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When I was ten years old, my mother sent me off to my first slumber party with a smoke detector in my suitcase. “What if they don’t have one?” she asked, as I pleaded with her to let me leave the smoke detector at home. “I don’t want you to die in a house fire,” she said. “And besides, no one will even know it’s there.” 
 
Looking back, I guess she had a point, though I most definitely did not think so at the time. In fact, I remember thinking that I would rather take my chances with a house fire than risk the embarrassment that would result if my hidden cargo were discovered. 
 
But now that I have children of my own, I understand exactly where my mother was coming from. There is no greater fear than to think that something bad could happen to your child, and equally scary is the fear that you might not be there to protect her if it does. 
 
As my children get older and begin to exert greater independence, I am aware that they are not always within arm’s reach the way they used to be when they were little. And one of my greatest challenges has become finding the delicate balance required to raise them to be safely independent without overburdening them with my real-world fears. 
 
My oldest daughter was recently invited to her first slumber party. And while I am not planning on sending her packing with fire prevention materials, I will probably lose some sleep until she is back home in her own bed, safe and sound and once again within arm’s reach. On second thought, maybe one little smoke detector wouldn’t hurt.

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