Storm clouds are a-brewin'

Please don't tell a nervous preschooler that we are likely to have severe storms and a tornado and "our umbrellas will not help at all". This is the beginning of spring in Tornado Alley, and the beginning of tornado obsession for preschoolers. If this student's teacher really told him that our umbrellas were useless, that person should be flogged for inciting a riot.

Like the first recorded case of bird flu (or pink eye, or head lice) in humans, the first case of tornado obsession is the tip of the spring preschooler weatherphobia epidemic. This disease spreads at light speed from preschool to play group to playground. "Oh, Lordy, Ms. Louizeey, wheeze all agonna die!"

From now until May, I dread the slightest dark cloud over the DFW Metroplex. Mass hysteria is likely to ensue. Thunder. Tornado. Katrina. Bugs. Fear of the water being turned off for plumbing repairs. Fear of flushing toilets. Fear of things that don't go down when the toilet flushes. These are all major sources of hysteria in the preschool classroom. One fear morphs into the next then compounds, swirls, kicks into warp speed, and adds those special Disney features from Pinocchio, the Lion King, Cruella DeVille, Ursula the sea witch....

Fast forward to junior high health class. Remember the color filmstrip about chewing tobacco and mouth cancer? There is no scarier footage in all of Hollywood's special effects than those technicolor photos of rotten jaws and diseased tongues. The second best motivational video award belongs to the driver training film with the teen driver whose head is sliced off "on a guy wire". Then the film shows slices of the young driver's brain, and you will never, ever want to eat the macaroni salad at a family reunion so long as you live and drive. I'm so old my sons are all beyond driver training, but I hope they are scared to death of chewing tobacco and guy wires and mayonaise.

A kindly but gruff allergist once told me that I was just too diggety dog smart and sensitive. I shouldn't read about symptoms or diseases because I really couldn't help personalizing the manifestations. "You are too sensitive to ever eat onions again," he told me. "It doesn't matter if you are actually allergic to onions or not. You have read about anaphylactic shock. You know too much for your own good." The double secret agent with the special handshake says, "If I tell you the code, I will have to kill you." This message will self-destruct. Cue the theme song.

Hypochondria is phoning the doctor whenever things don't go down the flushing toilet. It is being reallio-trulio sure that nonflushers are symptoms of fatal diseases.

hy·po·chon·dri·a (hp-kndr-) n. 1. The persistent conviction that one is or is likely to become ill, often involving symptoms when illness is neither present nor likely, and persisting despite reassurance and medical evidence to the contrary. Also called hypochondriasis. http://www.thefreedictionary.com/

For preschoolers, the equivalent is going to tell the king whenever an acorn plunks on your head or the sky gets the eensy-teensiest-weensy bit gray. Oh, my gosh! Our umbrellas will not help at all! Wheeze all agonna die! Flush and be sure to wash your hands.

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