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by Abigail Van Buren

Woman All Tied Up in Knots Must Cut Herself Some Slack

DEAR ABBY: I have huge expectations for myself, but I never achieve my goals. For example, I want to be a straight-A student, but even though I study and study, I still get B's.

I want to be beautiful. I eat right, I work out, I get enough sleep, but I've never been able to lose the extra 10 pounds I carry.

Plus, I look in the mirror, and all I see is disorder. I want to be happy and surrounded by friends and family. In reality, every time I start to get close to a man, I get scared and ruin it. And if I spend more than an hour with my parents, I'm climbing the walls.

In short, how do I change so I can finally accept myself as I am, and begin enjoying life? -- FRUSTRATED PERFECTIONIST IN OAKLAND, CALIF.

DEAR PERFECTIONIST: You're already on the right track because you realize your unhappiness comes from the tint on the lenses through which you view your situation. Counseling is the answer. Once you get to the root of why you have such high expectations for yourself that nothing you achieve is meaningful, you'll be able to forgive yourself, and get on with your life.

DEAR ABBY: Ms. Barrett in Aurora, Colo., wanted to encourage parents to buckle their children in car seats. Perhaps my experience will impress parents with the importance of this safety measure.

My friend Suzie and I decided to take our sons to her father's home to swim in his pool. Suzie had two sons (ages 3 and 1) and I have one. I always insisted that the children buckle up in my car, and they never gave me a problem with it. I told them that they could either buckle up or walk along behind the car, and because they thought I would actually make them walk, they buckled up.

Well, the day we were going to take them to Suzie's father's home, my back seat was full of laundry, so we took two cars. I allowed my son to sit in the front seat, but I moved it way back so he wouldn't be too close to the dashboard -- then I buckled him in. Suzie's 3-year-old threw a fit about the safety seat, so she let him ride unbuckled. She followed me, and in my rearview mirror, I could see her son climbing from front to back and back to front.

Suddenly a car turned in front of me and I couldn't stop. I hit it and spun around, coming to a dead stop in the middle of the road. Suzie was so busy yelling at her son, she didn't see what was happening until it was too late. She hit me!

Although my little compact car didn't hold up very well, my son walked away with only a few minor bruises. Sadly, Suzie's 3-year-old didn't fare so well. He was thrown around in the car and critically injured. He died two days later. Every day I think about how easily his death could have been prevented had Suzie forced him to be buckled in his safety seat.

Since that accident, my son insists upon being buckled in. If I forget, he reminds me.

Abby, I want to tell parents that it's a lot easier to tolerate your children's anger when you insist that they are buckled in than to regret for eternity that you didn't. -- SAD FRIEND OF A BROKENHEARTED MOTHER

DEAR SAD FRIEND: Thank you for sharing this tragic story. If it prevents just one person from experiencing that nightmare, it is well worth space in this column.

For everything you need to know about wedding planning, order "How to Have a Lovely Wedding." Send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, Wedding Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, Ill. 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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