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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I am a 21-year-old female student living at home. During my middle and senior school years, I was more than a handful, to put it mildly. I was angry and depressed, and caused my mother and her new husband a lot of problems. I did some horrible things. I got kicked out of several schools, received failing grades and ran with a bad crowd. I am very ashamed of my behavior.

I know I have deeply hurt my mother and the rest of my family. I am doing well now, but I don't know how to apologize to them and thank my mother for her support and for all she's done for me. I wake up every morning and thank my lucky stars that I wasn't thrown out on the streets.

My mother and stepfather have worked diligently to help me turn into the caring young woman I am today. Abby, how can I ever make up for the grief and heartache I caused them? Without them, I would be nothing. -- INDEBTED TO THEM, LAKEWOOD, CALIF.

DEAR INDEBTED: Your parents' reward comes from seeing what a fine young woman you have become. Parents are very forgiving. Your present behavior can make up for the past.

However, it wouldn't hurt to talk to your mother and stepfather and tell them how you feel. Apologize, and tell them you will spend the rest of your life being a credit to them. Let them know you love them, and continue being the caring, contributing member of your family and community that you have become.

DEAR ABBY: Some weeks ago, you agreed with a reader that birthday invitations should not include the child's sizes and toy suggestions.

Abby, I see nothing wrong with including sizes and toy preferences. The information is helpful in selecting gifts and ensures the clothing will fit. As far as being expected to bring a gift -- duh -- gifts are usually expected at birthday parties. -- BLANCHE POWELL, DETROIT

DEAR BLANCHE: While gift suggestions and sizes may be handy, it is still considered rude to "tell" people what they should give. If guests want to know sizes and preferences, they should call the host or hostess and ask.

I agree that gifts usually are expected at children's birthday parties, but whatever happened to the element of surprise in opening gifts chosen by the givers? That should be part of the fun of the child's birthday.

DEAR ABBY: This is in response to "Anti-Smoker in St. Louis." If she loves her grandchildren enough, perhaps she will stop smoking. Here's what happened to me:

When my first granddaughter was born, I knew I would not be able to smoke near her. When I baby-sat, even in my own home, I went outside to smoke. I didn't want the baby to inhale my smoke. But I kept smoking for many more years even though my family pleaded with me to stop.

One day as I lit yet another cigarette, my young granddaughter asked me if I was ever going to stop smoking, and my daughter-in-law told her to stop nagging me. She said it was my business if I wanted to smoke and that "on your wedding day, your aunt can sit in the seat that Gram should have sat in."

That did it! After smoking for more than 30 years, I signed up for a stop-smoking class at a local hospital and haven't smoked for five years. Now I have four granddaughters and am looking forward to all of their weddings. -- CLAUDETTE BRADLEY, HAMPTON, N.H.

For Abby's favorite family recipes, send a long, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, Cookbooklet No. 1, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, Ill. 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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