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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I am a single father with primary custody of my 11-year-old daughter, "Nadine." She and I are very close. She lives with her mother on weekends. However, since her mother works out of state, on some weekends she doesn't make it home to be with Nadine.

Abby, I have a rule that my daughter cannot have her girlfriends spend the night at our home. It's because I'm afraid of being accused of misconduct with her friends. I would never behave inappropriately, but today, men must be careful that there is no possibility of suspicion. I would not feel comfortable with Nadine spending the night at the home of a friend who lived alone with her father, and I think most parents probably would feel the same way.

Am I cheating my daughter by not allowing her friends to sleep over? Am I wrong to protect myself from the possibility of accusations? Or am I being paranoid? -- 'OVERLY CAUTIOUS' OR 'RIGHT ON'? TAMPA, FLA.

DEAR RIGHT ON: In light of the social climate today, your caution probably is wise. However, explain to Nadine why you have the rule. She is old enough to understand.

Your daughter need not miss out on the girlhood ritual of sleep-overs -- she could have her friends spend the night when she is with her mother.

DEAR ABBY: As a public service, please print my letter.

If you put an ad in the lost-and-found section of the newspaper, chances are it will end up on the Internet. When it does, rest assured someone will contact you and offer to return your lost item -- if you wire money to pay for the shipping costs.

Do not, I repeat, DO NOT fall for this scam! Chances are, the crooks do not have the item and never did. They see an opportunity to cheat you. They are counting on your emotional attachment to the lost item. They'll rip you off and laugh all the way to the bank.

How do I know? Our daughter lost her beloved dog. She was ripe for this scam, and fell for it.

If people get a response to their lost-and-found ad, they should "accept" the offer, obtain the name and location of where the crook will claim the money, then notify police. At the very least, the police should be asked for advice. These people must be stopped. -- VICTIM'S MOM, SUN CITY WEST, ARIZ.

DEAR VICTIM'S MOM: Thanks for the warning. It seems that we must all be on our toes these days to protect ourselves.

DEAR ABBY: I want a new bicycle, but my mother says I will have to earn it. I am too young to get a job. Can you tell me how to get some money for a new bike? -- YOUNG READER IN NORFOLK, VA.

DEAR YOUNG READER: You may be too young for a grown-up job, but you are not too young to earn money by doing chores and odd jobs for neighbors.

Talk to your mother about taking on some of the chores at home. For example, ask her if she will pay you for sweeping the driveway or the kitchen, or taking the trash out every day. You could also ask your neighbors to hire you for such things as raking leaves, walking their dog, sweeping their sidewalks or pulling weeds. There are always small jobs for which people would be happy to pay you.

CHUCKLE FOR TODAY:

It's sad for a girl to reach the age

Where men consider her charmless,

But it's worse for a man to attain the age

Where the girls consider him harmless.

-- Anonymous (Forbes magazine)

Abby shares more of her favorite, easy-to-prepare recipes. To order, send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, More Favorite Recipes, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, Ill. 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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