories.

I bet most of the mothers of those murdered students took the same types of precautions when their children were young. That's what moms do. We try to make our children safe. We make sure our kids get their inoculations, buckle up their seat belts and eat right. We wait endless hours in darkened school parking lots for our children to return from faraway field trips so they are not left stranded and vulnerable. We check and recheck carpool arrangements to ensure safe transportation to and from sports events.

We envelop our children in layers of care and concern and take every precaution to protect them from harm.

Now my children are older, but I still worry about their well-being. My son is spending his college spring semester at a university in Buenos Aires, Argentina. In between such strenuous academic courses as "the History of Tango." Nick is traveling far and wide. This past weekend, he sent me an e-mail to tell me of his plans to visit Colombia on his own.

Colombia is on the State Department's list of countries that Americans should avoid. I immediately called my son on his international cell phone and spent 20 minutes pleading that he not go. "I know you would have an exciting time,' I explained, "but would it be worth it knowing your mother is scared, worried, heartsick and panic stricken that you might not return?" I was sending my son on a guilt trip and it worked. Nick is not going to Colombia.

Parents of those murdered students at Virginia Tech were not scared, worried or panic-stricken about the safety of their children in Blacksburg. They had no reason to be fearful. What could be safer than a college campus set in the bucolic countryside?

The terrible lesson from Virginia Tech is that cutting up grapes or dicing hot dogs or convincing a child to avoid dangerous situations is not enough. The fact is we parents cannot always keep our children safe from harm. No amount of parental love or care or concern can withstand multiple rounds of 9 millimeter bullets.

I think most parents shared my first response to the tragic news from Blacksburg, Va. I called my children, said I loved them, and thanked God for keeping them safe for one more day.

Lyn Widmyer is a Charles Town, W.Va., resident who writes for The Herald-Mail.

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