DEAR ABBY: I read with concern the letter from "Sleeping Beauty's Mother-in-Law," whose son locks his 5-year-old daughter in her bedroom when he leaves for work so his wife can continue sleeping.
When I was a child, it was my job to lock my younger brother in his bedroom after he had eaten breakfast and before I left for school. I did it because my mother also wanted to continue to sleep.
Unbeknownst to me or my mother, my brother had found a cigarette lighter. He had it in his room one morning when I locked him in. To make a long story short, he started a fire in his room that resulted in his death. I have lived with the guilt of this tragedy for nearly 20 years, despite years of therapy.
The grandmother who wrote that letter has good reason to be concerned for the well-being of her grandchild. Please remind your readers that children are not a convenience. They require the supervision of responsible people who will care for them unselfishly. -- FLORIDA FAMILY THERAPIST
DEAR FLORIDA THERAPIST: Please accept my deepest sympathy for your little brother's death. It was not your fault. The responsibility was your mother's. You were only a child yourself, and obeying her orders.
If it's forgiveness you are looking for, I forgive you. Read on:
DEAR ABBY: The letter from that grandmother gave me chills. My daughter-in-law gave birth to two children, but had only one when she met my son. The other had been locked in his room while she slept. Somehow he got tangled in the cords on the blinds while he was playing and strangled. When she awoke, she found her son dead.
My daughter-in-law lives every day with the knowledge that her son died as a result of her negligence.
No child -- or adult, for that matter -- should be locked in a room. Without supervision, children often do things they're not allowed to do -- such as jump on the beds and perhaps bounce to the floor, hitting the corner of a piece of furniture on the way and getting injured. Just knowing you are locked in and unable to get out (trapped) can also be psychologically damaging. -- A READER IN ALASKA
DEAR READER: It goes without saying that a caregiver should be awake and capable of supervising the child. Anything less is child abuse.
Whether "Sleeping Beauty," the mother in the original letter, suffers from mental illness, depression or substance abuse, an intervention is called for. Because the parents seem oblivious to the danger, I advised the writer to notify Child Protective Services. While some readers felt this was drastic, it is better to take action and ensure the child's safety than to do nothing and regret it forever.
DEAR ABBY: If a woman proposes to a man, who should buy the ring? -- DEB IN KNOXVILLE
DEAR DEB: Call me old-fashioned, but if the man is a gentleman he should buy the ring. And if he refuses, the woman should enter into that marriage with her eyes wide open and no illusions about what her future will be.
To receive a collection of Abby's most memorable -- and most frequently requested -- poems and essays, send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $5 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby -- Keepers Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in the price.)
4520 Main St., Kansas City, Mo. 64111; (816) 932-6600