A Few Words of Wisdom (or Bugs, Volcanoes and Fiery Car Crashes…What? Me Worry?)

This is my first guest blog. Well, technically it’s not a blog; it’s an email that a friend of mine sent to me and another friend of ours. Our older boys are going to Costa Rica this summer for a couple of weeks. They will be traveling with a very well-respected program and yet, we parents (ok, some of us parents) tend to lean toward catastrophic thinking when it comes to our kids. After we signed up for this trip two things happened: first, the lead story on Yahoo News last week was about the prevalence in Costa Rica of Chagas, a bug whose bite leads to symptoms that mimic the early stages of AIDS and HIV, and, of course, has no cure; and, second, I read that the Turrialba volcano is set to erupt at any moment in Costa Rica which could have significant impact on travel conditions—either the boys will never get in the country or, more disconcerting, the boys won’t get out of the country and they will be living with bugs that cause an incurable infection. Add to this that all three of our boys just started driving and you have a pretty incredible stew of crazy on your hands.

My friend’s email came in response to the latest email frenzy regarding volcanoes and icky bugs and several teenagers recently killed in fiery car crashes. Her email was a wonderful reminder of what our role as parents really is and how little we can control everything:

‘I just learned that a sorority sister of mine (my age, with a 21-year-old son), lost her son in a car accident recently.  He was driving onto the highway in Burr Ridge [Illinois] late at night (a Friday night), and got hit by a truck.  Incredibly sad.

I still believe my kids have a higher probability of being hit by the Domino’s delivery car that comes tearing down our street every Friday/Saturday night as the kids continuously cross the street to play “Ghost in the Graveyard,” but I would never tell them to stop playing this game. I keep telling them to be careful and watchful.

The more experiences we give our kids, the better prepared they will be for life. If we lock them away in our warm, safe homes, they’ll stay children forever.  I tell myself this constantly.  When I was pregnant with my oldest and reading all sorts of parenting books, I came across a book that I’ll always remember.  Its thesis was that from the moment you give birth, your purpose and responsibility as a parent is to prepare your child to leave you.  As cold and hard as that sounded to me, it resonated with me because it made so much sense.

As for the bugs and parasites in Costa Rica, I reminded my son that he’s been through something similar and survived.  When he was 3, we took him to Jamaica and he came back with Subcutanious Larva Migron on his bottom and on the bottoms of his feet.  He was famous at Children’s Memorial Hospital for a while as they showed his butt and feet to all the doctors and interns who were not familiar with these microscopic worms that live and burrow just under the skin and are common in lesser-developed countries. Apparently, the cats there have these worms in their poop. My son and I played in the sand on the beach. There was a two-inch stream of water coming from the land next to the hotel and it cut through the sand and into the ocean. Stray cats must have pooped in the sand next to this stream of water. My son and I put our feet in this seemingly clean water and sat in the damp sand near it. When we got home, his butt looked like it had little red veins running through it…

…Hopefully, [the boys] will use good judgment and common sense, and watch out for each other…and have an incredible time, and have many wonderful stories to tell us when they get back.  I can’t wait to hear the stories…’

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