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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: What do you get when you mix a 23-year-old woman with a 16-year-old boy? Trouble, as far as I'm concerned!

For the past couple of months, my 16-year-old son, Eric, has been involved with a 23-year-old woman I'll call "Lois." Eric is only a sophomore in high school, and he should be dating girls his own age. He is a sweet, outgoing young man and is very popular with the girls.

I'm not surprised that he is flattered by the attention of an older woman, and I'm sure he acts very mature when he is around her, but my son is very much an adolescent at heart.

Lois comes to our house late at night when she thinks we are asleep, or she stops by when he gets home from school and his father and I are still at work. I don't think it has turned into a sexual relationship yet, but I know it is not purely platonic in nature.

I'm trying very hard to discourage this relationship, but Eric tells me they share the same hopes for the future, and he really likes being with her. Gag me! Lois has been a friend of the family for a long time, but she is no longer welcome in our home. However, that hasn't kept her away.

Abby, why would a 23-year-old woman be interested in a 16-year-old boy? Please advise me. -- FURIOUS IN CALIFORNIA

DEAR FURIOUS: Lois could be socially or emotionally immature, which might explain her attraction to your son. But she has had time to gain far more worldly experience than he has, so regardless of how much he thinks they have in common, this could hardly be described as a relationship of equals.

Your next move should be a telephone call to your attorney about the advisability of a restraining order. Perhaps Lois' ardor could be cooled by explaining to her that, depending upon the circumstances, she could be subject to civil and criminal penalties if she continues to pursue your son.

DEAR ABBY: My son, "Ray," is an only child with exceptional talents. He is a 22-year-old college senior, an accounting major, and has already been offered a job upon graduation.

Ray recently completed a motorcycle safety course and would like to purchase one. My husband feels Ray is old enough to make his own decisions. Although I know he is a very responsible person and could handle it, I am absolutely against it. I even told him that if he bought a motorcycle, he would have to move out.

I love my son and don't want to deprive him of anything, but I'd worry about him every time he left the house.

Is there a magical age when a parent no longer should influence her child, or do you just never stop being a parent? -- WORRIED MOM

DEAR WORRIED: Parenthood lasts as long as the parent lasts, and sometimes it seems like an eternity! You and your husband will always be Ray's parents, and you will always be concerned about his safety and welfare.

Withdraw the ultimatum, because he will probably be moving out on his own after he starts earning his own money anyway.

Ray has taken motorcycle safety classes, and I'm sure you've shared your wisdom and common sense with him since he was a boy. The time has come to trust that you've done a good job. Cross everything that you have two of, and pray that your son will be one of the thousands of motorcycle enthusiasts who ride safely.

To receive a collection of Abby's most memorable -- and most frequently requested -- poems and essays, send a business-size, 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, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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