Q: I just turned 20 and I desperately want a baby. I know it’s not possible right now because I am still in school and will be for several years. I also want to be married before having children, and my boyfriend agrees. We take precautions and don’t plan on having kids for a long time.
None of my friends, relatives or close acquaintances have young children that I can spend time baby-sitting. I was wondering if you knew of any volunteer opportunities that will allow me to satisfy my “mothering” instinct until I can actually be a mother. — Future Mommy in Michigan
A: One that might interest you is becoming a “cuddler.” Cuddlers are volunteers who visit hospital neonatal units. They work with infants whose parents can’t be there to touch them, and whose nurses have other important duties to perform. Of course, this would necessitate your willingness to undergo a background check and take a short training course.
Contact the hospitals in your area to see if they have this program available. I’m sure if there is one, you would find it emotionally satisfying.
Q: My 13-year-old sister has epilepsy and it’s driving me mad! She has three seizures a month, and I’m usually the one who detects them beforehand.
Ever since she was diagnosed, my family has been giving her everything she wants. She gets D’s and F’s on her report card and they don’t say a word. If I get a mere B, I get yelled at and punished.
I’m 17 and I realize I may seem petty, but I know my parents are spoiling her to the point where it’ll come back to haunt them. The other day my sister wanted a new smartphone. When Mom said no, my sister purposely triggered a seizure.
My parents won’t admit they’re wrong, and we can’t afford counseling with all my sister’s bills. Please help me. — Mad in Miami
A: You have my sympathy. I don’t think you are being petty. Being the sibling of a sick child can be extremely difficult, and your situation is no exception. Parents often devote so much attention to the child who is unwell that the healthy one is starved for attention and positive reinforcement. The result is resentment that can last a lifetime.
Because what’s happening is causing you stress, talk about it with a counselor at school. There may be counseling available for you at no cost to your parents.
Q: I have been friends with “Irene” for a long time. We invite her and her husband to our home for dinner parties, etc.
Recently, with every invitation, she has been asking to bring along her dog, “Pookie.” She lives nearby and could easily leave it at home. We would prefer the dog not visit for a number of reasons: We have a cat; Pookie is nervous around people and has bitten; and he isn’t well housebroken. He pees on everything.
How do I politely refuse her request? We enjoy Irene and her husband, but Pookie, not so much. — No Pooch, Please, in Pennsylvania
A: Here’s how. When Irene asks again about bringing her dog, simply say, “We’d prefer you didn’t.” And if she has the nerve to ask why, tell her the reasons you gave me, all of which are valid.
Write Dear Abby at DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.