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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: Today, on Mother's Day, may I take this opportunity to extend congratulations and good wishes to my readers. For those of you who are just starting out on the adventure of motherhood, I would like to share a prayer that was written by the late Dr. Gary C. Myers, the founder of "Highlights for Children," a wholesome, educational monthly magazine. It summarizes beautifully what all of us need to remember.


Oh, heavenly Father, make me a better parent. Help me to understand my children, to listen patiently to what they have to say and to answer all their questions kindly. Keep me from interrupting them, talking back to them and contradicting them. Make me as courteous to them as I would have them be to me. Give me the courage to confess my sins against my children and ask their forgiveness when I know that I have done wrong.

May I not vainly hurt the feelings of my children. Forbid that I should laugh at their mistakes, or resort to shame and ridicule as punishment. Let me not tempt a child to lie or steal. So guide me hour by hour that I may demonstrate by all I say and do that honesty produces happiness.

Reduce, I pray, the meanness in me. May I cease to nag, and when I am out of sorts, help me, Oh Lord, to hold my tongue. Blind me to the little errors of my children and help me to see the good things that they do. Give me a ready word for honest praise.

Help me to treat my children as those of their own age, but let me not exact of them the judgments and conventions of adults. Allow me not to rob them of the opportunity to wait upon themselves, to think, to choose, and to make their own decisions.

Forbid that I should ever punish them for my selfish satisfaction. May I grant them all their wishes that are reasonable and have the courage always to withhold a privilege which I know will do them harm.

Make me so fair and just, so considerate and companionable to my children that they will have genuine esteem for me. Fit me to be loved and imitated by my children. With all thy gifts, Oh God, do give me calmness and poise and self-control.

DEAR READERS: I am often asked the significance of wearing a red carnation on Mother's Day. A red carnation is worn to signify that one's mother is living. A white carnation signifies that one's mother is deceased.

There should also be an identifying flower worn by those mothers who chose motherhood by rearing a foster child or stepchild.

And a special place in heaven awaits those mothers who choose a physically or mentally challenged child, knowing that he or she has not only special needs but also requires a superabundance of love, understanding and patience.

CONFIDENTIAL TO ANYONE FOR WHOM IT IS NOT YET TOO LATE: The gestation period of a mother's advice is anywhere from one week to 50 years. Losing one's mother before having thanked her for the many precious things she taught you is one of life's greatest tragedies.

P.S. Readers who would like a professionally printed copy of "A Parent's Prayer" may obtain one by phoning Highlights for Children at 1 (800) 255-9517, Monday through Friday, 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.(EDT).

To receive a collection of Abby's most memorable -- and most frequently requested -- poems and essays, send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby's "Keepers," P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, Ill. 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

4520 Main St., Kansas City, Mo. 64111; (816) 932-6600