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Don’t Lock the Keys in the Car and Don’t Be a Dufus

This was my father's mantra for his kids during our tween and teenage years. Whenever we were going some place where he would not be accompanying us, he made us repeat those 12 little words. "Do I really have to say it, Dad? Okay. Don't lock the keys in the car and don’t be a dufus. Can I go now please?"

He'd grin and we'd walk out the door shaking our heads.

No one much uses the word "dufus" anymore so I think the mantra I'd give my kids would be, "Have fun and don't be an idiot."

Lately they've been spending more and more time away from me, at preschool, at kindergarten, at parties and playdates. I send them off with what I hope is a firm understanding of rules and guidelines that will keep them safe and hope they'll come back alive and relatively unharmed. The problem I'm finding is that I can't possibly think of all the stupid things they may happen to come up with.

For example, we'd taught them about keeping their private bodies private but hadn't made a rule about getting together with a group of friends and taking pictures of everybody's exposed rear ends. We have a rule about that now.

We'd taught them not to play with electrical outlets or put electrical devices in water but apparently had not made a rule against sticking their fingers in a magic hole in your friend's wall because it felt funny and sometimes gave you a cool shock. I learned about that little game after Laylee spent some time on the phone with Grammy telling her about how much fun she'd had at a recent play date. She wasn't trying to hide it. It was fun and it gave her a funny feeling. Her friend was so lucky that her house had a funny hole like that.

For some reason Grammy felt like it might be a good idea to inform me of their little game. I in turn thought it was a good idea to inform the friend's mother. They're six now and we don't follow them around watching their every move while they play anymore. We assume they can handle a little unsupervised play.

Usually they can. Usually college freshmen can too. But not always.

Right now I'm just working on teaching them basic principles of health, safety and decency and hoping that there will come a time when they don't think it's a good idea to stick their fingers into unknown wall holes to see if they'll get a shock or a tingle or a possible trip to the ER. I'm hopeful that they will learn to "have fun and not be an idiot."

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