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ANN CONWAY

The Doctor Is In : Talk Radio Star 'Dr. Laura' Gets Set to Bring Her Kids Advocacy Message to O.C.

February 05, 1996|ANN CONWAY

Laura Schlessinger counts on being a friend to children.

Five days a week, on her internationally syndicated KFI 640-AM radio talk show, she tells listeners to make children their priority.

"I'm a child advocate--first and foremost," the author and family therapist--second in ratings only to Rush Limbaugh--said last week in her Los Angeles office.

So, when Patti Edwards told Schlessinger she wanted to present her with the Orange County chapter of Childhelp USA's Children's Friend Award, "Dr. Laura" said yes.

"I felt I earned it!" Schlessinger explained Friday, still perky after her show. "So many times people offer you some silly, meaningless award just to get you to talk, free.

"But this is an organization I respect. And I feel I've done a lot internationally on my radio show to increase people's will to do better things with respect to their children. How often do those two things come together?"

Invitations are in the mail for the March 15 dinner at the Hyatt Regency Irvine. More than 1,000 guests will have the opportunity to shoot questions at Schlessinger, author of "Ten Stupid Things Women Do to Mess Up Their Lives" and "How Could You Do That?!" (Harper Collins).

"One of the reasons we chose to honor Dr. Laura is that she tells parents to put aside their selfish desires and put their children first," said Edwards, president of Childhelp's Orange County chapter.

Schlessinger is grateful for the impact she has made. Regularly, she gets letters from listeners who have chosen to live on smaller incomes in order to spend more time with their children.

To women and men who don't plan to stay home with their children, Schlessinger says in her no-nonsense style: "Don't have kids! If they are really determined that their work is more important, then don't have kids!"

There was a time when the idea of having children was foreign to her, admits Schlessinger, 49, who has a 10-year-old son, Deryk, with her husband and career manager Lew Bishop.

It was the late '60s, feminism was blowing in the wind, and she was up to her neck in academia: "I was in graduate school and there was no way I was going to get married and have kids," she said. "That would be off-track. I had to be on top of everything, in charge.

"Then a friend of mine got married and pregnant. When she told me, I said, 'What are you going to do?'

"She said she was happy! And I said, 'You're kidding!' "

It took Schlessinger a while to mature, "to grow out of that," she said.

"Now, I introduce myself on radio as 'my kid's mom,' and I do that because all of this--my degree [a doctorate in physiology], my success on the air--is secondary to the No. 1 job I have on the face of the earth: being my kid's mom."

The joy of motherhood is difficult to put into words, she said. "Nobody could explain it to me before I became one, and now I know why. It's like, 'Explain God.' There are things that are magnificent, and you have to be there."

Her husband is home with Deryk when she is at work in the early afternoon. She wouldn't have taken her job if it had been in a late time slot. "I didn't want to just kiss my kid when he was asleep," Schlessinger said.

More quick-takes from Dr. Laura:

Child abuse: "Put more effort into your own children. And when you see that your children's friends are neglected, have them over more. Get involved. Don't look the other way."

Parents who verbally abuse their kids: "State your concern to the parent. They know they did wrong, and the next time they will be less likely to do it."

On the legal system: "I'm pretty disgusted with the legal system and . . . social workers. I have a problem with a system that takes kids out of dangerous situations and then, instead of immediately terminating their parental rights and giving them to adoptive parents, puts them right back with abusive parents to be killed or emotionally tortured for the rest of their lives.

"I don't think that, because you have genetically produced children, it gives you the right to do anything evil or bad. I'm really tired of how much respect the courts give to blood."

Her philosophy of life: "What's abhorrent to you, don't do to others."

Her motto: "Just grit your teeth and do it. That's probably the most frequent thing I've said to myself."

Schlessinger is full of hope for the spiritual, mental and emotional health of America. "I don't think my show or my books would be successful if my message was not being embraced," she said. "I'm not entertainment. I'm funny, but they're not listening to me for entertainment value.

"So, they have to be listening because they are embracing the message."

What's next? "More of the same." (Including writing another book: "Ten Stupid Things Men Do to Mess Up Their Lives.")

"I'm home. I'm doing what I want to be doing."

The Childhelp event is open to the public. Tickets are $85 each. For information, call (714) 854-7521.

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