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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I am an orthopedic R.N. Depending on the season and the sport, I receive a lot of phone calls from parents. They usually consist of a dad asking if his little "Johnny" can get his cast off because "Johnny has to pitch in the big game tonight, and the team won't make it without him." Or, it might be a mom calling because "Suzie" has an audition for the ballet and she is in line to dance the lead. "She must have her cast off."

These parents need to get a clue that Johnny and Suzie aren't going to be able to pitch, dance, kick, hoist, twist, bend, etc. with a great deal of agility if they have been in a cast for six to eight weeks.

I have to fight the urge to say, "Mr. Smith, if you want to be the star pitcher so bad, do it yourself; don't do it vicariously through your son."

Abby, we aren't talking professional sports or even college-level sports here. We aren't even talking about those people with a scholarship riding on their participation. No, we're dealing with parents of Little Leaguers and amateur dance troupes.

A normal childhood means recovering from these fractures without pressure from Mom and Dad to perform. Since I can't say this to the parents coming into the clinic, I thought I'd say it this way. -- AN ORTHOPEDIC NURSE, PORTLAND, ORE.

DEAR NURSE: You have spoken plainly, and I pray the parents who need to hear the message heed it. Parents must keep in perspective that the health of the child is more important than the temporary glory of a childhood event. Failure to do so can result in physical damage that can last a lifetime.

DEAR ABBY: I am the proud mother of a wonderful, "very cool," 15-year-old son. We learned recently that the parents of my son's best friend will no longer allow the boys to be together because they learned that we are a single-parent family. They have told their son that it is a bad thing and that my son will end up in trouble because of our circumstances. "Statistics prove it."

May I share my Mother's Day with you?

My day began the night before, with a simple-yet-special dinner cooked by my son, who paid for and brought the food home from the store on his bike. Mother's Day morning began with tiptoes to allow Mom to sleep a little longer while my son cooked a breakfast of eggs, warm pastries and hot coffee. Along with a sweet present, he also gave me the gift of a hard day's work to help me with projects I had wanted to tackle. The day ended happily with an evening together at home, with kisses and, "I love you, Mom" before bed.

I know there are reports of problem kids from single-parent families -- but, Abby, I know of many less-than-perfect children who come from two-parent families, particularly the older brother from the family mentioned above. We all know two-parent families where all members are miserable -- an intact marriage does not guarantee happiness. A happy family is just that ... happy. No matter what the size.

There are many wonderful children from single-parent families. Children should be judged by who they are, not by some ignorant generalization. I say "Bravo!" to all kids who make their parents proud -- especially mine. -- A HAPPIER FAMILY THAN MANY, DEL MAR, CALIF.

DEAR HAPPIER: It's unfortunate that your son was made a victim of discrimination for something over which he had no control. He appears to be both thoughtful and generous, qualities that most people value in a friend.

Having two parents can be advantageous, but it is no guarantee of success or excellence. One committed parent can be better than two who are so involved in their own problems they cannot concentrate on the kids.

Abby shares more of her favorite, easy-to-prepare recipes. To order, send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, More Favorite Recipes, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, Ill. 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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