DEAR ABBY: I am a single parent, although I never intended to be. Last fall, I was asked to baby-sit a 14-year-old boy. He has been in my custody ever since. His mother abandoned him. Only in the last month have I actually gotten legal custody of him from Social Services. The problems he had prior to being with me have caused me legal expenses I never could have imagined. (They are all paid now.)




I sold my truck and moved out of my original apartment, so I don't have much. We have no furniture other than the beds we sleep on and a dining room table we received as a gift. I have no idea where to go for help. I have no idea what I am doing as a parent. But I made a promise to that boy, and I fully intend to make sure that I carry it through. What do I need to know?




"" NEW FATHER IN NORTH CAROLINA




DEAR NEW FATHER: Congratulations on becoming a father. You have already mastered the most important lesson on becoming a parent &

and that's being there for your child. The library is filled with books on parenting, and I'm sure you will find some answers there. But you are already a stable influence, and that's what the boy needs. You should also know that there is money available to take care of your boy, and the Department of Social Services should be able to help you get it.




DEAR ABBY: Due to years of abuse at the hands of my parents, I decided I could no longer continue a relationship with them. Ten years ago, for the sake of my mental health, I took control and cut the "disease" out of my life. It was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do, but it was also one of the best decisions I ever made. I am now a happier, healthier person and have no regrets.




My problem is people who hear about my decision feel the need to tell me about the "inevitable regret" I will feel, and that I should forget the past and make amends.




My decision was not made lightly. I gave it considerable thought and, while it may not be the right choice for everyone, it was the right one for me. People are entitled to their opinion, but I am tired of feeling as though I have to defend myself.




Please encourage your readers to respect the decisions of others, even if they don't always agree.




"" PEACE AT LAST IN TORONTO




DEAR PEACE AT LAST: Do not feel you have to defend yourself. Those who are trying to warn you about your "inevitable regret" are speaking through the filter of their own experience. They do not understand that some family relationships are toxic rather than nurturing, so don't argue the issue. Accept that they mean well and tune them out. You have suffered enough.




DEAR ABBY: I'm starting a small business and have begun to purchase office equipment. When any recent purchase comes up in conversation, the next thing out of people's mouths is, "How much did that cost?"




I think that question is extremely presumptuous. I don't ask them how much their new car or their new house cost them. What's the best way to politely ignore the question?




"" JUST WONDERING IN ITHACA, N.Y.




DEAR JUST WONDERING: If you bring up the subject of a new purchase, it is natural for people to be curious. The way to avoid a problem like yours is not to "go there" in the first place. My advice is to stop talking about the items you're buying, and your problem will resolve itself.




Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.