I’ve been re-reading Douglas Adams’s Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy books again. I’ve read them a couple of times now, but not in the last 10 or 15 years. The whole “a trilogy in five parts” bit has always tickled me. As I was reading, I kept thinking that “Don’t Panic” would be an excellent title for the manual that didn’t come with my kids. Especially if it were written, as Douglas Adams describes, in “large friendly letters” on the cover.

I have three boys whose ages range from seven months to six years, so panic is pretty much my default state of being. From BPA in the baby bottles to listeria in the lunch meat to Bratz dolls and Bakugan, raising a family at the beginning of the 21st century is fraught with peril.

Any parent who has ever watched an adventurous preschooler try to navigate the climbers solo for the first time, or has sent a shy six-year-old off to his first sleepover play date, or has tried to find a single meal that pleases five fussy and completely different appetites knows that this parenting gig is not for the faint of heart. When are they old enough to get their own cell phone? Are videogames better or worse than TV? How much homework is too much homework? What do you do when the dog eats Lego Luke Skywalker’s lightsaber?

These, and many more, are a few of the topics I’d like to examine in this space over the next little while. Your comments and insights are always welcome, as I believe everyone benefits from a broader perspective. Plus, I really don’t have any idea what I’m doing, either. I’m writing my parenting manual as I go along.

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