I am strangely drawn to and repelled by tragic stories involving children. I know I shouldn’t click or turn the page or turn up the radio. But I almost always do. After a quiet thought for the suffering family, I read closely, picking over the details, however sparse, however painful.
I realized once what it is I am looking for between those lines: Tiny clues, more shamanistic than relevant, that what had happened to that family, to that mother’s baby, couldn’t happen to mine. They live far away. They drive an SUV. They have a history of cancer.
And, the magic detail that usually allows my full-body tension to relax: That beloved child is younger than my own. We have passed that marker — even if age had nothing to do with what happened. As if every passing birthday allows me to cross off a set of worries and what-ifs. As if, eventually, I will work my way down to zero and have no more worries left for my children.
I know that’s not true.
This November, as always, Minnesota Parent is focusing on older kids, the ones we’re about to shove out of the nest, the ones we could presumably worry about just a little less. Writer Andrea Langworthy reminds us of a deadly disease that surfaces a few times a year in Minnesota and relishes the close quarters and sometimes lackadaisical hygiene of college dorms and military barracks — meningitis. It is, thankfully, rare, but an ounce of awareness can go a long way. With a novel strain of flu mingling among all the usual cold-weather bugs this season, it could be difficult to sort out the liquids-and-rest diseases from the more serious. With a quick checklist of symptoms to watch for, maybe we can all rest easier. Even me. Maybe.