DEAR ABBY: My name is "Sunny," but I don't feel very sunny. I'm 13 and have many problems. I'm afraid I'm on a wrong track and won't be able to do what I know I should with my life. My grades aren't good, and I keep getting myself into hot water. My mother has a lot of health problems, so she doesn't need my problems on top of hers. I keep asking myself why this is happening to us.
Mother told me she wants me to live a life that will make me happy, and not let her poor health ruin my teen years. Is it wrong for me to enjoy these years and plan what I want to do with my future even though my mother is very sick? What can I do to get my life back on the right track? -- SUNNY IN NORTHERN CALIFORNIA
DEAR SUNNY: The most important thing you can do is stop feeling guilty for enjoying yourself. I can think of nothing that would make your mother happier than to know you are living your life to the fullest and exercising your potential.
Talk to a counselor at school about how to get your grade level back where it should be. If you are in with the wrong crowd, involve yourself in activities where you will make constructive and rewarding friendships. And most of all, share your victories with your mother. Share your concerns with her as well. It will make her -- and you -- feel better. Trust me on that.
DEAR ABBY: My 15-year-old daughter was hired to baby-sit our friend's 1-year-old infant. When she arrived, she was told she would also be watching the next-door neighbor's two small children, both under 3 years of age. The parents were going out together, and the babies next door were put to bed, the house was locked, and my daughter was given a baby monitor so she could hear if there was a problem.
When I heard this, I was furious that they'd put a 15-year-old in that position and leave small children locked in a house alone. I said as much.
Now my daughter, husband and our friends are all mad at me for making them uncomfortable about their "arrangement." Apparently, they do it all the time -- both couples hire one sitter and leave one house unattended. These people are young, educated, drive expensive cars and can afford a sitter.
I told them I would call Social Services if they continue to leave the babies unattended.
My family thinks I owe them an apology. Do I? -- FURIOUS IN CALIFORNIA
DEAR FURIOUS: No, you do not. What these "friends" are doing is illegal, as well as unconscionable. If something should go wrong -- like a fire -- your daughter could be left with lifelong guilt and trauma. Please continue to look out for your daughter's interests. Being a conscientious parent means not always being popular.
DEAR ABBY: My mother wants me to go by my stepfather's name. My birth father also wants me to use his name. I want to use his name, not my stepfather's, but Mother disagrees. How do I tell her how I feel about this? -- DOE OR DALEY
DEAR DOE OR DALEY: Tell your mother again how you feel about the name change. You are your father's child, and it is wrong for your mother to try to obscure that fact. Since you are a minor, the decision may be hers, but perhaps she would compromise and allow you to hyphenate your father's name with your stepfather's. It's worth a try.
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