DEAR ABBY: I am confused and don't know where to turn. I became engaged several months ago to a man I have lived with for more than a year. My fiance has known for several years that I chose to remain childless because I spent most of my youth raising my siblings. We try to take an active role in the lives of our nieces and nephews and have recently become godparents.
With the wedding date fast approaching, my fiance has become more and more vocal about his desire to adopt children. He says it would give him the focus he needs in life. It is my opinion that if my fiance feels this strongly about raising children, we should end our engagement, and he should find a woman who shares his dream. I have communicated this to him many times, but he insists he wants to marry me even if it means no children. Should or shouldn't I marry this man? -- SECOND THOUGHTS IN NEW MEXICO
DEAR SECOND THOUGHTS: You and your fiance share a different view of what your marriage should hold. If you marry, one of you is bound to feel cheated. No one who doesn't sincerely want to be a parent should adopt a child. It is unfair to the child. In my opinion, you both would be happier in the long run if you found more compatible spouses, but only you can make that decision.
DEAR ABBY: My 30-year-old sister has been sent to prison for six months. Her ex-husband was sent to a penitentiary a year ago and won't be getting out anytime soon. Their 17-year-old son is in a detention home. The only one left is my 7-year-old niece, "Patty." She is living with me and my three children. My sister asked that Patty not be told her mother is doing time.
Abby, all Patty does is draw pictures of her mother, father and brother. She won't eat and stares into space, wondering when her family will return.
My children and I try to keep Patty occupied, but the sadness in her eyes is breaking our hearts. Do you think we should tell Patty that her mother is in prison? What can we do to ease her pain? -- WORRIED AUNT IN SANDUSKY, OHIO
DEAR WORRIED AUNT: Patty should be told as much of the truth as is appropriate for a child her age. And she should be encouraged to write to her mommy, daddy and brother, and include her artwork. Her pain will be greatly eased once she understands that her family still loves her and will not be gone forever.
DEAR ABBY: When my 13-year-old daughter, Kimmie, was little, there was a lot of competition between her two grandmothers. My mother liked to buy her clothes and my husband's mom liked to buy her books.
We called them the Director of Fashion and the Director of Education! -- BONNIE IN ENCINO, CALIF.
DEAR BONNIE: I find it heartwarming that so many grandparents pass along their passions to their grandchildren by sharing those interests and enthusiasms. And because of that, in a sense, they live on long after they have passed on.
DEAR ABBY: I work in a local government office as a comptroller and have many longtime friends in the office. I am disabled, Abby. I was born club-footed and with a short leg, which requires me to wear a specially molded shoe and walk with a cane. One gentleman, who is soon to marry a co-worker, asked that I be in the bridal party.
The problem: I overheard the bride-to-be talking to the office receptionist about my participation in the wedding. She said she would be embarrassed to have me "clump down the aisle, dragging that horrible shoe"! Those were her exact words. Needless to say, I am heartbroken that a fellow worker, who always seemed nice to my face, would say something so cruel behind my back. Yes, I am fully aware that I must wear this "horrible" thing to walk, but I never thought I would be talked about in such an unkind manner.
I have decided to beg off, but don't want to start a flap over this. How can I bow out gracefully? I feel I should say something in defense of disabled people everywhere, but discretion tells me to keep my hurt and anger to myself. Please advise. -- CONFUSED IN KINGSTON, N.Y.
DEAR CONFUSED: You would be doing your longtime co-worker a favor by leveling with him about overhearing his fiancee object to your participation in the wedding because of your disability. Tell him that, under the circumstances, you must decline his gracious invitation.
Knowing the truth could cause him to change his mind about marrying someone so self-centered and with so little compassion. If not, at least he'd be warned in advance.
DEAR ABBY: We will be sending wedding invitations soon. Do you send a mother who has moved in with her daughter a separate invitation, or do you include her as "and family"? I always thought "and family" referred to minor children only. What's the proper etiquette? -- CONFUSED IN KENTUCKY
DEAR CONFUSED: Adult members of the household -- a parent or a grown child -- should receive a separate invitation.
DEAR ABBY: The letters about children's reactions to how babies are made reminded me of my son's reaction when he was 4. I was a single mother in college at the time. He enjoyed looking at my biology books while I studied. One day he saw a picture of fertilization, so upon his request I explained how babies get started using the pictures in the biology book.
He looked me right in the eye and asked how the daddy cell got in the momma in the first place. Cool as a cucumber, I asked him how he thought it got there. He thought for a moment, then told me his version that so touched my heart that I became misty:
Babies get started in the daddy's heart. The daddy looks at the mommy with a special kind of love. He takes her hand, and the sperm leaves the daddy's heart, goes through his wedding ring while he is holding his wife's hand, to her heart, where it stays to soak up their love a little while, then travels to her uterus, where it starts to grow. And this is how babies are made! I thought it was one of the sweetest things I have ever heard. -- ALY IN EDMONDS, WASH.
DEAR ALY: I agree. And if you think about the symbolism -- he wasn't really so far wrong. (On the other hand, it makes one realize how important a thorough sex education is for young people.)
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