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by Abigail Van Buren

Universal Press Syndicate

DEAR ABBY: I am a grandmother and I watch my two grandchildren every day while their mothers work. The boy is 5, the girl is 4.

My two daughters do a lot of children's activities in the evenings and on the weekends. The cousins are close. They don't fight, and they really love each other.

The girl's mother includes the boy in every special thing they do -- pizza, fishing, swimming, etc.

The boy says when he and his mother do things, he wants to be alone and he does not want his cousin included. His mother coddles him and tells him it's OK to want to be alone. She tells him to not mention when he's going to the beach, etc., so they will not have to take the little girl along.

I think she is demonstrating to her son how to be secretive and manipulative. I also think it's cruel. Of course, my daughter does not agree. I see disaster ahead. Please advise. -- CONCERNED GRANDMOTHER IN PORTLAND

DEAR CONCERNED GRANDMOTHER: This situation is not a question of all or nothing. Since you watch the children during the day, their time with their mothers is limited, and therefore I see no reason why they shouldn't each spend one-on-one time with their mothers for special outings. There should be no need for secrecy about it.

DEAR ABBY: As one of nearly 8,000 optometrists who volunteer our services through VISION USA, I have seen what an amazing difference eye care can make.

Last year, one of my VISION USA patients arrived with her glasses taped together so the lenses wouldn't fall out. The prescription was no longer appropriate for her, but she told me, "They are better than nothing." When I prescribed two pairs of glasses for her at no charge -- one for distance and the other for computer work, which she needed for her job -- she cried with joy.

In the last seven years, VISION USA has helped approximately 220,000 children and adults from low-income working families. Many had eye health problems that interfered with their ability to work or go to school.

Abby, the 1998 VISION USA program is getting under way again, and I hope you will alert your readers to the opportunity for low-income working families to obtain free eye care.-- ANDREA P. THAU, O.D., NEW YORK CITY

DEAR DR. THAU: I'm pleased to alert my readers once again to this worthwhile effort by the American Optometric Association.

To qualify for free eye care in the VISION USA program, individuals must have a job or live in a household where there is one working member; have no health insurance that covers eye examinations; have an income below an established level based on household size; and have had no eye examination within the last two years. (Eligibility requirements may vary in some states.)

From Jan. 2 to Jan. 30, 1998, low-income working people and their families can be screened for eligibility for VISION USA by calling 1-800-766-4466. Phone lines will be open weekdays from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. (Central Standard Time). Because phone lines are sometimes very busy, it may be easier to apply by mail. Application forms are available from: VISION USA , 243 N. Lindbergh Blvd., St.Louis, Mo. 63141. Completed forms must be postmarked by Jan. 23.

The comprehensive eye exams will be given in optometrists' private offices in March, coinciding with the celebrating of Save Your Vision Week, March 1 to March 7.

To receive a collection of Abby's most memorable -- and most frequently requested -- poems and essays, send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby's "Keepers," P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, Ill. 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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