How could she keep her children safe?

In my book Ten Days,  Anna was devoted to keeping her children safe.  She believed that if she watched them like a worried wren, fed them the right foods, read them the right books, kept them warm and well rested, made sure they and their environment were spotlessly clean, her sons Chris and Eddie would stay healthy and grow up to be perfect human beings.  Her belief was based on common sense that no one would dispute. Failure to be careful would be foolish. Taking risks with her children was unthinkable. So she dutifully, faithfully followed all the good-mother rules, plugging the electrical outlets, locking up the household chemicals, bleaching away the fungal stuff on the bathtub grout, vaccinating the kids.  Surely, because of her vigilance, she would be rewarded with children that didn’t get sick, at least not seriously sick.

This week’s New England Journal of Medicine contains an editorial exploring the ways in which people almost always cling to the most optimistic, and sometimes completely unrealistic, possibilities. It’s adaptive. It’s the motor that allows them to take risks, because they believe the scheme they believe in will succeed, be it a business adventure or a prevention measure or a medical treatment. Or a marriage. Or parenthood.

In spite of all her efforts, Anna couldn’t protect Eddie from every bad thing that might hurt him, including the too-tiny-to-see germs that lived in his throat, wiggled into his blood, traveled to his brain, caused him to have meningitis. Where did she go wrong? What more should she have done?  Were her beliefs that she had complete control over keeping him healthy terribly misplaced? Why do bad things happen to people who do all the good things?