If you're not a humble parent, you will be at some point in a way that your hubris would never imagine. You're going to have your feelings shanked with the tenderness of a serrated blade on a vital organ.
You know it's coming, but when and how?
As a parent, you reach a point when you're talking to yourself often enough for others to wonder if you're losing it.
You pray that when something bad happens, that it's not too bad. You hope that if your kid acts as if he's got a bulletproof shield for protection – or simply doesn't comprehend the dangers of everyday life – that the worst that happens is a close call. Or a screw-up that can be fixed. Or an embarrassment you share only with your closest friends.
But not this. Not the death of two teenage girls in an accident of youthful recklessness that never should have happened – but can happen in that moment when you weren't watching.
Morgan Helman, 17. Vivian Connor, 13. They were so beautiful. Helman was a high school senior mere months from graduation. Connor had just returned from the president's inauguration in Washington.
These kids weren't wearing safety belts when they were partially thrown from an SUV near Auburn on Sunday night – a vehicle driven by a 17-year-old boy who should not have been behind the wheel.
California law states that a 17-year-old with a provisional license cannot legally transport passengers under the age of 20.
There weren't enough safety belts for everyone aboard that tragic ride. The girls who weren't wearing them died.
On most days, this space is dedicated to drawing conclusions about people and issues, but not this time.
Though this was Tuesday's most read story on sacbee.com and the Internet has created a forum for heartless analysis, we can't judge this tragedy so easily – nor should we.
This could happen to any of us. Every time you let go of that little hand or encourage that little person to think for himself or herself, your words could come back to haunt you.
That first time your child lies to you? You wonder if it's just kid stuff or if it's an omen of something worse.
When you treat the kid like a friend, it could blow up in your face. You play the disciplinarian too often and that little mind can start tuning out.
All it takes is one decision a child wasn't prepared to make in a moment that can't be taken back.
Judge if you wish, but parents can do most things right and still be devastated by a fate that can't be explained by a shrink, a priest or the police officer placing the call of your nightmares.
Some of us point fingers to believe it can't happen to us.
But it can. That's the problem.