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“Now that I have kids, I’m probably more overprotective than I’ve ever been. My wife’s nickname for me is ‘Red Alert.’ I sometimes check to see if the kids are breathing. But I try not to be a helicopter parent.“

- Matt Damon

What do Matt and Bob share in common? Where to begin?

Actually, it’s a somewhat limited list. Matt and I are both overprotective.

It is not a trait I have chosen. It just ... evolved over time.

It began with the birth of my three beautiful nieces and has grown exponentially with the arrival of their seven children. I am ... smitten.

I’ve been known to peruse problems that don’t exist, dangers that mysteriously disappear. I’m constantly imagining worst-case scenarios.

Why such concern?

I was vacationing on the beach with my three nieces, their parents and grandparents. Laura, the youngest of the girls, was 2 or 3 at the time.

We had just set our toes in the sand and I decided to share a joke. Just as I finished to a round of rousing laughter my sister inquired calmly, “Where’s Laura?”

I quickly executed a 360 in the sand and searched for my youngest niece. I could feel my blood pressure rise from serene to obscene.

Laura was nowhere to be found.

I raced into the surf and searched the water. Again, Laura was nowhere to be found.

Just when my head was ready to explode my sister stated matter-of-factly, “There she is.”

She was playing behind a flat, sandy platform of sorts. Everyone released a collective chuckle.

With the exception of yours truly.

I was shivering and shaking like a feeble twig in a hurricane. My sister ushered me to a chair and instructed me to take deep breaths. Blood was pulsating in my temple.

“Calm down,“ my sister instructed. “Everything will be fine.”

It took another 30 minutes before I could relax and feel fully at peace.

Still, I worry when I am designated the official guardian. One needs to go to the restroom at McDonald’s, then they all must go. I won’t take my eye off the herd for a second. Someone may kidnap them, but it won’t be on my watch.

The same was true for my beloved bassets Brooke Lynn and Emerson. They were invariably on a leash and my mom persistently insisted I spent more money on quality healthcare for them than myself.

I couldn’t argue.

Facts are difficult to dispute.

When asked what sport I preferred my great-nephews to play, I quipped, “Guitar.”

Significantly safe and mellow.

What can I say? I am hopelessly smitten.

Photo: Uncle Bob keeps an eye on Laura Beth

Contact Columnist Bob Bridge at 812-276-9646 or

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