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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: "Disgusted Aunt in Florida" questioned whether or not her nephew, "Marshall," should be given a family party and graduation gifts, given the fact that he wasn't really graduating from high school. His mother said no; his grandmother was insisting that he should.

As an educator for 27 years, I congratulate Marshall's mother for sticking to her guns. I'm sure his teachers offered him ample opportunity to pass his classes, but Marshall made choices on an hourly basis not to fulfill his responsibilities. Therefore, he should not be rewarded for those deliberately irresponsible choices. The boy obviously thought someone would bail him out -- again.

Let's hope Marshall will learn from this experience. If Grandma coddles him now, she can expect to support him for the rest of her life.

Our nation's educational system needs more support from parents like Marshall's mom. It's time for that young man to accept the consequences of his own inaction. -- THANKFUL FOR MARSHALL'S MOM

DEAR THANKFUL: Many educators will agree with you. Failure is nothing to celebrate, but it can be a potent teacher.

DEAR ABBY: Thank you for publishing the toll-free telephone hotline for poison emergencies. Every parent thinks, "It will never happen to me," but it can. Household poisons and chemicals are everywhere.

One morning I was changing my 1-year-old's diaper when she grabbed the tube of diaper rash ointment. Never imagining she could get it open, I allowed her to play with it. Seconds later, her little face and hands were covered with white goo. Then she stuffed her hands into her mouth!

The warning label said to seek medical assistance. While I wiped the ointment out of my toddler's mouth and off her face and hands, my husband grabbed your column with the number of the poison control hotline. I had posted it by the phone only days before. We called the number and were told that the small amount of ointment our daughter had gotten into her mouth was not harmful -- but what if it HAD been!

Abby, please let parents know that they should read all product labels, but if an accident occurs that poison control is always there, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. After our experience I sent them a generous donation. We have to ensure that this resource continues to be available to the public. -- WISER AND SMARTER MOM IN VIRGINIA

DEAR WISER AND SMARTER: I'm pleased that you escaped with a near miss instead of a tragedy, and that the phone number was helpful.

Readers, in case you missed the column that day, the number for the American Association of Poison Control Centers National toll-free telephone hotline is: 1-800-222-1222.

DEAR ABBY: The letter from "Clock-Watcher in Los Angeles," who asked how long to wait for a person who is late for an appointment, prompts me to write with my solution.

My husband is ALWAYS late. He does not like to rush to get anywhere. I am obsessively punctual, so we came to an amicable compromise: For every minute my husband is late, he pays me $1. It's worth it to him, and it makes my waiting a lot less frustrating. The longer I wait, the more money I make! -- LADY IN WAITING IN OAKLAND

DEAR LADY IN WAITING: Your compromise makes sense to me.

P.S. You bring new meaning to the expression "Time is money."

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 $5 (U.S. funds only) 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