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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I am almost 22 and become very emotional when I hear about friends who are expecting. All my friends from high school have children. My mother already had two children by the time she was my age.

My boyfriend and I are madly in love; however, he continues to tell me he's not ready to be a parent. We don't take precautions when we have sex, but I haven't become pregnant yet.

Abby, should I be feeling desperate to have a child? Am I rushing parenthood? -- WANTS A BABY NOW

DEAR WANTS: Before you make a mistake that could affect three lives (yours, your boyfriend's and that of an innocent child), I urge you to get to the bottom of what's missing in your life that has made you "desperate" to fill that void with a baby. You have a way to go before you'll be ready to become a mother -- and your first stop along the way should be at the altar.

Parenthood can be rewarding and fulfilling, provided the couple is prepared, emotionally and financially, for the new arrival. But your boyfriend has made it clear that he isn't ready. Please respect that fact and do what is necessary to prevent a "surprise." Having a child because your parents had two at your age, or because your friends from high school have children, is a poor reason to become a parent.

DEAR ABBY: I am a college freshman (female), living more than 300 miles from home. Despite the distance and the fact that I am 18, I am still under my parents' thumb. They call me every day to ask what I ate for breakfast, lunch and dinner. They chose my major for me, and the prospect of spending my life in that profession doesn't thrill me.

I have never had the strength to tell my parents how I feel or what I think, even when I knew that they were wrong or unfair. I love them and respect their opinions, but I believe I deserve more input regarding my own future -- especially since I am paying more than half the cost of my education. How can I free myself from their well-meaning, but strangulating nets? -- FRUSTRATED IN NEW YORK

DEAR FRUSTRATED: Cutting the cord will take some work on your part. You are the "good child" who never questioned or rebelled, so it's entirely possible that your parents think you're in 100 percent agreement with them. The daily phone calls indicate that they're having trouble accepting that you have left the nest and are on your own.

The place to start is at the student health center, inquiring about counseling services. Your inability to stand up for yourself and express your true feelings can be remedied with assertiveness training and counseling, which will help you learn where your parents leave off and you begin. It may not be easy, but I assure you it will be time well spent.

DEAR ABBY: I invited a neighbor to my son's bar mitzvah. I did not invite their children, who are 8 and 6.

When they RSVP'd, they said that all four of them were attending. What can I do? -- ON THE SPOT IN NEW JERSEY

DEAR ON THE SPOT: You welcome them graciously. I am surprised that you excluded the children in the first place, since a bar mitzvah or bat mitzvah usually includes children, and is not considered an adults-only affair.

For an excellent guide to becoming a better conversationalist and a more attractive person, order "How to Be Popular." Send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $5 (U.S. funds only) to: Dear Abby Popularity Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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