DEAR ABBY: I just finished reading your list of questions for "Are You Ready for Parenthood?" (12/6). Your advice was fine, if you were addressing a mature adult. To reach a 15-year-old, try this:
"If your child throws up all over your bed, are you or the father going to clean it up, stay up all night with a crying child and then go to work the next day? When the baby is sick, will you cancel your plans with your friends and stay home?
"Will you skip buying clothes or the latest cell phone for yourself because you can barely afford food for your little one? Are you willing to give up your dreams of school or travel because the child you gave birth to will grow up and need shoes, an education or medical care? Are you prepared for when this cute, cuddly infant becomes a screaming 2-year-old?
"If you continue your education, will you have the energy to work and care for a child who totally depends on you for all physical and emotional needs? And, most important of all, can you handle all this alone if suddenly the father decides he's 'not ready' for the responsibility?" -- WAITED TILL I WAS OLD ENOUGH AND GLAD OF IT!
DEAR WAITED: No one could say it more plainly than you have. I received a bushel of mail from readers who, like you, wanted to weigh in on the subject. Read on:
DEAR ABBY: In response to "Nancy in Flagstaff" concerning "Are You Ready for Parenthood?" the question that should be No. 1 is: Are you married? Sex before marriage, though rampant, is still wrong. -- TIM IN LAWTON, OKLA.
DEAR TIM: Sex before marriage may be "wrong," but if my mail is any indication, it's happening. And while having children outside of marriage is not the ideal, the fact remains that folks are doing it and probably will continue -- if the folks in Hollywood are any example. (Where have all the role models gone?)
The fact that more than half the households in America are headed by single parents should be evidence that the old rules -- however valid they were -- are now being ignored. I'd change it if I could, but I have to deal with reality.
DEAR ABBY: Here's my addition to your list: Are you emotionally, physically and financially ready if you have a premature or handicapped baby? I am the parent of a severely handicapped son. His twin sister has ADHD, and by God's grace and just dumb luck, I am handling it well -- so far. -- FLYING SOLO IN SOUTH DAKOTA
DEAR ABBY: Parents need a sense of humor, an infinite amount of patience and thick skin. Children take the longest time eating, using the bathroom, telling a story, asking a question, etc., and there will be many occasions when they will tell you that you are the meanest mommy or daddy or that they hate you. Can you handle it with grace, firmness and patience? -- WISE MOM IN ALABAMA
DEAR ABBY: My question is, Can you provide a safe environment to raise the child? One of the biggest dangers to young children is abuse. Having heard so many stories about young parents shaking babies that won't stop crying -- or worse -- this should be carefully considered before becoming a parent. -- SEEN TOO MUCH IN MICHIGAN
DEAR ABBY: I don't have a question to add to your list. But I would like to share some great advice my aunt gave me when I adopted my daughter. She said, "Just give her your wallet now; it won't be yours ever again!" It's true -- and I wouldn't change it for the world! -- KEVIN IN AKRON