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The age of anxiety

The death toll is up to 33 from the gunman's rampage at Virginia Polytechnic Institute. I can't  imagine what it's like to be one of the parents who gets the dreaded phone call to the "next of kin."

When young children get dropped off at daycare or preschool for the first time, they sometimes go through "separation anxiety" when their parents leave. Many moms and dads also feel the anxiety, hovering outside the classroom for an hour to make sure everything is OK.

But as a father I know the real separation anxiety for me will come in five years, when our oldest daughter goes off to college. How will I cope then? How do parents of students who are away at college keep the Virginia Tech video news clips from playing over and over in their heads?

I'll get a taste of it this coming summer, when Daughter One goes off to a summer camp program at a college campus on the West Coast. That's too far away for me to be a Helicopter Parent, swooping in to micromanage her life. But I will rely on technology to create a sense of connectedness. Text messaging, instant messaging, cell phoning, e-mailing. We'll probably enroll her in Twitter, the social networking/blogging site that lets users barrage friends and family with updates that answer the question "What am I doing right now?" (For a demonstration of people with way too much free time Twittering around the globe, check out Twittervision.)

I realize my daughter's interest in filing all these e-updates will last for about the first four hours she is there. And these wireless umbilical cords only provide the illusion of connectedness, so that I can feel that I'm still on the job as a dad. When she goes away to college for real, I know I'll have to cut the cord in order for her to grow into her own person.

Still, the closer that day comes, the more I understand why parents want to keep their children at Buffalo schools.

One neighbor we know used to tell her kids, "It's called UB, as in U B going there!"


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