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Dear Ann Landers: I have a 13-month-old daughter who loves to explore and is into everything she can get her hands on. My husband and I have some friends who have a child a few months younger than "Ally." We enjoy this couple, and Ally likes her little playmate. The problem is, they refuse to baby-proof their home.

I have asked them to put fragile items where Ally cannot reach them, cover their electrical outlets and lock those cabinets where there are medicines or household cleaners. They refuse. They say children should be disciplined and punished for getting into things, and it is the only way they will learn not to touch them. I am appalled by this attitude. Children are natural explorers. They should not be punished every time they touch something off-limits.

When I visit my friends' home, I have to chase after Ally to make sure she doesn't destroy something precious or swallow something poisonous. I can never relax and be comfortable. This is so frustrating that I told them I will no longer visit until they baby-proof their home. Now they are angry, and say I am a lousy mother who has no control over my child.

Am I wrong to ask them to put things out of Ally's reach for a few hours so we can have a calm visit? How can I handle this without destroying what is otherwise a lovely friendship?

-- Beside Myself in New York
Dear N.Y.: It is not safe for children to wander around a house where they can stick wet fingers into electrical sockets and open the cleanser in the cabinet under the sink. Your friends may discover the wisdom of baby-proofing their home once their child is crawling more.

While I agree that parents should watch their children carefully at all times, it can make for an unpleasant and nerve-wracking visit if the house isn't "child-friendly." If you want to maintain this friendship, invite them to your home, meet in a neutral location or hire a baby sitter to watch your kids when you visit.

Enough from Mr. Frugal

Dear Ann Landers: My boyfriend, "Todd," and I have been dating for two years. We have a wonderful relationship, except when it comes to money.

Todd and I are both full-time college students. His parents pay his tuition, but I work three jobs to pay for mine. Todd works part-time and saves all his money. I like to spend mine now and then, and Todd disapproves. He says I spend too much on clothes and food. I think he should mind his own business.

I am only 19 years old and am not planning to get married any time soon. I am not a frivolous spender. I always pay my bills on time, and often have money left over at the end of the month. Since we are not married or living together, I don't feel he has the right to tell me how to spend my money. Todd thinks that we should settle this issue now, before our relationship becomes more serious.

Is he out of line, or should I be saving more of my income? Please advise me.

-- Anonymous in the Midwest
Dear Anon: Are you asking me if Todd has the right to tell you how to spend your money? The answer is no. It's your money, and you can do what you like with it. Todd has no say whatsoever.

However, you might want to listen to Todd. He sounds like a solid citizen. You should save part of your paycheck every week, because you never know what the future will bring. One day that little nest egg may look like a pot of gold.

Gem of the Day (With apologies to my accountant Ed Simkin): Old accountants never die. They just lose their balance.

Problems? Dump on Ann. Write her at The Buffalo News, P.O. Box 100, Buffalo, N.Y. 14240.

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