Parents of teenagers get all the sympathy. It seems to be a universally agreed fact that teenagers give their parents ulcers. Preschoolers, on the other hand, look so innocent that their parents develop terrible guilt complexes as their sweet little children cause them to question their sanity.

At least when teenagers do something crazy, you can blame it on the transgressor because he's old enough to know better. But just let your 2-year-old tap dance on top of the piano and break the family rosebud heirloom vase with a "one-two-three-kick" and everyone's eyes shift to Mom . . . "Why did you let him do that?"It's not that you let him do that, or anything. Preschoolers don't ask for permission. One morning my son Jordan dumped a box of Cheerios on the kitchen floor, then climbed up on the stove, sat his wee diaper-clad bottom on the burner and proceeded to turn the temperature to high.

When I took him down and offered him his breakfast, he dirtied three bibs, two pair of pants and five shirts before he threw what food was left onto the floor. The soap he ate while taking his morning bath must have filled him up.

While I was cleaning up his highchair, my little darling raced to the bathroom and threw in a roll of toilet paper and his stuffed musical pig before he flushed.

While I was busy with the plunger in the bathroom, my son raced to the bookshelf, carefully removed a hundred dollars worth of Childcraft books, took the lid off his diaper pail and threw them in.

It's not that I don't try to child-proof my home. It doesn't work. For instance, I calmly took all the books off the bottom shelf of the bookshelf when my toddler was big enough to pull himself to a stand and scatter all the books on the floor. That didn't work for long. My baby just kept growing taller, despite my advice.

Soon the books and knick-knacks were moved off the two bottom, then the three bottom, shelves. At that point, my toddler waddled down the hall, grabbed his stick horse then wiped out the entire shelf's contents with a plastic horse head.

When I put the stick horse in the garbage, this same child discovered he could move the front room chair over to the bookshelf, climb from the cushion to the arm then to the back of the chair where he could, of course, reach his target. When my husband came home and found his child in the garbage, he asked me to think of another alternative.

And what about all those dangerous kitchen cabinets you're supposed to keep the little ones out of? I first tried, "No, No!" That didn't work. Next I tried child-proof locks. I sure had a hard time getting in and out of my cabinets; my toddler didn't. He stood guard and ceremoniously watched my husband put a dead-bolt lock on one particularly dangerous cabinet. When my husband stood up and turned to put his tools away, this child immediately disengaged the lock, drooled spit down his chin, smiled, and said, "Look, Da-Da! Open!"

Next I tried putting the most interesting toys in the whole house in a special kitchen drawer just for my toddler. He was calmly told this was his drawer and the others were Mommy's. Now, that special toy drawer is the only drawer in the kitchen he won't touch.

If you think keeping toddlers out of the medicine cabinet is tough, try eating a decent meal with one. After the bibs and aprons are tied, the sleeves rolled up and chairs scooted snugly near the table, you proudly present your young children with a plate full of edibles. The 1-year-old will immediately toss his milk across the room and try to stand up in his high chair.

"Sit down," you demand, as this child dangles in midair with one foot on the highchair tray, one hand turning the light switch on and off, and the other hand wrapping the phone cord through his potatoes.

At this point, the 3-year-old will pull off his bib because it "itches his neck" right before he proceeds to dump an entire bowl of tomato soup down his white shirt, while the 4-year-old starts giggling and the 1-year-old finally sits down . . . in his beets. The 2-year-old is stuffing green peas up her nose.

I have been known to pick up my dinner plate, head down the hall and lock myself inside the only private room in the house. The only peaceful meal I've enjoyed in ages was the time I sat on the bathroom throne with my dinner plate on the hamper, running water full blast in the sink so I couldn't hear what the kids were throwing in the kitchen.