Dear Vicki: My son, Gordy, has just discovered the wonder of sleepovers.
He loves having his friends spend the night, and I love having all the kids under my watchful eye, but sooner or later we're going to look peculiar if we don't accept the invitations to other families' houses.
Would I look like an overprotective lunatic if I asked the prospective host and parents a few personal questions like: "Do they have locks on their bedroom door? Does their dog bite?"
And, these days, "Do they have a gun in the house?"
Dear Arms: Who cares whether other people think you're a lunatic? If your child's safety is concerned, it's your job to be as nosy as necessary to snoop out any potential hazards.
In fact, I wouldn't suggest sending your child to anyone's home without having a little visit there yourself to pick up the vibe of the place.
You may be able to get the information you seek in an indirect way.
How about this: "Andrea, I can't send little Gordy to your home without letting you know how incredibly inquisitive he is. Will it bother you if you find him picking your locks and going through your drawers?"
And if you are still second-guessing your intuition, let me add this little fact from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:
In more than 10% of households where guns and kids are together--1.6 million homes--the guns are loaded and unlocked.
Looks like Austin Powers isn't all we have to worry about.
Vicki Iovine is the harried author of the "Girlfriends' Guide," a columnist for Child magazine and mother of four. Write Girlfriends, Southern California Living, Los Angeles Times, Times Mirror Square, Los Angeles, CA 90053; e-mail GrlfrndsVI@aol.com.