DEAR ABBY: My 11-year-old daughter, "Gwen," just started middle school. She makes good grades, but she's strong-willed. Do kids grow up instantly when they start middle school?
She wants to know if she can have a boyfriend. I told her not until she's 15. Now she's flirting with girls who ask her out. I told her to stay away from them, not because they are lesbians but because they are not good girls. They are always in trouble.
Gwen says I'm too strict, and if I don't stop, she will run away. I adopted her at birth (it was an open adoption), and she recently asked me if I am going to place her for adoption. She was worried that I would. I am very concerned that she is hanging out with the wrong crowd. Any advice? -- SAN ANTONIO MOM
DEAR MOM: People do not grow up "instantly." I know individuals who are immature at 50, and I'm sure if you think about it, so do you. From what you have told me about your daughter, it's clear that she is far from the grown-up she thinks she is.
If you do not to want Gwen to date until she is older, that is your prerogative as her parent. The gender of the person isn't the issue.
Because you think she is hanging out with the wrong crowd, my advice is to make sure she is so busy she doesn't have time to spend with them. Involve her in activities outside of school -- sports, scouting, music or art. And be sure she knows that you are her forever mother and that nothing she could ever do will lessen your love for her.
DEAR ABBY: I am a 29-year-old woman who has just been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. It has been a rough road, and I'm lucky to have such a supportive group.
My issue is, when people find out, I get comments such as, "Wow, you look so GOOD!" or suggestions on how I should "cure" my MS. The most hurtful one was that it's all in my head.
While I appreciate that folks care and want to offer help, I find their comments offensive and hurtful. How do I respond tactfully, but also convey that they should think twice before they say these things? -- UPSET IN OHIO
DEAR UPSET: If someone says you look good, respond as you would to any other compliment -- say thank you. When someone offers a suggestion about how you can "cure" yourself, you'll save yourself a lot of frustration if you keep in mind that the person cares enough about you to try to be helpful. All you need to do is smile and say firmly that you are under a doctor's care and are satisfied with the treatment you are receiving.
And, heaven forbid, if another individual tells you that your MS is "all in your head," remember that just because a jackass brays does not mean you have to pay attention.
CONFIDENTIAL TO MY IRISH READERS: I received this Irish prayer from a reader. I'm sharing it with you today in honor of St. Patrick's Day:
Take time to work,
It is the price of success,
Take time to think,
It is the source of power.
Take time to play,
It is the secret of perpetual youth.
Take time to read,
It is the foundation of wisdom.
Take time to be friendly,
It is the road to happiness.
Take time to love and be loved,
It is the privilege of the gods.
Take time to share,
Life is too short to be selfish.
Take time to laugh,
Laughter is the music of the soul.
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