DEAR ABBY: I am 19 and the mother of a 4-month-old son. I have a high school diploma and some vocational training. I was accepted into college after my high school graduation, but decided not to go away to school so I could stay with the man I love. Had I gone, I would be in my junior year.
Luckily for me, a local company took a chance and gave me a job where I earn fairly good money. However, if I could do it over again, I would go away to college and gain the credentials for a career with good financial prospects.
Because I speak from experience, I have something to say to parents: Try to have a close, honest relationship with your children. Educate them about sex. Stress how important abstinence is, but also teach them about birth control and how to use it effectively. Do not just tell them to "abstain"; explain WHY they should. My mother told me not to have sex. However, she didn't impress on me why I should wait. Now I have a child I'm struggling to take care of.
To young people, I say: Don't do what I did. Complete your education. Take some time growing up. Live a little before starting a family. Believe me, there's plenty of time to have children when you are mature.
I love my son, but it would have been better for both of us if I had waited until I was more mature and had finished my education. -- STRUGGLING IN GEORGIA
DEAR STRUGGLING: Once the rose-colored glasses come off, there's nothing like the clarity of 20-20 hindsight. I hope that parents and teen-agers will take your letter to heart. It contains some important truths.
DEAR ABBY: Friends of ours will soon celebrate their 30th wedding anniversary. Do you think it is appropriate for them to renew their wedding vows with my friend wearing a white gown, and having bridesmaids and groomsmen? They couldn't afford a formal wedding 30 years ago. -- JUST WONDERING IN IDAHO
DEAR WONDERING: Much depends upon the spirit of the event. Although an all-out celebration IS in order, to attempt to re-create a wedding that didn't take place 30 years ago, in my opinion, could possibly create more stress for friends and family than pleasure.
DEAR ABBY: I am 40, single and childless. I have many friends who are married with children. I have always been curious to know the protocol in my situation. I give birthday and holiday gifts to my friends, then find myself including a generic gift for the spouse and, of course, the child/children.
However, the value of what I receive and what I give is not equivalent. Although friendship has no price tag, I am confused as to whether I should give my friend a gift, and exclude her spouse and kids -- or what? -- WANTS A CLEAR CONSCIENCE
DEAR WANTS: There is no "protocol" in giving gifts to friends. You give what is in your heart and within your means, and receive what friends and family are able to give in return. However, if you provide gifts for three, four or five members of a family on birthdays and holidays, it makes sense that the one gift you receive should reflect that. If you're feeling shortchanged, this year exchange gifts only with your friends.
What teens need to know about sex, drugs, AIDS, and getting along with peers and parents is in "What Every Teen Should Know." To order, send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, Teen Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)
4520 Main St., Kansas City, Mo. 64111; (816) 932-6600