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by Abigail Van Buren

Mom Carrying Full Load Takes Unexpected Detour

DEAR ABBY: A few days ago, while walking down our stairs holding my infant son, "Carl," in one arm and a cordless phone in my other hand, I tripped over our cat and fell down 14 hardwood stairs. I dropped the phone and cradled my baby close to my body.

I ended up with a black eye, six stitches, a fat lip, a broken hand, and more bumps and bruises than you can imagine. Miraculously, Carl is fine.

Since that day, my mind has been filled with "what ifs," especially regarding my son. I am haunted by all the horrible possibilities.

It's embarrassing to have fallen down the stairs, Abby, but I know many busy mothers are distracted every day. I'm writing because I hope my experience will help others avoid such an accident. -- BLACK-AND-BLUE MOM

DEAR MOM: You learned a painful lesson. There is an old saying, "You can't do two things at once." Although many people can safely multitask, when one is carrying a baby or small child, the safest course of action is to remember you are carrying precious cargo and give it your full attention.

DEAR ABBY: A year ago, my husband and I moved into a lovely neighborhood. We became acquainted with our neighbors across the street, and they seemed like nice people. The problem is they now assume they are our best friends.

We have introduced them to a few of our old friends, and now they think they are part of our "group." They have even followed us when we have been invited to our friends' homes and have shown up uninvited. We don't tell them where we are going -- they drive around until they spot our car.

This is very embarrassing. We are afraid our old friends will stop inviting us knowing that these neighbors will show up too.

How do we handle this without hurting their feelings? We have never had a problem like this before. -- ANNA IN ATLANTA

DEAR ANNA: Your neighbors probably have no friends because they are so needy and possessive. However, following you and intruding on others' get-togethers is rude. Their unacceptable behavior will not stop until someone (how about you?) explains to them that guests who drop in uninvited are not welcome.

DEAR ABBY: My 21-year-old daughter has been dating a 28-year-old man since last summer. I feel strongly that he's too old for her and have expressed this to both of them.

This guy is very good to my daughter and seems to care a great deal for her. Frankly, the only thing I can fault him for is the fact that he's a little too opinionated. Other than that, he's great. However, I still have a problem with the age difference. What do you think, Abby? -- WORRIED MOM IN KENTUCKY

DEAR MOM: Unless your daughter is extremely immature for her years, a seven-year age difference should not present a problem. Of greater concern to me is your comment about him being "too opinionated." You wrote, "It's the only thing I can fault him for."

Perhaps the problem is you don't agree with his opinions. As long as he respects yours and you respect his, there should be no problem.

Time will tell whether or not this man has any character flaws, but keep in mind that few people (male or female) are eager to be placed under a microscope. For everyone's sake, please lighten up.

Good advice for everyone -- teens to seniors -- is in "The Anger in All of Us and How to Deal With It." To order, send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $5 (U.S. funds only) to: Dear Abby, Anger Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

4520 Main St., Kansas City, Mo. 64111; (816) 932-6600