I'm a 20-year-old single mom of a 17-month-old son. I love my baby dearly, but lately I feel I'm missing out on life. I feel like I need to go out on my own and find myself.

Before I got pregnant I had plans to go to college, work abroad and experience life.

My mom says if I do it, I would be running away, that I can't take a break from being a mom, even for a little while, and come back and be a mom again.

I know being a parent means all or nothing, but I'm still just a kid myself.

If I did leave, I'd go somewhere and use that time effectively. I have thought about going to school in Colorado where I could experience something different and give myself a shot at a better career. Would it be running away and leaving my baby if I did that?

- Young and Restless in Idaho

DEAR YOUNG AND RESTLESS: Your mother is right. You are responsible for the welfare and emotional development of your baby.

While this does not mean you can't have some social life, please recognize that your son needs consistency. He should not be left for an extended period of time.

Take the college courses, but take them locally. Foreign travel to "find yourself" will have to wait because leaving your son now could cause lifelong repercussions.

DEAR ABBY: I have lived on a golf course for the last five years, but golf - or any sport, for that matter - has never interested me.

My parents and the rest of my family can't get enough of golf. I have given it many tries, including being forced into going to two golf camps and playing the game. My parents know I don't like golf - I have told them - but they keep on insisting I "give it a try." (I have for five years. I just don't enjoy it.) And to top it off, they want me to go golfing once a week.

I try to please them. I go to church, get straight A's, respect them and do my chores. But they constantly nag me about the rest of the family enjoying it, and it makes me feel guilty for being a black sheep.

Are my parents asking too much, or am I being selfish?

- Tee'd Off in Middletown, Del.

DEAR TEE'D OFF: You are intelligent and obviously a high achiever. But nowhere in your letter did you mention that you are in any way physically active, which may be what concerns your parents. I cannot stress enough how important it is for young people to get at least an hour a day of cardiovascular exercise.

Please consider what I'm saying. If you are adamant about disliking golf, perhaps you can make a deal with your family to engage in some other physical activity that interests you.

DEAR ABBY: I just turned 15, and everyone in my family gave me great presents. I'd like to write them thank-you notes instead of just telling them that I am grateful. But, I'm not sure if writing thank-you notes to my parents and siblings is too formal. Are these notes written to close family?

- Emily in Dallas

DEAR EMILY: They absolutely are. Not only should you write those thank-you notes, you may be surprised to find later on that family members treasured and kept every single one you wrote. *

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