Q. When you told the isolated young mother to subscribe to a newsletter, you really blew it.
I remember how lonely I was until we moved into a neighborhood where I could talk with others in my situation. When you have a young child, you have to have people to talk to.
She needs a play group, so she can meet other mothers, and she needs to join a service group, a church program, or maybe a political organization -- places where she can meet people who can make her feel like an adult again.
A. You're absolutely right. We should have made it clear that no matter how good a newsletter is -- and Practical Parenting is quite good -- a young mother needs a lot more than a subscription to keep her going.
We second all your suggestions, and offer a few more.
Rather than move to a new neighborhood -- a luxury most of us couldn't afford -- begin by exploring the one you have.
If you see a family move in, send a welcoming note, but if you want to meet them, send cookies too. That way you can knock on the door.
Old customs had good reasons for starting and in this case, we suspect, it wasn't to make the neighbor feel welcome, but to find out who in the world had moved in and what were her children like? Someone has to take the initiative, and since you're the person who wants results, that someone should be you.
A baby in a stroller, whether in the park or at the supermarket, is an open invitation to walk up and introduce yourself to the mother, whether your child is with you or not.
No matter how many people this lady knows, she always has time to listen to another friend, so long as the friend has time to listen to her . While you're calling every church in the neighborhood to see where the play groups are meeting, ask if there is a dance class or a gym class for young mothers. Whatever interests you have, others have them too.
Join a baby-sitting co-op. If there isn't any, put up notices to start one.
Another idea, from Marilyn Lathom: Parent Care groups in the area.
"This is where new mothers can ask all those questions they feel too stupid to ask the pediatrician -- and then they go to Parent Care and find everyone else is asking the same thing."
Parent Care, sponsored by the American Society for Psychoprophylaxis in Obstetrics, which Lathom represents, has a dozen trained leaders giving six-week courses and answering many questions.
ASPO, organized in 1960 to teach the Lamaze method of natural childbirth, started Parent Care when they realized that even the most competent first-time mother needs more support than she can get when she may be a thousand miles away from her family and her home town.
Like ASPO, the groups are kept small, with only six to eight mothers and their infants meeting each week in a leader's home for the 1 1/2-hour daytime sessions. The meetings -- more serious than a coffee, more relaxed than a lecture -- let new mothers share their concerns and their joys. Dialogue is informal, covering such topics as the birth experience; a mother's self-image; exercises; family and sexual relationships; health and nutrition; equipment and safety and child development.
More than 200 women have gone through Parent Care, many of them continuing the groups on their own, and there have been a couple of courses for fathers, too, with more planned.
The cost: $10 for ASPO members and $20 for non-members, with downward adjustments if necessary. The central contact: 549-2226, for D.C., Virginia and nearby Maryland; 948-7457 in Gaithersburg and 730-5690 in Columbia.
Similar courses are sponsored by Parent and Child, at 652-5383.
From another reader: Your article on children's diet, and their resultant behavior, caught my eye. I just wish it had been printed in capital letters.
In my early ignorance, before reading "Body, Mind and Sugar," I must confess I gave my children far too much sugar, thinking it was necessary for energy.
The only trouble with protein as an energy booster is that it does not process quickly. If we or the children wait until hunger gnaws, a hunk of cheese won't do it. I like the idea of small meals, including protein, given frequently in order to keep the blood-sugar as level as possible.
Incidentally, one of my successes as a mother was sitting the gang in front of the TV while I was fixing supper. They nibbled on a big bowl of crudites : pieces of apple, carrot, celery and pepper, which took the place of salad. The only trouble was the TV was very close to the kitchen, which was hard on me.
Marguerite Kelly is co-author of "The Mother's Almanac." Questions may be addressed to Parents' Almanac, Style Plus, The Washington Post.