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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: As a teacher, I appreciate the way you often use your column to educate the public. I felt I had to respond to "Proud Parents of a Real Child," who struggle with insensitive questions about their daughter from Korea.

My husband and I are the proud parents of three children from Korea. (We are both Caucasian.) Our two older children happen to be birth siblings. They arrived together at the ages of 7 and 11, when our youngest son was 3. Although unkind comments have been extremely rare, this question is often heard: "Are your older children 'real' brother and sister?" The question it makes me want to ask is, "Why is that important to you?"

Many families are formed by birth; ours was formed by adoption. From the moment we accepted our children as ours, we became their real parents and they became real brothers and sisters. Adoption is the basis for that reality, not blood ties. I think I speak for many other adoptive parents. Maybe you can think of a better way to say it. How can we effectively communicate this simple, but important, message to well-meaning people who do not understand what it means to be a ... "REAL" ADOPTIVE PARENT

DEAR "REAL": You said it as well as it can be said. And to the question, "Are your two older children 'real' brother and sister?" -- "Why is it important to you?" is the perfect response.

DEAR ABBY: What's all the fuss about teen-agers keeping their rooms clean? I'm 50 now, but when I was a kid, my best friend Joe and his brother John shared a bedroom. Abby, that room was a disaster! You couldn't even find their beds. Their mother insisted on only one thing: They keep their door closed!

Today, 35 years later, Joe is a highly successful businessman (his income is more than $1 million a year), and his brother is also earning big bucks as a research scientist.

I believe all these strict rules and regulations are ridiculous when they dominate one's life to the point of stifling one's creativity. -- PHOOEY ON CLEAN ROOMS

DEAR PHOOEY: The job of a parent is to be a consistent and loving teacher of those lessons their children need in order to survive and thrive. There are just so many things a parent can nag the kids about before they are either resented or tuned out. So the heavy artillery should be saved for the important battles.

However, let's define our terms. There is a big difference between neatness and cleanliness. Neatness involves tidiness and orderliness. Cleanliness involves sanitation and hygiene. Cleanliness and sanitation are not ridiculous, nor do they stifle creativity.

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