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by Abigail Van Buren

Mom Resents Being Drafted to Provide Free Child Care

DEAR ABBY: I have a major problem and don't know how to get out of this situation. I seem to be another parent's answer to free day care.

This woman calls me frequently to pick up her son from school. At first she told me her son hated the day care he went to and she had promised him he wouldn't have to go -- adding that her meeting had run longer than she thought it would, and if I could pick him up that would be really great. I did it several times.

Now she says she has taken him out of day care all together, and he'll just have to go to a friend's after school; that it shouldn't be much of a problem because it will only be once a month. I know she wanted me to offer, but I didn't because her child is very difficult.

She has started calling me at 2:50, right before I'm about to leave to get my son from school, saying her meeting ran long and asking me to get him for her. If I refuse, saying I have things I have to do, she gives me the third degree and asks why I can't take him along.

My youngest is enrolled in a drop-in program so that when I have a doctor's appointment I don't have to take him with me. That way there's less stress on the doctor and me. Yet, I find myself taking another person's child with me, which is more stressful than taking my 21-month-old because he, at least, minds to some extent. This other child will do nothing I ask him to do.

Abby, her son says words my son is not allowed to say, and he throws my son's expensive toys when he doesn't get his own way. My older son has asked me to please stop bringing this child home with us, and I have tried -- but his mother will not take no for an answer. What should I do? -- HAD ENOUGH IN TEXAS

DEAR HAD ENOUGH: This woman will continue to take advantage of you until you develop the backbone to tell her bluntly that you are no longer willing to be used in the way she is using you. You owe her no explanations and no excuses. You are treating her as you would a friend. But friendship is a two-way street, and she is not a friend -- she is a user.

What's sad about this is that the person who is suffering because of her lack of time and parenting skills is a little boy who is turning into a social pariah. But that's not your problem.